Rules to Live By - Be Kind or Be Silent

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
You want to know why I don't post political content on social media anymore?

It brings out the worst in people. Folks who are normally civil, polite, and wouldn't dream of confronting others in a rude way in person suddenly become perfectly comfortable calling others out in public while checking their manners at the door.

It doesn't seem to matter how long the poster has known someone, what their feelings are about one another, whether or not they're family. None of it matters when someone is sitting behind a keyboard, and someone presses their particular buttons. Suddenly their manners go out the window, and they're hurtful, rude, and act like they were raised by wolves. They make the discussion personal, not realizing that such behavior only serves to isolate them from the people they care about and makes their argument null and void. After all, if I can't trust your self-discipline, judgement, and critical thinking skills when you're trying to make a political point, then why should I trust those things when we aren't talking about politics? 
I've fallen victim to this viscous circle myownself.  I would get wrapped around the axle, make unkind statements, take things personally. And you know what? I didn't like myself very much when I would fall victim to the political baiting. I don't want others to feel bad. I don't want others to make me feel bad. I want to emulate my beloved lost Auntie, who taught me through word and deed that being kind is the very best way to make a difference in this world, as long as you apply that kindness to every aspect of your life.

That doesn't mean people shouldn't be politically active, or have strong opinions about their views. That's what voting and activism is all about. But do you have to be a dick about it?

My dear cousin, whose politics are basically diametrically opposed to my own, and I have had this discussion. I love my cousin. She loves me. We don't agree on politics. I'm not going to tell her she's stupid, or lacks compassion, or a NAZI for Christ's sake.* And she doesn't make it personal with me, either. Because we love each other, and I don't believe any of those things are true, and she doesn't believe all the usual insults about liberals are true of me, either. We just disagree, and that's okay. ALL politicians, regardless if they fall on the left or the right, require a loyal opposition to ensure our Republic works the way it's supposed to. Right now, I play that role. When President Obama was President, that was her job. WAD=Working As Designed.

Remember, folks - if you're a jerk to those who do not share your political point-of-view, but polite to those on the same side of the aisle, you're still a jerk.
__________

*ACTUAL Nazis and White Supremacists are exempt from this rule. Because sometimes there really is just one side to the story.

Saying farewell to a labor of love

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I will complete 4.5 years of service to the local library as a trustee on June 30th.

I started serving on this board less than six months after Moe died. I was desperate to find a service opportunity that linked me to Moe, and service to the library seemed to fit the bill. She loved her local libraries, and used them extensively. I know she would have approved of my work, and it made it a labor of love for me, and a way to honor her memory.

However, last night, I formally resigned from the Board effective June 30th. I have a lot of feelings about this decision, and the fact that I've tied my service to the library in with my daughter's legacy and my own grief makes those feelings very confusing. 

It broke my heart to resign from this work. I love our libraries, and helping to make them among the best libraries in the country and relevant for years to come was meaningful, satisfying work. The vast majority of my Board colleagues over the years have been dedicated, intelligent, focused, and always kept the best interests of the library as their guiding principle.

But life is about conflicting priorities, and sometimes we have to choose between what we love and what we're empowered to do, if only for our own sake and our own conscience. 

I am grateful - so grateful - to have had an opportunity to serve our Library District in this way. It helped me find my center in that first, awful year after Moe died. It allowed me to contribute to my community in a way I found meaningful. It allowed me to meet some fine, decent, like-minded people, who I will continue to call "friend." And it gave me the experience I'll need to continue to serve my community in other ways.

Perhaps what touches me the most is the fact that the Library leadership team, the Library Foundation Chair, and half the Library board nominated me for Colorado Association of Libraries Outstanding Trustee Award without my knowledge. It doesn't matter to me if I win. The respect of people I respect is award enough for me, as well as the acknowledgement by good, hardworking people that I did good work, and served authentically when given the chance.


Priorities. We Haz None.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
 
I've been trying to stay away from politics, because no good ever comes from politics on social media.

But I'm going to make an exception in this case, because the issue isn't so much a political one as a moral one.
 
I speak, of course, of the situation at our borders, where young children are being detained in cages for the crime of crossing the border with their parents. 

The Internet is inundated with false equivalency over this outrage. It was Clinton's law. Obama did it. The Republican's hands are tied. Single parents who go to jail or prison have their children put in foster care, and what's the difference? 

All of these attitudes make me want to vomit, because they DON'T FUCKING MATTER. 

Does the fact that this execrable law was enacted under a Democratic president make the suffering of these families less acute? 
 
Does the fact that a Republican president chose not to enact policy of this nature under the same set of laws mean that this travesty is less immoral, less heartless, less egregious?

Does the fact that unaccompanied minors who attempted to cross the border illegally were also detained under a Democratic president mean that putting 1st graders in cages without access to their families is less abhorrent? 

No. It does not. Those kids - and their parents - give not two shits whose "fault" it is. They don't care if self-righteous so-called Christians are justifying this atrocity because they can't bear to check their privilege and feel some compassion for brown people. They don't care if faith leaders all over the country are calling for this practice to be discontinued on moral grounds. They don't care if the perpetrators are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. They care that their kids are being abused by the state, they care that they're scared, they care that they have no idea what will happen to them as families. 

And that's what we should care about, too. 

I'm not saying we should ignore illegal immigration. I'm not saying we shouldn't care about the integrity of our borders.
 
What I am saying that those concerns, in this specific case, should be secondary to being decent human beings, to protecting the moral integrity of our country as an institution, to being committed to preventing child abuse, not perpetrating it.
 
Why the fuck are we arguing along party lines about "who started it," and "I know you are, but what am I," and "You're a Nazi, I'm not a Nazi?" Within the context of this crisis, it's incredibly counterproductive, and leaves those children in an untenable situation while we point fingers and bitch at each other like The Real Housewives of America

What's happening at the border is immoral. It's inexcusable. It's horrifying. It's against what this country supposedly stands for. It's wrong, and no amount of false equivalency and partisan bickering is going to make it right.

So how about we, as citizens, demand our leaders rescind the policy of May 2018 directing this atrocity to occur? Can't we, as Americans, put aside our politics for one damn minute and do the right thing by these children? Can't we contact our representatives, our Senators, and demand action upon pain of losing their offices?

The bipartisan support for such action gives me hope. But these days I'm more of a disillusioned cynic than not, so I suspect the answer is "no." And our continued refusal to hold our government accountable for our country's immoral acts continues to break my heart, every minute of every day. Because our failure means that us, all of us, are complicit. To our everlasting shame.

Hello darkness, my old friend

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sometimes it sneaks up on me. Depression, that is. Sometimes there's some sort of triggering event, like the anniversary of Moe's death, or continuous emotional stress for long periods of time. But sometimes, it just sneaks in through the cracks of my life and settles in.

I'm not really sure why this happens. If I knew, I suppose I could try and apply some sort of prophylactic behavior to head it off. But I don't, so the best I can do is try and recognize it early when it comes, and do the things I know I need to do in order to get through the episode.

Some of these things are obvious. Getting enough sleep. Trying to eat well. Getting more exercise than I normally would. Removing emotional stresses from my life to the extent possible. Attempting to keep my mind in the "now." Practicing gratitude.

But mostly it's just a waiting game. I have to wait for it to pass. This was much harder before I was diagnosed, since I had no idea why I felt so shitty all the time. But now I know, and that allows me to apply some emotional maturity and intellectual discernment to the process. I know this will pass. I know I won't always feel this way. I know when I come out the other side I won't be as emotionally raw and fragile. I know this in spite of the lies depression tells, and I know this because people who care for me tell me it's true, and I choose to believe them.

Not believing them, or believing depression's lies, leads to a dark, dark road, and many people get lost. Their depression is so overwhelming, so consuming, the only thing they can hear is the lies it tells. I'm not valuable. I can't make it on my own. People are better off without me. This is just too hard.

In spite of my occasional episodes, I am very lucky to be able to wait it out. And I'm grateful.

Feeding the Elephant's Child

Monday, June 4, 2018

I went back to school last week.

I have a couple of certificate programs I'm interested in, as well as a bunch of general education classes I never got around to before graduating. Since I don't really have a plan, I enrolled as an enrichment student, and signed up for Database Design and Development.

So I've spent the last week reading the required texts, participating in discussion topics, and doing the assigned exercises. And a funny thing happened on the way to the database.

When engaging in my studies, I was taken by how much I've missed school. Even while scratching my head over relational algebra, I found myself in a profoundly happy state of mind.

I stopped taking classes right after Moe died. My ability to concentrate and focus was minimal at best, and I just couldn't do the work. After that, I just never went back, as I had other activities that kept me engaged.

However, as noted last week, some of that other activity has turned into a swirling black hole of emotional labor, and I want an opportunity to focus my mind against a topic in a structured way. If something is going to suck away my intellectual and emotional energy, then it's going to be something that makes me happy instead of making my stomach hurt.

So I'm going to continue to feed the elephant's child, for as long as I can afford it and my brain is capable of supporting the work. It sure beats the alternative.

Eighth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program Kick-Off

Monday, May 28, 2018
Today's the day! Today I'm kicking off the Eight Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program, benefiting the Douglas County Library Foundation.* 

You can find all the deets here, and that's also where you'll log your books for the contest. I'm closing comments on this entry to avoid confusion, since book entries should be logged on the contest page (available at the link above titled "2018 Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men Read!").

Get to reading, y'all, because you know you want to force The Smart Man and I to donate even MORE money to libraries and literacy.

READ! READ! READ!

_____________
 

*Full Disclosure: I am the President of the Douglas County Library Board of Trustees, but this project has nothing to do with my duties there, and is a private endeavor on my part.

News from HCDSM HQ

Saturday, May 26, 2018
Hey there. Long time, no see.

Which is entirely my fault, of course. I haven't been a very conscientious writer for some time, nor have I been a very conscientious reader, having given up on my RSS feed and most sources of news except the Washington Post.

The reasons for this should be obvious, and I'll leave it as an exercise for the class.

So what's been going on here at Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men HQ?

One of my volunteer gigs has devolved into something of a political shit-show, and I've been stressing over it. I'm unsure how much longer I'll be interested in serving in this particular role, because crap on a cracker, politics make my teeth hurt. And I can't see losing sleep (literally) over a volunteer gig.
__________ 

I joined my local Rotary Club for about six months. I ended up resigning due to a cultural misfit, i.e., Rotary Clubs tend to reflect the communities in which they reside, and we all know I, as an individual, represent about 10% of all liberals in Douglas County. Which isn't a problem in and of itself, except when the majority assumes you hold the same views as they do and some of them feel free to express their opinions without discernment. Or kindness.
__________

I started a new assignment in my day job in April. The move was non-optional as there was another team who needed a skill set I happened to have, but the change has been good, and I believe I'll have a greater chance for sales success in the new role. Go, me.
__________

It's Spring! You know what that means: GARDENING. While I thought I was about done last Fall in terms of getting things growing and where I want them, I was wrong. So it's been back to Lowe's and Gardner's Supply Co. for new containers, plants, etc. Growing things when you live on a hill and the soil is basically 100% clay is a pain in the ass, but I also suspect that gardening is like laundry in that it never, ever ends.
__________

I've been reading a lot. I've finished 80 books since January 1st, and while I expect I'll be slowing down a bit for the summer, that's a pretty good clip. 
__________


I've decided to go back to school (again). Once I graduated, I stopped going and started to listen to the Great Courses so I could continue to learn new things, but that hasn't worked out the way I wanted it to. I enjoy the lectures, but it's a pretty passive activity, and so doesn't engage my brain in an active, focused way the way actual coursework does. So I've enrolled in the local Community College to take enrichment courses starting after Memorial Day. First on the agenda: Database Design and Development. Chronic school attendance is good for my brain, and the longer I go without it, the more I feel my IQ points dribbling out of my ears. Bonus: I can acquire skills that might be valuable in my current day job as well as future volunteer gigs.
__________

That's about it here at HCDSM. I'm trying to re-engage in my on-line communities, but on my terms, rather than being victim to the time-suck.

Nobody Told Me

Monday, March 12, 2018

I'm in my 50's now.

When I was in my 30's, I couldn't even conceive of being "middle-aged," in spite of the warnings provided to me by older friends and relatives regarding weight gain, wrinkles, gravity, superfluous hair, memory loss, etc., ad naseum.

And yet, here I am, in my fifties, and all of those physical outcomes are happening to me. I have bags under the circles under the wrinkles under my eyes. I struggle with my weight all the time. Various body parts are losing their battle with gravity in alarming ways, and I can't remember shit. All of that is irksome, of course, and mildly horrifying in the "I'm still 30 in my mind, what the hell is going on here?" kind of way. But the physical deterioration of my body is far from the worst thing about getting older.

Nobody told me the absolute shittiest thing about getting older would be burying those I love.

First it was my dad, who died when I was 26. Last year I realized he's been gone more than half my life, which freaks me out a little. He died when he was 55, only 2+ years away from my current age, which freaks me out more.

Then my Gram Winky, followed by one of my Aunties, then the Smart Man's Grandma and one of his Aunties. All of these were hard enough, but then we lost our Moe-Moe, which stopped my heart and my world, and introduced a level of fragility to my well-being that I'll never get over.

Then we lost the Smart Man's mother, which was devastating for entirely different reasons, and then last year, my beloved Auntie Kris, both from the scourge that is cancer.

All of this sucks, and there have been times when we've been so overwhelmed with grief that we can't help asking the universe to give us a fucking break, already.

And then yesterday, I found out that we had lost a friend and colleague whom I've known for over twenty years. Over the years, we helped each other through some rough patches, both personally and professionally. He was funny, smart, generous to a fault, and loved his kids more than anything. I'll miss him in this world, and my heart is breaking for his kids, one of whom is a minor, and the other who is barely into adulthood.

And he was my age, a member of my cohort. And he died of natural causes, a cardiovascular event.

So now I'm not only burying my older relatives (which, while painful, is still the natural order of things), and my daughter (which is as far from the "natural order of things" as you can get), but also my friends and peers.

Even though I have no choice, this change in my status is something that I'm not really emotionally prepared to accept. Perhaps it's the the fact that I have to face my own mortality. Perhaps it's the fact that every time someone I care for dies, I lose a little piece of my heart, and I don't know how much more I can afford to lose. Perhaps it's just that the last ten years we've had more than our fair share of grief, and I'm just tired.

And honestly, even if someone had told me about the accelerating pain of burying the people I love, I don't know how I would have prepared myself. In my mind I'm still in my 30's, and my emotions just don't understand how the hell all these people keep leaving the world when I'm still here.

Getting older blows.

Random Thoughts and Words to Live By, Part 24

Friday, March 2, 2018

If someone claims their First Amendment rights are being abrogated by a corporation, then I must assume that all of their arguments are equally specious and I can confidently disregard them.

The Great Social Media Experiment

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I've been on hiatus since December 18th.

Not just from Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, but from Facebook, Twitter, my RSS feed, pretty much everything on-line with the exception of e:mail, SMS, my reading apps, and Google.

And aside from a mild itchiness of habit for the first week or two, I've been surprised at how little I've missed it. So here are the pros and cons of my two month experiment:

Pros
  1. Reduced the "noise" in my life.
  2. I feel more present in my life. 
  3. I feel more generally focused.
  4. I'm angry or upset a lot less.
  5. The time suck is gone.
  6. I read more. A LOT more. 
  7. I'm no longer exposed to people who will say the most hateful shit imaginable in order to make some sort of point against me in an on-line disagreement. 
 Cons
  1. I'm missing news from my friends and family.
  2. I'm not staying abreast of the news, which I consider my civic duty.
  3. I've had some interesting things to share or write about the last two months, and no where to put them. 

The Verdict

Obviously there are far more "pros" to giving up social media than there are "cons." But they bear similar weight within my own value system. The "pros" relate to my mental health and sense of balance, but the "cons" relate to my duty to people I care about and to myself.

What I've decided is that I need to find a balance between both. I want to spend some time on Facebook and such, but not much. I want to spend some time reading the news, but only once a day, and from only reputable sources (rather than links through FB, blog entries, etc.). To help with my peace of mind, I need to MAKE time to engage in meditation, as advised by Sister Stacey and the 10% Happier folks.

I'm going to try and reintegrate some of these things into my daily life. I'll be hiding, unfriending, or outright blocking people with reckless abandon (see pros #1, #4 and #7). I'll be limiting my FB time by not reinstalling the app on my phone (see pro #5). And if if social media starts infiltrating my new serenity with its redunkulousness, polarization, nasty-ass people, and lying liers of lies, I'm fully prepared to force it out the airlock with few regrets.

So I'll see you on Facebook or Twitter. Occasionally. In short doses. 

My Reasons for Gratitude, 2017

Monday, January 1, 2018

1. I got the opportunity to serve as the President of the Douglas County Libraries Board of Trustees. Having a meaningful service project is very important to me, and this position allowed me to continue to exercise my leadership muscles.

2. Sister Stacey and Brother J.R. moved back to Colorado this year after a four year hiatus to New York City for professional reasons. They're always in my heart, but now they're in my house, too, and my cup runneth over.

3. We lost my Auntie to cancer in May. I am so grateful to have had her in my life for over 50 years. My Auntie was one of the best people I've ever known, and her loss pains me every day. But I was able to tell her what she's meant to me before she passed, and her presence changed my life, and me, in ways that are only for the good.

4. I was able to spend time this year with the Smart Man's father and stepmom. It was shortly after we lost Auntie Kris, and their presence was a soothing anodyne to a stressful and grief-stricken time.

5. This year my garden began to take shape in the way I want. I still have a number of projects to do, as well the interminable wait for things to reach their full growth, but I'm on my way.

6. I mentor two young women who live in different states, and this year I was given the opportunity to be the mentor they deserve.

7. The Smart Man and I checked off another baseball park from the list this year. We want to visit them all, but some years we don't get to it due to other commitments or emergent disasters.

8. For the first time since we lost Moe, I was able to participate in activism related to suicide prevention by joining the Maureen's Marchers team in the annual "Out of the Darkness Walk" to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There was a time when I thought I would never be capable of doing this, and I'm grateful to have reached a point in my grief journey where I can do work that may help other families who have been touched by this tragedy, even if I did cry through most of it.

9. I decided to join the Rotary this year. While being part of the Library Board is satisfying and speaks directly to my heart, I'm also interested in service projects that aren't so political in nature. It's tough to find an opportunity to serve without having to deal with petty people and their petty egos, and I hope I have found that opportunity with Rotary.

10. I had a very good year financially, which allowed us to make significant progress on some of our financial goals. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it sure gives you the freedom to make choices that can lead you there, and I'm fully aware of how much of our good fortune can be attributed to luck and privilege.