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.
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*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!

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*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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 
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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.
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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.