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November 2020

Monday Morning

means it's time to . . . 

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On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! 

So. Let's get to it!

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"It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light."
            --- G. K. Chesterton

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I'm sure this is a quote most of you have heard before, but when it popped up in an email late last week, I got to thinking about it again. A lot. Right now, it's so easy to be heavy. As in bogged-down-HEAVY. The pandemic. The "transition." The environment. The polarization of our people. The holidays during the pandemic we're all so tired of. Heavy business, all. 

It's important, though . . . amidst all this heaviness . . . to try to be light. Laughter is good for us! Really. It is. According to psychologist Brian King,"the reality is that people need humor all the time. Humor, and the laughter it inspires, is our built-in mechanism for managing stress. It provides relief when times are tough, improves our mood and helps the mind and body calm down." 

So, with that, I've decided to dedicate this Monday's Start Your Engines post to . . . lightening up! Because we all need a little frivolity, laughter, a bit of silliness, and even a quick hit of serotonin in our lives right now.

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A Little Frivolity

Don't you think it would be fun . . . a little frivolous . . . light, even . . . to walk into your bathroom and see one of these shower curtains hanging there? The full text of your favorite book on the outside, plain white shower curtain on the inside. (Which means, of course, that you couldn't read while showering. But still. You'd know the words were there.) Books, Beatles lyrics, the dissents of RBG . . . so many to choose from!

Laughter

Tired of reading (or listening to) books that reflect . . . life . . . a little too much? (I'm looking at you, Shuggie Bain.) Maybe it's time for a good knee-slapper of a book! Enter James Tate Hill with five audiobook recommendations that might be good for a laugh. According to James, "you'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll forget for a few hours to check the news." Sounds good to me!

A Bit of Silliness

Maybe you heard about this during election week (when you were seeking a diversion, any diversion), but there is a new fashion trend out there: $590 designer scratch-and-sniff t-shirts! Yes! You can read all about them right here in the NY Times (where they describe what it's like to be the proud owner of such a t-shirt - cherry scent - along with the history of scratch-and-sniff technology) (hint: better living through chemistry) or on a variety of fashion sites (like this one). Total silliness.

A Quick Hit of Serotonin

Okay. I'm not really embracing the TikTok thing, but there are a lot of TikTok videos out there that make me smile and add some levity to my days. Usually, TikTok videos land in my consciousness through Instagram or because someone forwarded them to me somehow -- but over the weekend, after reading this article about "The Rainbow Man" I visited TikTok myself -- and spent some time getting my own "quick hit of serotonin" thanks to the wild, homespun, totally creative dance videos of Mark Kanemura (former dancer for Lady Gaga) -- who is QUITE the performer. It's like . . . short, home-made videos of lip-syncs by a dancer sometimes in drag and always with props and wigs and sparkles. Absolutely silly and very frivolous, maybe check out some of his videos next time you want a quick hit yourself. (And if you are a fan of the Broadway musical "Wicked" . . . do watch the video where he looks like Elphaba ready to defy gravity. You will not be disappointed.)

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And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning. 

Here's to a good week for all of us.
Lighten up!

==

Remember . . . tomorrow (Tuesday, November 17) is the day Bonny, and Carole, and I will be hosting the book discussion for The Women of Brewster Place both on our blogs AND in a Zoom meet-up at 7pm (Eastern time). If you're interested in joining the Zoom meet-up and haven't already done so, please let me know in the comments or in an email (see sidebar). We're looking forward to the discussion!

 

 

 

 


When Hope Looks Like Gratitude

All week long I look for . . . 

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And on Fridays I report back!

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"When you can't be grateful for everything, be grateful for something."
        --- Anne McOmber

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Thanksgiving is coming. And I love Thanksgiving! It's my favorite holiday, hands down. Food. Family. Grateful hearts. Plenty of tradition - but without the weight and hype of Christmas. Mainly, I love cooking and sharing a big meal with people I love.

Tom and I have been trying to figure out a way to make our usual Thanksgiving "work" . . . in a pandemic. Erin's plans to join us this year were, of course, disrupted months ago. But we were hoping to salvage the feast for those of us geographically closer - Brian and Lauren and my dad. We had come up with all kinds of ideas. 

Maybe we could eat in the dining room with the windows open and an oscillating fan going?
Or maybe we could bring the table out to the garage, open the door, and invite Mr. Heater?
Or maybe the weather will cooperate and we could eat on the patio?

So many ideas. And none of them very appealing. Especially against the backdrop of exploding Covid numbers here in Michigan -- and especially so in our part of the state, which is being hit particularly hard right now. With no coordinated plan in place (anywhere, as far as I can tell), we all need to take care of ourselves and make the best decisions for our families.

With heavy hearts, Tom and I have decided to cancel any attempt at an in-person Thanksgiving gathering this year. (Sorry, Mr. Heater.) We're still planning to cook the same meal we always cook -- just a day earlier. Then we'll pack up the meal and deliver it to Brian and Lauren and to my dad. We're planing a whole-family Zoom to celebrate. It'll be weird. And different. And a little sad. But we have a plan!

So, where's the hope in that, huh????

Well. There is hope . . . in gratitude.

My family remains healthy - and we all want to keep it that way for each other.
Being apart for Thanksgiving doesn't change our love for each other.
We are resilient and willing to adapt our traditions for the times.
We have enough and more.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
            --- Epictetus

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I know the coming holiday season is going to be different and difficult and sad for many of us. I'm interested in ways you and your family are going to celebrate the holidays this year -- maybe sharing our ideas for how we can connect while celebrating remotely. I've been doing a lot of brainstorming myself, and I think it might be inspiring for us to share our ideas. 

What do you think? Let's share our ideas! How can we make the holidays . . . feel more like the holidays . . . in this pandemic season? I'll pull together a post based on your responses.

Let's find hope together!

==

My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy.
And gratitude.

 

 


In The Blink of An Eye

Like many of you, last week we had a week-long stretch of unbelievably wonderful fall days here in my corner of the world. Just day after day of blue skies, warm temperatures, and open windows . . . unheard of in November in Michigan.

Tom and I took full advantage of this weather by taking care of some lingering outside chores, taking the dogs on neighborhood walks (where they enjoyed crunching through the leaves gathering at the curbs), and . . . sitting out each night for drinks-on-the-patio.

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Such a glorious weather-week.

And . . . over in the blink of an eye!

On Tuesday night, a cold front moved through. And now? November is back, and all the remaining leaves dropped from the trees in one night. So today, seeing that it's a Three-On-Thursday kind of day, I thought I'd share three wonderful colors-of-fall in my garden - now gone, sadly. But wonderful while they lasted!

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Until next year, fabulous garden color!

"In the garden, Autum is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November."
            --- Rose G. Kinsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905

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Be sure to hop on over to Carole's today for more Three on Thursday posts.

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And do let me know in the comments if you'd like to join us for our first ever Read With Us Zoom meet-up to discuss The Women of Brewster Place -- Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time. (You can also send me an email; address in the sidebar.)

 


Updates and Changes and Zooms . . . Oh, My!

So.

Wasn't TODAY . . . supposed to be THE DAY we all discussed the latest 

Read With Us

book selection . . . The Women of Brewter Place????

The Women of Brewster Place

Oh, yes, my friends.
Yes. It was.

And I sincerely hope you'll . . .
understand,
be okay with,
cut us some slack for
. . . making a last minute substitution here.

You see, well. The election and resulting exhaustion got the better of us. We hope our change in the "starting lineup" won't be disappointing for any of you, and that you'll stick with us for a week.

Here's the adjusted plan:

Next week - on Tuesday, November 17 - each of us (Bonny, Carole, and I) will post a book discussion question on our blogs. As always, we encourage discussion-by-comment through the week.

But-wait-there's-more! Also on Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time we will be hosting the FIRST EVER READ WITH US ZOOM book group meet-up! To join in, all you need to do is RSVP to either Bonny, Carole, or I. You will receive a Zoom invitation next Monday. We hope you'll join us. Come along to talk about the book, share a glass of wine (or your beverage of choice), and just . . . hang out with us for a while.

So. If you haven't read the book yet - or if you're not quite finished - you've got an extra week to do it. And if you want to supplement your reading (or substitute your reading altogether), you can watch the story unfold before you on Amazon Prime. 

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Oprah Winfrey's The Women of Brewster Place is available to rent for $3.99 (or you can purchase if for $7.99) on Amazon Prime right now. I rented and watched a couple of weeks ago, and found the movie version follows the book very closely. If you don't have time to read the book - or if you just want a refresher - I highly recommend watching this film version.

So.

I hope you'll forgive us for this last-minute change in plans.
And I really hope you'll join in either the discussion or the Zoom meet-up or BOTH next Tuesday!

And, as always, thanks for reading with us!

 


What a Weekend!

Was that EVER a weekend, huh???

But now, it's Monday.

Time to . . . 

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On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! (As if we NEED any rev-ing THIS week. . . )

So. Let's get to it!

==

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
            --- Margaret Mead

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That quote has been hanging with me for days now. Margaret Mead's words started bubbling up in my brain on about . . . oh, day 2 of Election Purgatory. And they just got louder and louder all weekend. Until it became so clear . . . that truer words were never spoken!

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So.

Now what?

Well.

I have a few suggestions for you:

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is by making a donation to Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams' organization. Check out Fair Fight's website to learn all about the organization and what they're doing. We've certainly seen the results of their work -- now let's help Stacey organize for the Senate run-off races in Georgia  -- and then move her message to the rest of the nation!

Write Some Postcards! Get involved with the Georgia Senate runoff races from the comfort of your own desk. All you need to do . . . is sign up here -- at Vote Forward. Get your pens and your postcards ready! Let's do what we can to encourage the vote and shift the balance in the Senate.

Follow the News . . . Not the Noise. In the early days of the pandemic, I started following Jessica Yellin, former White House Correspondent for CNN, on Instagram. She quickly became my "go to" news source -- she carefully sifts through the noise to find the news. She continued to be my most trusted source throughout the election. Check her out! She is GREAT. Really. You can just follow her on Instagram to access her excellent reporting -- or, if you like what she's doing, you can support her through Patreon, too, and get even more of her in-depth stories and interviews.

Become a poll worker/election inspector in your community! Do your part to make future elections fair and accessible. It's interesting work, kinda fun, and . . . well . . . let's just say it's never dull! Click here for more information -- or contact your local city or county clerk's office for more specific requirements and needs in your community.

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President-elect Joe Biden (oh, how it pleases me to string those words together!) declared on Saturday night in his first speech to the American people, “This is the time to heal in America.” A good way to begin doing that . . . is to remember and revisit the things that make our country great!

Maybe . . . check out the Fifty project of The Atlantic, where they are showcasing photos from each state -- adding one state each week through 2020. Maybe . . . pick a random red state . . . and take a good look at the wonder and the beauty that is there, in this wonderful country of ours.

There is much to celebrate. 
There is also much to heal.
Let's start . . . somewhere.

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And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning. 

Here's to a good week for all of us.
Keep moving!

 

 


The Inside Scoop

Okay.

So I needed a day to breathe.

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Yesterday was . . . hard. I was exhausted. Disappointed. Kinda broken. I entertained various notions throughout the day. Living a quiet life off-the-grid somewhere very remote. Like maybe the Shetland Islands. Never talking to anyone. At all. Ever. Taking a long (and possibly permanent) hiatus from blogging. Going to bed and just staying there.

Which is ultimately what I did: I napped. And after a nap - when I woke to better news from Michigan - I felt a bit brighter. But seeing footage of people with guns trying to crash into absentee ballot counting locations on the east side of the state . . . well, it just about broke me again. Because the people in there counting? They're just like me: official Michigan election inspectors (that's what we call poll workers here) who were assigned to the Absent Ballot Counting Board for this election.

I feel so sad that people have been turned against the very election system itself. Because . . . it's a system that is designed to work! When I went through the training required to become a Michigan election inspector, I came away in awe -- of the Fort-Knox-like system that has been designed around the entire voting experience. Having seen what happens from the inside, I TRUST the system more than ever. And . . . I trust that the system will hold up against any challenges.

Here in Michigan (and I know this will be the case in each state), there are voting safeguards in place to MAKE SURE each person can ONLY vote once. To MAKE SURE that ONLY people registered in a given precinct can vote in that precinct. To MAKE SURE absent ballots are tabulated accurately. To MAKE SURE there is balanced party representation in each polling place and in the Absent Ballot Counting Board -- and to MAKE SURE that an election official representative from each party is present at EVERY step of the process. It's all balanced. It's as close to non-partisan as you can get! Before beginning our duties we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan. We are sequestered. We sign our names over and over and over again on documents and results and checklists. There are seals and locks and safeguards. It is an amazing system. Trust it.

And . . . I saw it work on Tuesday! Not because people were trying to "cheat" -- because I don't believe they were doing that in any way -- but because voters were in the wrong precinct, or had received an absentee ballot but never submitted it, or filled in too many bubbles on their ballot (we still use paper ballots in Michigan, although we have tabulators in each precinct for the counting). And there are protocols in place for EVERY situation!

And at the end of the night when the polls close, election inspectors don't just pack up and go home. Not until EVERY ballot is accounted for (voted and unvoted) with reports (many reports) that require balancing and totals and signatures. Not until every piece of voting equipment or report or piece of paper is packed securely away - and under lock and seal - to be delivered to the clerk's office by a team consisting of representatives from both political parties. . . together. Not until the entire precinct is packed up again and cleared.

It's a big job.
(Fort Knox, I'm telling you.)

And it's the same way in the Absent Ballot Counting Board. On Monday, I worked all day to help process absentee ballots for my city. Here in Michigan, we were not able to begin processing the absentee ballots until the day before the election. ("Processing" means . . . opening the envelopes and assuring that the ballot numbers inside match the assigned ballot number on the envelopes.) By getting a one-day head start on the processing, the Absent Ballot Counting Board could then begin tabulating ballots right away on election day -- without also needing to process them. My city, alone, received approximately 20,000 absentee ballots! That's a whole lot of opening envelopes. (So when you wonder why it takes so long to get the results? That's why.)

Anyway. My work on Monday also began with the oath, and I was sequestered. We worked in teams of two -- and, as you can probably guess, each team comprised one Democrat and one Republican. We had to do everything together - including bathroom breaks! It is very official and very bi-partisan . . . and VERY congenial. Because when it comes down to it, all election inspectors want the same thing: a fair election process where every legitimate voter CAN VOTE safely and securely.

I wish more people in this country understood how the system works -- and how hard the people working behind the scenes are committed to and CARE about fairness and security and transparency!

Trust the system.
And be patient.

==

I also wanted to mention that I worked in a primarily "red" precinct on Tuesday. It turned out to be far less busy than we expected, and especially later in the day. (This is because we had so many absentee ballots submitted in Michigan.) (I could have knit, in fact, but I didn't have my knitting. . . ) Still, we had a big morning crush and a steady stream of voters for most of the day. I am happy to report a very civil day -- everyone (voters and workers alike) were kind, considerate, and patient. There was one kind of grumpy man (he was in the wrong precinct), but even he was mollified quickly. We had good questions from first-time and not-in-a-long-time voters. It was an excellent experience - no intimidation, no rudeness, no disruptions. And most everyone wore masks (although there were a LOT of under-the-nose mask wearers. . . ). I felt safe and supported all day.

 

 


Into the Fire

Good morning!

By the time your read this post, I'll be well and busy at precinct 10 looking pretty much like this . . . 

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Yep. It's The Look for election workers this year! (Complete wth fogged glasses.)

I spent the day yesterday processing absentee ballots (not counting yet . . . just slicing them open and making sure the ballot numbers matched). Today, though, I'm heading directly into the fire . . . to work in a busy polling place.

It's riskier this year, for sure . . . what with Covid and angry people and all. I considered bailing for this go-round. But . . . I didn't. Because this work is important and vital and, well, sometimes you just have to channel all those people who did hard things to make voting possible for disenfranchised people throughout our country's history.

So.
Hang in there, friends.
The voting system is strong and secure -- and there are lots of committed people working today to make sure that is so.

I'm glad to be one of them!

 


Jump Start

Okay, friends. It's Monday. Time to . . . 

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But. You know what? 

This week? I kinda . . . got pretty much nothin'. 

(In fact, I could use a good jump start myself.)

So while I'm usually . . . let's just say. . . a lot more together.  This week? Well. This week I'm merely attempting to cobble things together as best I can and hope for the best.

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"We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."
            -- Winston Churchill to the Canadian House of Commons, December 30, 1941

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Yes. We're a tough bunch of badasses. Non?

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But . . . 

Try as I might . . . to NOT pay attention to the news this week (because it's only polling guesses - and we know how unreliable and meaningless THAT is) . . . I failed Yesterday morning I caved.
I looked at the headlines. 

Mistake. MISTAKE!
DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!!!
(May Day! May Day!)

I death-spriraled myself into a near-catatonic state.
(And it was especially dangerous because it was also snowing at the time.)
I ended up drinking too much coffee, too -- with no food to balance it out. So there I was. Jittery. Depressed. Deep in full-on Election Despair. And looking forward to my pre-dinner cocktail . . . at 10:30 am. (And even factoring in the time change, that is Never Good.)

Things were looking Very Bleak, Indeed.

Eventually, I hauled my (very sorry) ass up to my meditation cushion . . . and I listened to this. (Which is not a meditation at all, but a talk.) It's about facing fear with compassion. By Elizabeth Gilbert. (Yeah. That Elizabeth Gilbert.) And, friends? It helped. In fact, it made me cry. Her talk is about facing fear with compassion . . . for yourSELF. Her voice is soothing and reassuring, full of love. She quotes Winston Churchill (the quote I included above). I'm glad I listened.

I'm telling you about this . . . 
because maybe you found yourself in similar dire straits over the weekend.
Or maybe you'll find yourself there today.
Or tomorrow.
And maybe it will help you, too.
(So click in to that link if you need a boost.)

I'm feeling better now.
(Although it wouldn't take much to set me off again.)

Let's just hang in there and support each other.

Okay?

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One more thing. . .

I found this article helpful for some much-needed perspective when it comes to interpreting election results as they filter in. We aren't likely going to know the results on November 3 (unfortunately). I know you know this . . . but the article brings provides some much-needed grounding, and a sense of what we may experience.

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Hang in there, everyone.

Just. . . hang in there.