The things you do to survive

I think somewhere out there there’s a triad of needs (and my kid, who is taking “adulting 101” at his high school, probably knows the answer to who dreamt it up and what the real theory is) – first comes the most basic: food and shelter and companionship. Then comes the other needs: the things that feed our souls, like art (for some), religion (for some), and service to others (the fine art of being needed). After that, on the pyramid of needs, comes all the STUFF we want and for which our real need is dubious at best.

I find myself thinking about this lately, because in this first year of Trump as our President, there is a need to do it all, to be constantly outraged, to be on the alert, to not let them get away with ANYTHING without protest – their ideas are so mean, so cruel, and so useless – it feels like it all has to be resisted at every moment.

But we can’t resist constantly: we’ll burn out.  And so there are the things you do to live another day and fight – the things that revive one and bring back the energy.

For me, there are a few things that are sustaining me: reading (preferably fiction), cooking and thinking about transforming my eating to a more plant-based diet, and art.

I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” which is about her family retreating to a family farm and making a vow to eat local for a year – preferably from their own farm, but also supporting local farms for the things they didn’t grow themselves.  It’s a fact-filled book that will fill you with both joy and fear – but this isn’t a book review.

Living in the city, as I do, I don’t have garden space — I do have a porch, but my porch is more suitable to flowers than vegetables, between the west-facing aspect and the marauding squirrels (the squirrels are fierce in my ‘hood). Herbs are really the edible of choice, and I grow them and horde them  until they flower …

Her descriptions of the joy of cooking food, cooking as a communal activity fill me with some kind of nostalgia – for me, cooking is a solitary activity, mostly because my own kitchen is so small. And I get crabby when there is an other who gets in the way. But I do like to talk to folks when I cook – as long as that other is out of the way.

And her book is clarifying some problems with the way most of us consume food, and why Americans are so fat and unhealthy – and why family farms are dying off. So, I’m resolving to spend more time at the farmer’s market, and trying to eat more locally, and cook more.

Tonight a ward committeeman who I like and admire is hosting an event discussing immigration, and has a great panel.  Instead, I am going to a panel at the library featuring black playwrights – opting for the politics of art over the politics of deportation. Why? Because the art will feed the soul a bit as it brings up issues we need to wrestle with.

Since January, I have found my involvement with art and artists to be the most sustaining work I do: whether it is performing myself (rare these days) or going to see others perform or talk about art. Even though it is frequently political – it is NOT escapism – the performative nature allows for a communal engagement and response that is somehow more affirming.

The point is: there are many forms of being engaged. Supporting local artists, like supporting local food, is an act of resistance in and of itself – as this administration moves to cut all funding to the arts (like it would like to do to science as well), local artists will need our support more than ever.




Did tax things today.

Walked over to the bank, and paid the property taxes.  Walked home, stopping at the grocery store on the way.

After eating a bit of lunch, I settled in to do my income taxes. They don’t take me long: I have a single employer, I get health insurance through my employer, I have one deduction I claim, and I didn’t get to claim my kid this year (his father did).

They still make me cranky.  Not because I have to pay taxes. But because the property taxes are so high, and the income taxes relatively low.

This state is falling apart. Education funding is abysmal. We should lower our property taxes by raising income taxes — and oh, yeah, switch to a graduated income tax like civilized people instead of this flat tax nonsense.

Then the state should pay it’s bills, including what it owes to the education system and the retirement benefits for state employees.

The current system doesn’t work. It needs to be re-invented. The state’s education system is way too dependent on property taxes, and it needs to be de-coupled from those taxes. A graduated income tax would solve a lot of these problems.

And yes, rich people would hire lawyers and tax accountants to try to get out of paying their fair share: that’s what they do.  We’d still end up ahead.

Addendum: in an article by the Chicago Tribune comparing Illinois in 2010 to 2014, the Tribune used an ALEC scale to claim Illinois’ ranking had improved — significantly because more children had access to charter schools. The take-away number, however, is that Illinois lost ground to other states in terms of education spending per child.

It’s 61 degrees here and that’s crazy

It’s February.  Here in Chicago where I live, February is usually a dark and dreary month, cold, snowy, slightly depressing, and made for endurance.

It’s wonderful. It makes you feel hardy to go outside, shovel out the car, totter over to the train station, and walk into work.  Where you can complain to your co-workers in a slightly congratulatory way about how bad it is outside, so that your own ability to make it into work becomes a feat worthy of note and praise: truly remarkable that we are able to function in this weather.

But right now, it is 61 and sunny.  You don’t need a coat to go outside, a light sweater or sweatshirt will do. It’s actually quite lovely out. One feels like going for long walks. It could be late May.

And that is very weird indeed. So instead of really enjoying this gorgeous weather, one has an asterisk in your head. “It’s so beautiful* ….” *but it’s February in Chicago and that’s kind of odd.

It begins to feel like we are doomed. While I never doubted the scientists, I wanted them to be a bit off in their predictions: I wanted us to have a chance.

And it feels like … we may not. It may be too late. And there may be nothing we can do at this point to stop it.

This US government certainly won’t save us, as they decline to believe global warming exists, and rush to make everything much worse.

It’s 61 and sunny in Chicago today. It’s gorgeous out.*


Spent my Valentine’s Day dinner eating in a Yemeni restaurant, prompted by two things: one, there was an article in a Chicago paper (The Reader) about eating in restaurants that wouldn’t exist if not for immigrants from banned countries; and two, the restaurant we were aiming for was closed on Tuesdays (who knew? That restaurant is a Korean BBQ run by a Japanese family — so we weren’t avoiding immigrants with our first choice either).

The restaurant turned out to be delightful. The food was excellent, the Yemeni tea (with milk!) was delicious, and the people were very friendly and helpful. We were the only people eating in — they seemed a little perplexed that we weren’t doing take-out — and we had a lovely time.

Speaking of being banned, there is a website that tracks the stories of banned scientists. One of the unintended consequences of the immigration ban will be to universities: smart people, even from countries that aren’t banned, won’t come here to study – and that creates a loss for us, both economically and with the drain of brains away from the United States.

Whose next? Comedians? Journalists?

Will our culture and our economy survive? How do “business leaders” justify supporting the rank incompetence in the White House? It’s terrible business.


So, there’s this dam in California that’s breaking. Oroville Dam, the largest dam in the country — the spillway is damaged (and getting more damaged by the moment), and the emergency spillway is dubious as well.

So 130,000 people have been evacuated. Suddenly, with very little warning.

People who know about these things have been raising warning flags since 2005.

But I guess we have other priorities. Like preventing harmless people from entering the United States. Or deporting other harmless people.

Spending money on the national security state is the one thing we don’t need to ask the question “But where will we get the money to pay for that?”

Everything else, college education, healthcare, retirement, infrastructure — “we don’t have the money to pay for that!”

But if it makes defense contractors or gun manufacturers rich, we have the money, no questions asked. Odd how that works.

Returning to blogging

I haven’t blogged in since 2014.  Why?

Well, there was a fire in my condo building – that was pretty disruptive of my life for a time. (I was fine.  Everyone got out relatively safely – the woman who started the fire was slightly injured, but we all lived. My unit was fine until the derecho two days later which took out the ceiling and walls of my kitchen: it is still not fully recovered, due to incompetent contractors and lack of time on my part).

My boyfriend moved in.  Boyfriends are distracting. Good, but distracting.

One of my best friends got cancer. Cancer sucks. We took care of her dog while she had treatment.  The cancer is beaten back, but she’s now disabled (neurological cancer is not kind). The dog was old, and finally he too developed a neurology. Fortunately, his mom was out of the hospital and back in her own place at the end, so she got to be with him.

So: been busy having a life, campaigning, dipping toes back into the theater world, having a teenager, taking care of folks, trying to save the world.

Why am I back?

Because the world has gotten overwhelming. This blog is not going to save it. But it is a place for me to talk about it. And complain. And vent. And think about joy.

Intermittent blogging to resume.

Random thoughts

1) Now that Shinseki has resigned, will the Republicans fund the VA at an adequate level? After all, what do long wait times really mean? Lack of staffing, wouldn’t you think? Heavy patient loads, and a lack of adequate staff to handle it?

2) Why is there such a demand for VA services? Did that have anything with the two wars the last administration started, with inadequate provision for funding the returning veterans?

3) If the Democratic Party ever wants me to donate, they should stop sending multiple alarmist emails a day. Enough already.  Plus, emails with highlighting is just ugly.

4) Also, they should stop telling me how terrible the Republicans are (I know that) and start talking about their plans, their goals, what they’ll do — and maybe telling me how terrible the Republicans are would work better if that wasn’t the subject of ALL their emails.

5) My ex-husband got married yesterday.  A few people were shocked that I was at the wedding … but why?  I don’t get it: we’ve always remained friendly, and I am happy to see him happy.  Family is family.  And his dog gets along beautifully with my cat.

6) Kids are ever amazing.

7) Apparently, I’m supposed to watch the entire first season of Pushing Daisies today, and put in my porch garden. I’d better stop taking naps and get down to it.

Sent mail: Not one more

“Not one more”

Well,  because I’m a little more verbose than that, that was the subject line.  Wrote emails to Sens. Kirk and Durbin: enough already, not one more death from gun violence.

It’s time for a sensible gun policy in this country. It’s time to adhere to the “well-regulated” part of the second amendment.

It’s time to recognize that the second amendment was a state’s rights issue: i.e., that the state had the right to have it’s own militia. Why did the state need to have it’s own militia? To hunt runaway slaves. That’s why Patrick Henry argued for the change in the language of the second amendment. As the largest slaveowner in Virginia, he was concerned that if John Adams were elected president, Adams wouldn’t fund the state militias to hunt slaves (which was probably a valid concern).

The second amendment should have been retired with the Civil War.

Anyone who argues that it’s about individual freedom is an idiot (yes, I’m looking at you, Justice Scalia). And anyone who thinks it will protect them against an over-reaching government deserves a drone strike.

Too many people are being killed because of the gun fetishists in this country.  And the blame lies squarely with the NRA.

I get mail

And here’s a letter from Sen. Durbin (I wrote to express my dismay at the nomination of Michael Boggs to a federal judgeship):


Thank you for contacting me about Michael P. Boggs’ nomination to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. I appreciate hearing from you.
Judge Boggs received his B.A from Georgia Southern College and his J.D. at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law. Boggs has been a judge on the Court of Appeals of Georgia since January 2012. Previously, Boggs served as a Superior Court Judge in the Waycross Judicial Circuit of the First Judicial Administrative District of Georgia from 2004 to 2012. While serving as a Superior Court Judge, he established and presided over the court’s felony drug court program.
On January 6, 2014, Michael Boggs’ nomination was received by the Senate and was referred to the Judiciary committee, of which I am a member. As a member of this committee, I will be considering this nomination carefully and will keep your views in mind.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator


A couple things about this email: first, did I ask for Mr. Bogg’s resume? Do I care about his credentials?  In this case, no — although, I don’t find them terribly impressive (speaking as an academic snob).  Second, does this address his stances on the issues which I pointed out were offensive?  No, it does not. It does not address his character at all — and yes, I view his stance on some issues to be a moral issue.

For instance, his anti-choice stance is offensive to me as a woman: it means he devalues both women’s health and the ability of women to make their own choices about their own bodies. I don’t find that moral at all. Next, he opposes marriage equality, which is the defining civil rights issue of our time (well, that, and maintaining voting rights for all … sheesh, are we still fighting that battle?).  Rep. John Lewis has denounced this nomination — and if we’re talking morality and Civil Rights and John Lewis is against you — I think you’re on the wrong side.

Last, but not least, his support for the Confederate flag denotes him as … unAmerican. Frankly, it’s a flag that celebrates treason, and a war fought to ensure the existence of slavery.  No.  Disqualified on points to serve on the federal bench if you are muddled about what defines us as Americans (hint: it isn’t a “Rebel Yell”).  A little boning up on history might be important (and if you tell me that the North got to write the history after the War — well, yes: because the North won! that’s what happens when you win! — and it doesn’t mean that you can go in and change facts just because their uncomfortable now … for instance, like what the South was fighting for and who started it. Again, no).

And what I don’t see is: how are you going to vote on this offensive nomination,  Senator Durbin? Are you a strong “no”? Wavering? Because that’s really what I want to know: how are you going to vote on the nomination?

One note to Sen. Durbin’s staff: if you ask for my preferred title, try using it not only in the address line, but also in the salutation — looks weird if you aren’t consistent.

“Open” internet vs. net neutrality

A letter from the FCC:

Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open 
Internet proceeding. We're hoping to hear from as many people 
as possible about this critical issue, and so I'm very 
glad that we can include your thoughts and opinions.

I'm a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight 
to keep the internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.
Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission

Well, that’s one way to defend against a highly unpopular rule change. And since when does “fight” equal “capitulate?”