for all of the dogs, and all those who love them

This is exactly how Usvatanssin Kennel (Finnish for “mist dance”) got it’s name. “When they run in the twilight on cold winter days, the beauty of their synchronized paces is like a dance which flows in the sparkling mist of the powder snow.” One of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in life. (February 2015)

We lost a lot of great things in 2016: Prince, Bowie, relationships, Muhammad Ali, human decency, Leonard Cohen, Alan Thicke, the meaning of words, Nancy Reagan, America, Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, foresight, Alan Rickman, Doris Roberts, forward progress, Merle Haggard.

But two “things” that probably only made a few people’s list, namely, the wonderful volunteers of Usvatanssin Kennel and the beautiful family who runs it: Jahken and Ivan.

Jahken left us this spring and Ivan, just a few days ago. Is it silly to mourn the lives of dogs you lived with for just a few months, years ago, from halfway across the world? I don’t know, but my heart hurts just the same. Ivan hit me particularly hard, as I am sure his death hit a lot volunteers (and the Näsi family) particularly hard.

He was one of the first dogs my hand touched after I stepped off the bus in Tiainen, Finland (along with my Iinna, who basically takes up all the room I have in my heart for dogs, but dogs are good squishers, so it’s so weird how I can always find room for more). At the time I arrived, Iinna was staying indoors with the volunteers, recovering from a physical injury, while Ivan was indoors recovering from a less physical one.

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My bunkmates, Iinna and Ivan. (March 2014)

Something was off. He had stopped eating, stopped getting excited to run. His wife Flame, and sons Liekki and Loiste are three of the best sled dogs around, part of the Dream Team, but he just wasn’t feeling it. At Usvatanssin, there is always a place for you (seriously), no matter how you’re feeling, so hoping it would help cheer his spirits, Ivan started sleeping with the volunteers in the cabin at night. And by sleeping with, I mean sleeping on, next to, on-top-of, in-your-face, snuggled-up-stretched-out-ALL-over, in your tiny twin bed, with.

And we loved every second of it.

My favorite part of the day quickly became walking out to the kennel into the pitch-dark arctic night, after all the chores were done, after you had your time with your family, to find you waiting patiently by the kennel door. You knew exactly what time it was. And if we came early, eager for your company, and caught you off-guard still snuggling in your house, all we had to do was softly say your name and you’d gracefully leap out of bed. But if you saw us first, your stealthiness was admirable.

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Casa de Flame and Ivan. In 2014, their sons still lived at home.

And you’d calmly sit there, while we’d try to let (slightly at this point) injured Iinna escape the tiny door space without letting Iisku out (which was the second favorite part of my day), unfazed by the crazy howls from all your doggy friends, egging them on. You’d proudly waltz to the cabin, not all crazy-Iinna like, but with confidence and pride, like you’d been there before, just like every step you ever took.

And as soon as we’d walk in the door of the cabin, you made yourself at home, because it was your home. On the couch, on the floor, on our beds. You never acted like the other dogs we invited as our indoor nighttime guests (thinking we were doing them a favor – hint: Siberian Huskies LOVE the outdoors). You never got your head stuck in the garbage bin trying to get at scraps of food, or knocked over tables in excitement, or barked at the VHS on TV like crazy, or went bonkers over the reflections in the windows. Any time someone would sit even remotely near you, you’d reach out that friendly paw of yours to touch them, just to say, hey man, I’m here for you.

Wherever you were was where you belonged. And what’s more, you made us feel like we belonged, no matter where we were from.

Remember when we Facetime’d my sister and you yawned real big and showed all your teeth and she was like…aren’t you sort of afraid of them? Looking back, your head must have looked really big and your teeth really sharp, like it probably could eat my whole head, but I just laughed at the idea and snuggled your giant face. Ivan? The Poet? The Gentle Giant? Sweet, sweet Ivan? Nah. I’ve seen you when you sleep. Even your snore is adorable.

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No one else I’d rather share my bed with.

And that last time I was in Finland, when you decided it was time to come out of retirement? It warmed my heart to see you so excited to run. I had heard you had it in you, but I had yet to see it for myself. I wanted to cry, so honored to be on an adventure with you, pulled by your willpower, your drive. I am so, so thankful to have seen you in your true light.

I’ve been planning to return to Finland, my center, my reset button for many months now. It was my first place, it was the place I went before hiking the Appalachian Trial, it is the place I will return to before hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. And after all the black holes of 2016, I can’t think of anything better to fill it with, than the loveliest dogs in the world. But when I thought of returning, you were definitely a part of my itinerary, that warm spot in my heart that in this crazy unpredictable world, the one you know will always be the same. And for that, I am sad. But I am so much more happy that I know you existed.

Please, don’t ever tell someone, “but…it’s just a dog.” Ivan was just a dog. But he was just a dog who influenced my life more positively than a whole lot of people ever did. Don’t downplay the love someone has for a dog because it’s a dog. Don’t try to assign  value to another person’s love, well, ever. Love…is love…so they say. So let it be.

I know dogs don’t live forever. I know I’m in for several years of heartbreak of dogs who have touched my heart. I know all dogs go to heaven. But it’s still sad as hell to see them go.

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Ivan, our third roommate. Thanks for being you <3. Photo cred: Amy Dunn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

intertribal dialogue

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Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary

As some of you may have noticed, I fell knee-deep into the internet aftermath of the election shit storm. Before November, I blogged a total of 12 times. I wrote eight posts in the month of November alone. Lots of comments, lots of feelings, lots of words.

I’m not usually in the habit of feeding the trolls, but lately I just have so much food on my hands. Please note, I am not calling any one particular group of people trolls. Refer back to my Instagram experience for a good idea of what I mean. Trolls come from all different sides in all shapes and sizes and colors (especially hair) and some even have jewels for belly buttons! And they often say the craziest things, which might cause you to stop and think…wait…are they actually being serious right now?

Noticing my increased presence on Facebook, one of my friends poked a little fun at me for feeding the trolls, but also agreed that in real life, this is exactly what needs to happen: intertribal dialogue. The phrase spread warmly through my body like that first sip of Laphroaig. He had lived and worked in Kenyan villages and said this whole election reminded him a lot of Africa.

“I came away thinking they are not culturally ready for democracy, because people just voted for their tribe, no matter what the actual candidate said, did, or stood for. My mistake was thinking we were any better. When Trump said he could shoot someone on fifth avenue and not lose support, that’s when I knew our tribal moment had arrived.”

Before you get immediately offended by that statement, just take a moment to think about that statement, not about who said what or why.

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. I’ve always had a thing for bridges. I think it’s more symbolic than physical, how they connect things that would otherwise be unconnected.

Intertribal dialogue is necessary for progress, for growth, for discovering common ground. We need to talk to each other, try to understand each other’s perspective. We need to remove ourselves from our echo chambers, cross that imaginary, but very real line at the school sock hop and ask a boy to dance, even if we’ve been told he has cooties. We need to put real faces to words and ideas, make the connection between real people and real experiences, keep reminding ourselves that the fact we don’t see eye to eye doesn’t make us less human. Some might argue it makes us more so.

That’s sort of what I attempted to do via internet. When I saw people make comments I did not understand, I asked clarifying questions to seek understanding. Sure, I know how I interpreted their words, but maybe that’s not exactly what they meant. When I saw people share fake news, agreeing feverishly with it, I had this overwhelming desire to discuss the content, parse out what their exact takeaway was. Depending on your viewpoint, it is very possible to read the same thing, and come away with two totally different truths. Many of my own blog posts were addressed to “you,” which wasn’t necessarily code for a particular person, but more like how “Uncle Sam Wants YOU” whoever you are. If you read my words and felt they were directed at you, we’re probably in different tribes. If you read my words and found yourself saying, “Yes, yes, yes, all of the yes,” we’re very likely in the same tribe.

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Liberty Bridge over the River Danube. Without bridges, we’d have Buda and we’d have Pest, but we’d have no Budapest.

My attempts at internet intertribal dialogue didn’t always work out so well for me. Many people from outside my tribe just didn’t seem to be interested in having a conversation. My old roommate in college, and now apparently ex-friend, posted one of those maps of the country showing the red and the blue, stating something about how the people have spoken, and clearly more people feel red. I asked her if she considered that space on a map does not necessarily represent the number of people who live in those spaces, but just space on a map. Normally I try to make sure I include the exact details of my interactions and try not to paraphrase, but I can’t for this example, because she not only deleted her post of the map, but de-friended AND blocked me. Dialogue denied.

And then of course, there’s the comments on my own blog. I want nothing more to talk about my posts with people who disagree or think different. That’s how I learn. That’s how I see my viewpoint isn’t the only viewpoint. That’s the foundation of bridge building. But comments like this, don’t help.

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This will get us nowhere. Also, it’s nice to know people actually want to kick people out of America for thinking different. Which is exactly WHY successful intertribal dialogue is so very necessary.

And then there is the endless string of unknown identities, who anonymously state their point, but don’t care to have a two-way conversation. I have an issue with Anonymous people on the internet, hiding behind a computer screen, holding no one accountable for words expressed. Own your words, always.

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This was a start. I appreciate being called out when I am wrong, especially in my posts. It’s harder in person, though something I work on every day. I put a LOT of time into my writing to not spread misinformation. I am more careful with it than I am the spoken word. But Anonymous never helped me see what I got factually wrong. Just told me I was. End of discussion (though it never really began).

So yeah, maybe the internet isn’t the easiest or best place to start. Perhaps talking with people you know, people you regularly converse with, or just any real live person who embodies different thoughts and feelings might be a better first step.

And what an excellent opportunity if you have friends and family who think different from you! I mean, really, who better than your inner circle, the folks who understand you, love and respect you? The people you choose to surround yourself with and under ordinary circumstances, with whom you share so many commonalities? Because if you can’t talk with your family and closest friends about the stuff that really matters, we’re in trouble. Those bridges are going to be a lot more difficult to build than I thought.

But there is one tiny problem with my logic: unfortunately, way too often, family forgets to lend you the same respect they might lend a stranger in conversation of importance. I mean, they know you, don’t they? They already have their view of who you are, in fact, they made up their mind a long time ago. You’ll always be the party girl or the goody-two-shoes or the jock or the weaselly middle child. Often it’s difficult to keep an open mind while having a real conversation with immediate family, because you’ve already reached all the conclusions before any words are even exchanged.

And that sucks. Because people change. They grow. I mean, I sure as hell hope I am not the same person I was when I was 18. And you want to know the craziest thing? You do most of your growing and changing after you leave home. After you leave your family. You often discover who you are, become who you are, realize your full potential when you’re out on your own. Only by then, it’s too late. You’ve already been given an identity, even if you grew out of that yourself years ago.

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Without bridges, the concept of Amsterdam wouldn’t really work.

I was fortunate enough to have two verbal face-to-face intertribal dialogues over Thanksgiving. One went fairly well, one sort of crashed and burned. One was with a friend’s family, one was with immediate family. Take your guess as to which was which.

Aside from alcohol being a terrible ingredient to any intelligent conversation of worth, I noticed one major difference between sensitive discussions with immediate family and discussions with my friend’s family: one more closely followed the LARA principles and one did not: Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add. It’s a method of constructive conflict resolution, one that I’ve found to be pretty effective when put into practice. The following descriptions of LARA are taken from the University of Michigan’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

Listen with an intent to understand. Listen for underlying principles, cultural values, emotions, and issues behind what is being said. Listen for commonalities. Observe body language and tone of voice which may provide additional meaning. Listen for inherent needs and interests, not just what is said.

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Bridges of Prague, Czech Republic

With my family, this is sort of tossed out the window immediately. I have a public blog where I regularly share my thoughts and feelings. They had been reading my words from afar for a while. They already had their impressions, their interpretation, their understanding. They had their responses queued up. They did not need to need to hear what I had to say at the moment; it was their turn to talk, to respond to everything. I get it, but at the same time, that’s pretty unfair. I can control what I write, but I can’t control how people interpret my words, or how my words make them feel. And without a proper discussion, it’s hard to know the level of understanding that occurred.

Too often, close families forget to be active listeners. We all just wait for the person to be done talking so we can talk. We resort to name-calling more quickly and tend to make things personal more often. We know where to hit each other where it hurts, aren’t afraid to do so and things can get ugly unnecessarily fast. Sometimes you treat the ones you love the most, the worst.

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Without bridges, there would have been A LOT of swimming on the Appalachian Trail.

Affirm the principles or issues in what was said, or simply the feelings or emotions that were expressed (“you care strong about this”). Affirming is not agreeing, it’s acknowledging or recognizing what is shared. This can be done by simply repeating or rephrasing what was said.

This step is skipped A LOT, one I learned the true value of over a decade of working with doctors and nurses, trying to bridge the gap between the medical and information technology fields. It’s not enough to listen. You have to comprehend what they are saying.

Respond to the issues that were raised and the underlying needs behind them. Ask questions about what was said.

This is an important step, and it only really works if you get here by completing step one and two. Otherwise you’re just an asshole. It also seems to often be the most difficult for people standing on the other side of the bridge to hear. Because when someone makes it to step three, that means the other person has to be in step one. Breathe. You can’t respond without affirming and you can’t affirm unless you listen. You’ll get to step three soon enough.

Add information to the conversation. After seeking to understand, seek to be understood.

Now that you both understand each other, you can talk about where to go from there. About what this means. Maybe you’ll reach a resolution, maybe you won’t. But at least you gave it the ol’ college try.

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Without bridges, the Pacific Coast Highway would definitely not be as beautiful. Or exist.

Some people hate conflict. They want to sweep it under the rug, pretend it’s not happening, pretend it doesn’t exist. But it is happening, it does exist. And if you keep sweeping it under the rug, someone is going to notice that lumpy spot in the corner eventually, and your furniture won’t fit in the living room quite the way it did before.

Family isn’t just about having built-in friends with whom to share all the goodness of life. It’s for support and love and having someone in your corner when the world is beating you up, or bringing you down. If you can’t talk with your family, if you’re uninterested in the people who they truly are, and not just who you think they are or want them to be, if you don’t care about the things that matter most to them, if you don’t try to understand how you’re part of the same family, yet belong to very different tribes, your relationship will never progress. Worse, it might potentially reverse.

The easiest and most beautiful bridges to build are those you don’t have to build alone. And if you don’t try to build that understanding, if you have no interest in even visiting them on their end of the bridge during the holidays, well, that doesn’t really sound much like a family to me at all. That sounds more like a bunch of strangers from different tribes, uninterested in dialogue.

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Without bridges, no one would get to watch the locals jump from the Stari Most into the frigid blue waters of the Neretva River in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

all the good stuff is still there

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If wishes were trees / the trees would be falling / listen to reason / the reason is calling / Your feet are going to be on the ground / your head is there to move you around / so stand.

Recently, I’ve been feeling this feeling, where I want to throw up (No, I’m not pregnant) but nothing comes out. It’s like this permanent, imma’bout to throw up feeling. You know the one. You’ve all been through your 20s. It’s like every Sunday morning. But worse.

Because it just sits there. Like this impending doom. Like every horror story you’ve ever watched, where you’re all like, IDIOT! DON’T CHECK OUT THAT SOUND UPSTAIRS!! But you have to go upstairs because that’s where your bed is. And you get there, and you think, okay, okay, everything is fine. Then you wake up. And it’s still there. And you cry a little. Because, crying sometimes makes things better. But this time it doesn’t. And then you’re like…WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!

But it’s Thanksgiving. So you tuck that weird-won’t-go-away-feeling into the largest pair of jeans you own because you’re going need them anyway, and you drive “home” for Thanksgiving. And on that long drive through the rain that should be snow, perhaps toward a family you barley recognize anymore, you think, “thankful, thankful, I am thankful, I am thankful,” but maybe you struggle to finish that thought, that of what you have to be thankful for this year.

It might be hard at first, but I assure you, all that good stuff is still there. I found mine. And with some boxed wine, a fat cat and some old cheese, you can find yours too.

This year, and every year, I am thankful I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin known in history books for welcoming refugees from Laos. I am thankful I grew up with faces that didn’t look exactly like my own. I am thankful I met my first real gay friend, my first real Jewish friend, and my first real Muslim friend, just a few hours south of where I grew up, at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. I am thankful to have dated a Mormon, a Catholic, a Protestant, to have shared romantic feelings (wink,wink) with skins of all colors, bodies of all shapes. I am thankful I was able to travel this world, to expand my mind to thoughts of the previously unknown. I am thankful I am able to see different ways of life, even those I do not want for myself. I am thankful I am able to see people as human beings, not as the labels assigned to them by society. Not as this, or that, but as men and women, who are just like me, with different thoughts, different ways, different backgrounds, different ideas, but still, just like me, if you really break it down. I am thankful to be able to expand my horizons beyond those right in front of me. I am thankful I was given the right to be thankful for these things, and anything. And everything.

I am thankful.

affirmation is not information

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Stacks. Minneapolis, MN

A couple of summers ago while hiking the Appalachian Trail, I enjoyed a little bit of fame. Instagram caught wind of my adventure, highlighted my journey on their blog and Facebook, and within hours I had 15,000 new best friends I’ll never meet.

The Instagram post was tiny, a less than 500 word write up, one they didn’t send me first. Or last, actually. I had no idea it was published. Editors took my words, answers in response to some questions via email, sort of pieced them together to fit their agenda (not mine) and sent it out into the world. Harmless, right?

Enter, The Trolls.

Some people read about my adventure escape from the real world and got real angry with their current life situation and took it out on me. Because that makes sense. Others labeled me a trust fund kid in my 20s or stated other ridiculously untrue “facts” about me. Still others thought the entire thing (aka my life) was a hoax. Many people judged my actions. Some people just used my happiness as an opportunity to express the hate in their own hearts. And let me tell you, it is weird watching a bunch of shit being said about you on the internet, with only you knowing the whole truth. You watch it spiral out of control, mean people feeding off meaner people in some crazy internet tornado that you have absolutely no power to stop. Even if you tried, confronted it head on, that tornado would whisk you off to Oz, and a little dog named Toto told me it’s tremendously hard to find your way back.

All of this, just over some no-name girl featured on Instagram for hiking a trail. I can’t imagine what it must be like for movie stars, public figures, people running for President.

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You couldn’t run a mile in Madison without running into a place to vote.

The internet is a scary place. It has essentially made all of us (rather terrible) journalists, all of us (preeeeety biased) new sources, and has given us a platform to express opinion that nobody asked for. And each of us has the ability to share whatever we want, ain’t no fact checking gonna hold us back. Most of us do not have to abide by some journalistic code, be held to certain level of conduct, respect ethics, or be afraid to lose our jobs because of the information we share, whether it’s fact or fiction.

A long, long time ago, I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. With the massive strides the internet has made since then, I can’t help but wonder how they’ve changed their course of instruction. But I will always be grateful for being taught how to ask meaningful questions, open my mind, dig deeper, see both sides, look for supporting facts. To understand the difference between an opinion piece and actual news. I’ve lately been reminded, that’s not how everyone does it.

As consumers of information, it has become harder than ever to learn the truth. People of the internet say ridiculous things, use shock statements to get people’s attention, exaggerate the truth, create absurd “news” titles containing absolutely zero supporting facts within the article. And even if you do the proper research and eventually debunk their words, by then it’s too late. Because once someone reads that garbage, the damage is done, it’s hard to un-read it. Everything begins to blend together and people forget what’s fact, what’s false.

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A bridge. Maybe even over troubles waters. Madison, WI

I know everyone has their own idea of mainstream media and the way it slants. But the answer is NOT to rely on far right or far left sites, who will only tell us exactly what we want to hear, things that support what we want to be true, regardless of fact.

Affirmation is not Information.

These sites are hardcore opinions and beliefs, and are certainly not held to the same standards as trained journalists (regardless of how wary you are of them, legit sources actually hold their people to the journalistic code of ethics). Same goes for only watching CNN or Fox News or whatever you feel the most left or right news channels are; just know that you are almost never getting the full story. And I think we owe it ourselves (and the late great U.S of A) to hear the full story.

The internet is capable of amazing things. I’ve seen it bring the world to remote lands, bring remote lands to the world. It allows me to keep in touch with friends across the globe, watch my puppies grow into sled dogs in Arctic Lapland, see my friend’s tiny baby grow into a little boy with dimples in Oaxaca, Mexico. Through the internet, I lived with Dave and Amy Freeman in the Boundary Waters for 365 days in their effort to ensure permanent protection for the Boundary Waters Wilderness from proposed sulfur-ore copper mining. Through the internet, The Freemans have been bringing their Wilderness Classroom adventures to Chicago Public Schools, outdoor adventures so many children may never experience otherwise.

The internet, if used appropriately, can help bridge the geographical gap. It can connect people from different countries, help people travel the world. It can bring the great outdoors to the inner city, the big city to the beautiful countryside. It can promote understanding for different ways of life, ways of thinking. And what an incredible thing. What a luxury to have at our fingertips. Because so many of us only know people like us. We only associate with people like us. We only know our way of life. Our mindset. Our struggles. Our fears. Whether we’re bound by time, money, or will, we’re all living in our own bubbles, whether we realize it or not.

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Minneapolis, Minnesota

And if The Donald proved anything, the social media branch of the internet is one powerful tool. Video killed the Radio Star, Internet killed Print, Facebook killed Real News. Like it or not, this is how so many people communicate now. This is how people get involved. This is how people get informed.

But if we only read things that agree with our mindset, if we only associate with people like us on the internet, if we extend our geographical bubble to the empty space of the internet…what bridges are we building? What understanding are we promoting? How are we growing?

Personally, I find it to my advantage to know what sort of crazy news everyone is feeding on, especially now. Because I admit, this time, I definitely made the mistake of hopping in that crazy internet tornado. Weeeee-oooo, what a ride. Mostly, I just try to understand what people are getting out of the shocking headliners I see floating around the internet, try to understand what they are seeing, what I am not. So, I read the shocking title, read the article, read the comments…and ask questions.

Some general guidelines:

  • When you see lot of question marks and explanation points the title of the article, this is highly unlikely to be real news.
  • When the author uses words like “infestation” to describe an entire group of people, or uses juvenile playground insults such as (but not limited to) crybabies, losers…actually any name calling at all? Not real news. Certainly not unbiased news.
  • When the headliners say things like “You’ll Never GUESS What She Did Now,” without telling you at all what She did (which turns out to be something like used mayo on her sandwich instead of miracle whip, which is disgusting, yes, but not wrong), this is clickbait, and also, not real news.

For example, there’s this Facebook page liked by 5,473,441 people called American News. Their handle is @ThePatriotReview and they are the official page of AmericanNews.com. I’ve already sent them a message asking them to change their name, since my extensive research has found the name to be quite misleading.

The page regularly compares Obama to Hitler (uh, what?) and refers to Michelle Obama, arguably the most elegant, respectable, graceful first lady we ‘eva gonna get, as Moochelle. Yes, you heard that right.

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The ugly, perverted truth revealed in the story? She invited black rappers to the White House.

Or, do you remember the time that Michelle Obama Furious After Melania Trump Outclasses Her on First Day as First Lady Um. Read it.

The site prefaces most of their articles with statements even more unpleasant than their “news” titles.

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11K likes?? Melissa. Melissa gives me hope.

Or “Race baiting Beyonce just got a taste of her own medicine. She needs to learn to keep her mouth shut. Do you think Beyonce should learn her place?” Linked to: Beyonce Gets Rude Wakeup Call after Disgusting Stunt She Pulled At the CMAs.

And “While everyone was focused on the election, Obama did this. Simply disgusting. He is a disgrace to our country. Who is worse, Obama or Hillary?” Linked to: On the Day of the Election Obama Quietly did THIS. Oh, the THIS was reveled as, campaigned for Hillary…is that not called extreme focus on an election?

They routinely hate on Beyonce, Kanye (okay, I get that one, he can come off as a prick) and Oprah with shocking titles with no supporting content. If you are starting to see a theme, you are not alone.

And yes, sometimes I settle down with my glass(es) of wine and get to work. Yes, I know it’s petty, but…the internet. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

One article they posted (and members of my family shared) was entitled Michelle Obama Claims Her Life is More Difficult Than A Soldier’s. Having listened to the FLOTUS for the past eight years, I was skeptical that she would make that claim. So I read it. And after careful processing of the words, I commented:

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50,ooo people liked this. This is a hope crusher. I hope you read the “news” article. 

Visit the site here. And please, tell them what you think. Because this is the kind of stuff that has to stop. That is not information. That is fuel. Gallons and gallons of fuel to fire the Hate.

I don’t know if Trump is actually a real life bigot, a racist, etc. I hope for our country that he isn’t, that he’s just playing a role. I do believe he knew exactly what to say to his target audience, to instill fear, to light the fire under those who might not have otherwise voted. He knew exactly what to say to the people who wanted to hear it. And that was smart. That got him votes. But after spending the past few weeks on Facebook and fake news sites, I am less afraid of what Trump can do than they way the minds of all of the people feeding on fake news work, and what that can grow into.

So please, friends, family, voters all over the country, people all over the world. Think about what you are reading. Digest the words. When you see articles talking about who is the best and who is the worst (with no actual stats to back that claim up), that is not fair and unbiased news. Or fact. When sites make fun of people, use a lot of exclamation points to prove a point, that’s not news, that’s opinion. Be smarter! Use your beautiful brain! I hear if you don’t use it, you lose it!! I can use exclamation points because I am a blogger!!! Choose your information wisely. Be the gatekeeper of material stored in your memory boxes.

You can tell the internet what you think. Just don’t let the internet tell you what to think.

 

hate and rage are not the same

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I took a walk with a leaf (and like, the entire Dinndorf family) one day. And then I took a lot of pictures of the leaf. I can’t explain why. It just felt right at the time.

Hi! Hello! Me again.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my last post. (And by read, I mean all the the way through and not just to the point where you got pissed and commented instead of reading the rest, and by reading, I mean attempted to comprehend the words I wrote instead of drawing your own conclusions from the title, thinking about how wrong I was, formulating your rebuttal before you finished. Like legit, hey, I will read this…then take some time to think about it…then respond. That is reading. It’s super fun, I love it.) I really appreciated all of the kind (and not so kind) messages.

To sum it up, I explained why people should stop telling me to get over it. It being, the idea that America values a man who believes you can get away with anything when you’re rich and famous, including sexually harass women, “grab them by the p*ssy, you can do anything,” wants to ban an entire religion from entering the United States, and has said “laziness is a quality in blacks.” There’s more, but you’ve heard it all. Or ignored it all. IN any case, whether or not The Donald actually believes the things he says, many of his supporters definitely do. And since the election, some have been acting out accordingly. And I provided some examples of these open display of hate. And the people of Facebook got a wee-bit upset that I did not pay equal attention to the horrible things people were doing to Trump supporters or mentioning the protests. And they were right, I did not. Should I have? Perhaps. It would have saved a lot of interesting back-and-forth commenting on the FB. (Pretty sure that’s my full time job now. No idea how I’ll get paid.)

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I had been working in California all October, and I think I was just happy Wisconsin still had color.

But here is why I didn’t.

Hating someone solely because of the color of their skin, their religion, their disability, where they were born, their gender, or who they love is NOT the same thing as being real f*cking angry with people who hate people for the color of their skin, their religion, their disability, where they were born, their gender, or who they love.

Here is an example of American citizens who got very angry, to the point of violence. Angry that America supports a man endorsed by the KKK, angry about being repeatedly told they are less than white peeps, being told they do not belong here, to GO BACK TO AFRICA. And yes, angry with people who support a man who fueled the hate. Whether or not these things were directly said to them, that they were said at all to anyone, hurts.

People deal with their emotions, their pain in different ways. Some of us write poetry. Some of us channel our pain into music. Others paint beautiful pictures or escape into nature. I deal with emotions by writing. Some of us deal with pain by acting out in anger. And though it is wrong, though no good can come from hurting someone else because you are in pain, sometimes…it feels like the only release; all that pain comes out and you can breathe again. But see, then the cycle inevitably starts over, and you find yourself in this never-ending loop. If it’s a healthy loop, like writing, like music, like nature,  you’ll be okay. If it’s a violent loop, you might have a problem. No matter how much pain you are in, it’s never appropriate to take it out on someone else in the form of violence.

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I mean…it was a pretty cool leaf.

So yes, a Trump supporter was attacked. I am sure he is not the only one. And that is not cool. And I’ve seen the sign calling for Melania’s rape at a protest, which is totally disgusting and uncalled for, and extremely contradictory for someone specifically protesting Trump, so I’m struggling to find the point that sign is actually trying to make. It’s truly awful, no excuses.

And, yes this also happened. (But we should talk about how the article starts out with describing Portland, Oregon a city infested with radical leftists. Like these human beings are a disease, a nasty insect, something to get rid of? But wait, there’s more. I encourage you to read the whole thing. It’s a good one. So good, it might scare you.)

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So, so many people are upset, are hurt, are trying to find their place in this America, one they thought they knew, and many areas disappointed, so, very, very angry that their country values someone who openly attacked immigrants, Black Lives Matters protesters, Muslims, and women, while tipping his hat to white nationalists. And when all that rage boils up and explodes, people can do some real stupid shit. No doubt. And yes. This IS unacceptable.

And it truly sucks. I can’t even imagine the pain someone must be feeling to act out like this, but it must be intense. Visceral.

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I showed the leaf places it’d never seen.

But I did not include those references in my original post, entitled, “why you need to stop telling me to get over it.” Why? Mostly because they did not support my statement. And as a trained journalist, that kind of stuff is actually important to me. The videos where students chanted “build a wall” and “white power”, put signs up that said go back to Africa, whites only, f*ck all porch monkeys, separated sinks for colored people, where people sprayed swastikas over windows, called someone retarded for being deaf?  They supported my statement.

Because those acts did not stem from pain. Or anger. They stemmed from HATE. From pure hate. These people who committed these acts were not in pain. Or fear. They weren’t afraid of being ripped from their families, or told to go back to their countries (which for most of them, IS AMERICA). They weren’t called racial slurs (though I would be insulted if I were called a Trump supporter, so I will give you that one). No! They weren’t in pain at all. Quite the opposite, actually. They were celebrating! They were happy to openly display their feelings! Their feelings of hate.

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Nearing our final hour.

Beating someone up because they hate you because of the color of your skin, your religion, your disability, where you were born, your gender, or who you love, causing destruction and protesting in the streets against hate is called: pure, unbridled rage. Hardcore Rage. ALL OF THE RAGE. Mixed with confusion. Because like…why?

Hating someone purely because of the color of their skin, their religion, their disability, where they were born, their gender, or who they love is what we call: Racism. Bigotry. Hateful and seriously just plain awful, you should be ashamed of yourself. Xenophobic. Mysogynist. Homophobic. 

 

Yes, BOTH are terrible (thooooooough, if I had to choose which was worse, I totally could. I could. I mean, I will. It’s hate. Hate is worse.). BOTH need to stop.

And to be fair, Donald Trump did look into the camera and tell everyone to “Stop it.” That oughta do it.

But please, do not compare these two very different things. Do not compare acts fueled by Hate to acts fueled by Anger and Injustice. Do not compare racism and intolerance to fighting against racism and intolerance.

That is why I did not include those clips of rage in my post. Hate and Rage are not the same.

And my post was about Hate.

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The leafs final resting place.

here’s why you need to stop telling me to get over it

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America? America? Are you there? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO YOU??

I get it. You’re sick of seeing your Facebook feed fill up with people expressing their feelings. You think everyone should stop whining and go back to celebrating the Cubs World Series win, their babies and puppies, and all the stupid funny mindless shit that we all love and hate Facebook for. You want to go back to wasting your time scrolling through garbage instead of reading things that force you to think. I totally get it. I’m not happy about the state of Facebook either. I wish all I had to write about were picture frames and happy memories. But your apathetic stance is everything I fear. Your inability to see what is happening, why people are still talking, why people care, that is exactly what motivates me to write in the first place.

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Example post – to be fair, his was the MOST respectful one I saw.

This is one of those posts that I read and I get what he is trying to say, I do. The more we chatted, it became clear he was specifically referring to the less thoughtful posts, the ones that sort of feed into the hate. But maybe “whining” wasn’t the best choice of words. Throughout this election, I feel like words themselves have just lost meaning. Words are no longer chosen carefully, not by our peers, not by our President-Elect, not by people trying to have intelligent discussions, especially when they disagree. People just say whatever they want, expecting no consequence. As a lover of words, this hurts me. If we can’t say what we mean, and mean what we say, we’re doomed.

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Whine, defined

People speaking up for what is right, calling for change, expressing their disappointment in the character of our future President of the United States, that is not whining. People reaching out, telling their Muslim friends, their LGBTQ friends, their black friends, their lady friends, their friends, that they see them, that they care? That’s just free speech. And love. And words that need to be said. These are not feeble and petulant complaints. These are genuine, deep feelings. There is a difference. And as a woman who was speaking out (and loudly), I find this particular choice of words offensive.

Also, this was posted on Wednesday, less than 24 hours had passed since the face of America had changed. Maybe not so much for me, maybe not for you, and definitely not for every straight, white, male out there. But for a lot of people. I mean, what did you think you were going to find on Facebook the day after?

This is a big deal. People are protesting in droves against their President-Elect. People are legit fearful of their President-Elect. Does that mean anything to you? How many President-Elects before today have caused such a negative reaction, resulted in such fear and despair across the country? How many President-Elects have inspired so much open hate? This isn’t like your favorite team losing the World Series. This isn’t about which college football team deserves to play in the Rose Bowl, in the National Championship. This isn’t about my team losing. This isn’t about teams at all. It’s not about red or blue or left or right or any of the things that it seems so easy for some people to boil it down to.

Ryan is a friend, a military man, a neighbor, and a legit socially conscious dude. And we were actually able to talk about how his words affected me in a thoughtful, intelligent way. I was able to see what he was trying to say, he was able to see my point of view. Amazing how that works, eh? And for the record, he is NOT a Trump supporter.

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Or what? What is the alternative? I am glad you asked. NOT staying silent, NOT accepting what is happening in America. Speaking out, volunteering our time, donating money, calling your representatives, your congressmen, promoting love, advocating for change. Give me a call, let’s work together on my very, very long list of alternatives. 

But at the same time, this apathetic view of what is happening in the world around us is what scares me. This is NOT something to just accept and move on from, unless you are okay with a President-Elect who says he wants us to come together, but still has not addressed all of the hate crimes, open displays of violence as a result of his election. And please don’t send me videos of people bashing Trump supporters. I have seen them, and yes they are awful. I am not excusing their actions. Because I am talking about ALL OF THE VIOLENCE. All of the hate.

Including the words “Fuck N*ggers,” “Fuck All Porch Monkeys,”Whites Only” accompanied by the name of our noble Prez-Elect, smeared all over the locker of a student of color in Maple Grove, MN. Only they didn’t use a asterisk. They actually meant it.

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I will not “get over” this.

Including these signs posted in a Florida High School:

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I will not accept this.

Including these words spoken to a black man at a gas station:

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This is Real Life.

Including this chant of white power  by white students walking down the halls at York Tech High School in PA. Please watch this. It is horrifying.

Including men, LITTLE BOYS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, who think it’s okay to grab vaginas now. Little ears can hear what you are saying! They HEAR YOU.

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Many of these kids are learning from their parents. They hear what their parents are saying. And they are listening. Because their parents actually believe it IS okay. Parents of the world, it’s up to you to teach your little guys that this shit ain’t cool. To teach your little ladies to SPEAK OUT if this happens. To stand up for themselves. I do not envy your job.

Including students bringing deportation letters for their Latino classmates, making a human wall to not allow students to pass:

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As a former English teacher in a inner-city Milwaukee high school, where 95% of the students are black or Latino, where I tried to teach tolerance and acceptance, lead by example, my heart is breaking in a million pieces. For everyone.

Including a deaf woman who was told to take her “retarded self and go somewhere else now. Trump is president now.”

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For this, I have no words.

Including this message, painted over a sign expressing love and acceptance, essentially stating, yeah, we’re not interested in “coming together” to build YOUR version of a better tomorrow.

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This is the America we chose? I will fight for a better America. Will you?

Including the words “Seig Heil 2016,” that were spray painted across a South Philadelphia storefront window, along with a swastika. The vandalism was discovered on the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht. For those of you who don’t know what that word is, what  that word means, I urge you to look it up. Because it means so much more than the night of Nazi attacks on Jewish-owned businesses at the onset of the Holocaust. So.Much.More.

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As a descendant of Polish immigrants, as someone who has visited Auschwitz in person, as someone who found herself staring face to face with a Kowalski on a wall, a wall of the dead, of the murdered just for being Polish, this hits me particularly hard.

(There are unfortunately waaaay too many more examples, and for those of you who haven’t, I urge you to check out Shaun King’s Twitter page.)

You can say this is not Trump’s fault. Fine. You can say that.  But please ask yourself…was this happening before he was Prez-Elect? Why do you think it is happening now? Why do you think people think it’s okay to express such hate, such intolerance, such bigotry?

And don’t tell me, “But he addressed it during his acceptance speech. He said, we need to come together!” You can’t lead the campaign he did for over a year, filled with underlying, if not overtly racist messages of hate, bigotry, misogyny, preying on the xenophobic fears of Americans, and then say, “Hey man! I won! Let’s all be friends and come together now!” in a speech written by someone else, and consider it “addressing the issue.”

Oh, wait, The Donald did address this. Sort of.

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Also, a very mature post by our President-Elect.

But let’s give credit where credit is due…he did also Tweet this, after someone on his team mostly like slapped his hand a bit horrified and said, “Yo, you gotta do better now, you’re practically the President. It’s sort of your job to listen to the people. ALL OF THE PEOPLE. Not just your supporters.”

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DUDE. That’s like asking the court to strike something from the record in a murder trial and expecting the jury to pretend they never heard it. WE STILL HEARD YOU. But worse, your loyal followers got your message the first time.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Well said, Maya Angelou.

I am not willing to accept this as the America I live in. It is people like me, it is people like my friend Ryan, it is the Me’s and the You’s that need to be absolutely outraged by these hateful, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic (and yes, I will use these words in every single post until everyone figures out what they really mean, especially in today’s America), very public outbursts by our neighbors, by people that call themselves Americans. Because if THAT is what it means to be American, I no longer know what the hell I am. But it ain’t that.

So yeah. Stop telling me to get over it.

 

 

i will always speak out

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My voice

Some of us woke up this morning in shock, thinking we must be in some kind of nightmare, hoping that any minute, Trump will pop out and say, “Gotcha!” Some of us woke up overjoyed, relieved that our voices were finally heard, stepped outside with a renewed faith in America. Others never quite made it to bed, unable to sleep with all the noise in our heads. But everyone faced the morning with the same reality: This Is It.

Me? I woke up disappointed in my beautiful state, one I love deeply, so much so, I once wrote it a love letter. This morning I read it again, to remind me of that love. I still mean every word. I’m not ready to pen the divorce version quite yet, because Wisconsin has proven more than ever before, it needs me.

I woke up with the sad fact I live in a country where (slightly less than) half of the people value and respect a person like Donald Trump.

I woke up, my heart hurting as I heard the fear in the voices of my Muslim friends, my black friends, my gay friends, women of every age, people of every religion, trying to understand their place in this country, mothers and fathers, trying to figure out how to explain this to their children, how to tell them to be hopeful, to be good, after our country chose to put someone with no integrity, who openly preaches hate, behind the wheel of a vehicle he does not know how to drive.

I woke up a lot of things, but in disbelief was not one of them. I easily saw how America could make Trump their next President. I saw it driving from Minneapolis to Madison last weekend, from one bubble to the next. I saw it in every small town along the way. I saw it in the farmer cutting a giant TRUMP in his field. I saw it in the signs, I saw it on Facebook, on the news. I saw it in my family. I saw it in the Rust Belt that I live in. And everything I saw, scared me. As I have said before, I am not a very political person. But when I see the very real potential for the rights of my friends, the rights of human beings I love and value, people who make this country a better place, when I see the potential for their civil rights to be taken away, I speak up. Next time, I will do so much more.

But now that we are here, I just want to set the record straight on a few things.

I’m so tired of being quoted bible verses when discussing politics. If there is a supposed separation of Church and State, tell me how religion plays a such a huge role every election? We get it. You believe in God. But you don’t seem to understand that not everyone believes in your God. Which means the word of God is just that….words. Not the law. Bible verses do not translate into facts. Freedom of Religion. Please try to remember that. If you voting for Trump doesn’t make you a bad person, lack of belief in your God doesn’t make me a bad person. I don’t need to be saved. Please stop praying for me, I am not the one who needs it. We both made a choice. Except your choice affects everyone who lives in this country, and mine only affects me.

Everyone in this country deserves to be heard, I couldn’t agree more. And it seems like my neighbors in the Rust Belt feel like they have finally been heard. And I am truly happy for them. It’s a wonderful thing to have a voice. That is not what is upsetting so many in the nation today. It’s the underlying message in that collective voice that is terrifying.

Do I believe every person who voted for Trump is an evil person? A racist? Misogynist? Bigot? Homophobe? Xenophobe? No, of course not. Thanksgiving at home this year truly would be a nightmare if that were the case. But do I believe all racists, misogynists, bigots, homophobes and xenophobes voted for Trump? Absolutely. And the company we keep says a little something, no?

I am not saying your vote alone makes you those terrible things. I am saying your vote for Trump, your voice that has been heard loud and clear, the one that says you are tired of being left behind, that you want change? That voice is also saying you were WILLING to accept those things in a person representing America. You told the world you were WILLING to promote misogynistic acts, xenophobic statements, racism, bigotry to the highest position of power.

Donald Trump is president-elect. I acknowledge that. But now that Hillary is no longer your scapegoat, now that she can no longer be used as a distraction from all of the terrible things Donald Trump has done, has said, has shown he is capable of, now, it is time for you to acknowledge ALL that he is, not just the parts that you want to see, the parts that support your cause. Now it is time for you to speak up and let him know, it’s NOT OKAY to treat women with such blatant lack of respect. That’s it’s NOT OKAY to grab a woman anywhere, just ‘cuz you can. We are not playthings. Our looks don’t define our value as humans. We are not trophies. To make sure he understands it is NOT OKAY to make fun of anyone with a disability, not ever. To tell him it’s NOT OKAY to preach hate, to remind him that all men and women were created equal, and deserve to be treated with the same level of human decency, regardless of the color of their skin, the country they were born, the language they speak, the pew they worship from, the person they love.

I know it was hard to hear before, but this is what we’ve been saying this whole time. And now we need your help. Because I don’t think he heard us (like, at all). Yes, it’s downright depressing that our future president must be told these things, but this is the reality we chose. We need to take a step back from politics and a step toward who we are as a country. Come on, America, we’re better than this. You got your president. Now it is time to come together and let him know exactly where he got it wrong. Because he did get it wrong.

And I’ll leave you with this:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

~ Pastor Martin Niemöller

for whom the bell tolls

 

Solo swimmer. Lake Monona, Madison, WI
I am filling this post with a bunch of unrelated old photographs from my past that make me feel good when I look at them. This photo makes me feel good.

On a sunny Badger football Saturday a few weekends ago, my nephew and I heard a loud rumble from above and looked up to the sky to see what was disrupting the sweet, sweet melody of On Wisconsin. Within seconds, a low flying airplane flew into view, waving a banner behind it with pride.

WI Chinese Americans For Trump

I read the sign to myself and thought, Mmmmm. Is that really representative of all Chinese Americans in Wisconsin? Or is it more like, That One Chinese American That Spent Money on an Airplane Banner is For Trump?

My nephew read the sign out loud and thought, Chinese Americans For Trump (The End).

I know he is 9 and I am 35, but it really doesn’t matter how old you are. This is how many people, regardless of age, absorb and process information.

With the uninvited election now on the discussion table, my nephew promptly asked what I hoped he wouldn’t. Who are you voting for? Which somehow means something entirely different when a nine year old child asks. It’s worth noting we were also standing with his dad (my brother), someone usually more aligned with the Republican Party. They live in my central Wisconsin hometown and I have no idea what my nephew has heard in school, what his father has communicated, what conclusions he has already drawn in his own little head. So I hesitated. They were visiting Madison for the Wisconsin vs Nebraska game and it was such a beautiful day. I didn’t want to mar it with a political discussion or be seen as the Opponent in my nephew’s eyes, especially when my life goal is to get my niece and nephew to love me so much, they fight over who gets to take care of Crazy Aunt Tosha when I’m old and senile (which I will pretend to be, if only to fart loudly in public, finally).

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Mont Royal, Montreal makes me feel real good.

Afterward I couldn’t help but think maybe I should have said something. I mean, this is a kid who literally stopped mid-present-rip-opening last Christmas and got real pensive and sad for all of the kids who had no presents to rip open, while simultaneously expressing how presents weren’t actually the important thing, but having food and shelter and being with family were what mattered most. If any kid could handle this heavily weighted topic, this was the kid. Maybe I should have said something so he could see how grown ups can disagree, but still love and treat each other with respect, like my brother and I do (most of the time…we have our moments). But instead I told him voting is sometimes a private thing, and gently guided the conversation to something else.

The truth is, I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want to know who my brother was voting for. My nephew is a great kid and I can’t wait to see what kind of outstanding adult he becomes. And he’s being raised by a fine pair of adults, regardless of who they choose to vote for in this election. He’s actually lucky to have people in his life who don’t all think exactly the same, because that’s the most natural way to learn about difference, tolerance, acceptance.

Kayaking down the Jacques-Cartier in Québec is Good good. Yes, I realize the last two photos are based in Canada. No, that was not on purpose.

As some of you witnessed, my last two posts inspired a not so unexpected Facebook war with my very own mother. She comments on everything I write, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know this was coming. As one of my co-workers observed the interaction, a mother with daughters of her own, concerned I was damaging an important relationship, she called me immediately and said, Tosha, STOP IT, THAT IS YOUR MOTHER.

She sure is. And despite what some might conclude after reading that Facebook exchange, my mom is good people too. Though I feared it, I wasn’t totally convinced she’d even vote for Trump; her Catholicism means a lot to her and she struggled with Romney (a totally respectable legit human that I respect even more now that he continues to refuse to support Trump) because he is Mormon. I thought surely she’d struggle with All That is Trump, who virtually has no religion or respect for it, but I was wrong. And I still don’t know who my dad is voting for, and I DO NOT WANT TO, MOM.

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Winding roads. Winding roads make me feel good.

Growing up, all of us kids were expected to follow the rules of the house, which at the time seemed like a lot, but basically boiled down to: respect your parents, pull your weight, and don’t you ever use the Lord’s name in vain. They didn’t go to church every Sunday to confess their sins and feel like a good person again for doing so. They simply chose, much more efficiently, just to be good people. As a child, I watched my dad give to families less fortunate than our own, though many people may have easily looked at our family and considered us part of the “less fortunate” bunch. I remember buying presents for names on a tree, holding these wish gifts in my hands. I remember packing up giant boxes with normal things most of us take for granted, like toilet paper and personal hygiene items and food. I remember driving these boxes to members of my very own family.

One of the walls in our cramped house was covered in handmade tapestries, gifts from my dad’s co-workers, each one telling a story of the plight of the Hmong people. Their beautiful handmade ornaments hung from our tree, right next to baby Jesus, a snowman, and my first grade picture glued to a crappy piece of construction paper, sort of resembling a star. Though they might regret it now, they never pushed their own political or religious beliefs on any of us kids and as a result, I was raised to have an open mind, to understand difference, believe in acceptance, and teach tolerance. They led by example, the classic Show, Don’t Tell method. No matter how they vote, they are not bad people.

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Scotland! Scotland makes me feel great!

When I moved to Madison for college, I remember my mom disliking the city because it was too liberal and she worried it would turn me into a liberal too. I didn’t even fully understand what that word meant then, but it sounded like an insult. Today, I can understand her concern a little better. But this city didn’t turn me into anything. It exposed me to different cultures, viewpoints, ideas. It introduced me to new people with multiple religious beliefs and lifestyles. It gave me an opportunity to get to know those different from myself, discuss controversial topics intelligently, and celebrate progress. It helped me understand the world was bigger than the small town I grew up in, bigger than me and my wants and needs. It inspired me to travel, see what else the people of the world had to say.

A wise man (my dad) once told me no candidate is ever going to fully represent who you are; each election you need to fully evaluate both platforms and decide what matters most to you. The first time I voted Democrat, America was still deciding whether or not gay people were actually people at all, still deciding whether they deserved the same basic human rights as straight people. There was only one vote I could cast that meant I believed some of my closest lifelong friends deserved equal rights, that they deserved to love whomever they chose, that yes, they were people too.

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Yosemite. The Feel Good Place of Always.

Today, there is only one vote that I can cast that shows respect for ALL people regardless of their religion, their color of skin, their baby-making bits, their ranking on someone else’s scale of attraction, or whom they love with all of their heart. That is what matters most to me: human decency and a general respect for all people.

Regardless of what happens today, of which ballot box you check, we could all stand to take a step back and remember our that neighbors may be Democrats or Republicans, Catholic, Muslim, gay, straight, black, white, prefer Miracle Whip (obvi) over Mayonnaise. But they are also people. Actual human people. My mom voted Trump, but she’s still my mother, and I still love her, even if I can’t find one iota of logic in her reasoning. Because no matter which man or woman is sitting in the oval office, life will go on, and as long as we speak up, we will always have a voice. If your candidate wins, don’t gloat, don’t point fingers, don’t draw the line in the sand even deeper. The Us vs Them mentality is what got us here in the first place.

Arctic Finland! The place where Feeling Good was born.

People say how saddened they are how this election has divided us as a nation. Divided families, marriages, friendships. Don’t kid yourself. This election didn’t do that. Our core beliefs, our core values, what matters most to each of us did that. When this election is over, those values, those beliefs, they won’t just disappear.

Don’t let politics define who you are as a person. Let who you are as a person help define politics.

And hey, you know, be a good person.

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Madison, Wisconsin, the Goodest of them all.

an open letter to everyone who can read

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I found it difficult to find photographs I’ve taken to represent this particular post, so I guess you’ll just have to focus on the words.

From the very bottom of my heart, where all the good things are supposed to live, I always knew They were somewhere out there, heck maybe even beneath the pale moonlight our friend Fievel is always singing about. Only less in the way that someone out there is loving me and thinking of me tonight, and more in the way of knowing there are millions of microscopic dust mites crawling all over pretty much everything everywhere, all of the time. You just can’t see them.

And just like with dust mites, often it’s easier to pretend they don’t exist, to avoid thinking about them, than to acknowledge the map of the country we live in is dotted with racists, misogynists, bigots, white supremacists and haters of all kind. But just like dust mites, these people are not unique to America. Though it might sometimes feel like it, they weren’t created by this election. They were always there, they’ve always been there, they will probably always be there in some form or another. But now we can actually see them crawling out of the woodwork of America’s foundation because someone, someone two shakes of a lamb tail away from a powerful position, is telling them it’s okay to express hatred toward someone because of how they look, where they are from, or what they believe in. It’s okay, encouraged even, to shout your hatred from the rooftop, in fact, why don’t you help us build a giant wall, and we can all shout it from there, letting our hate spittle drop down on all those bad hombres beneath us?

Yes, just like those dust mites, these fuckers are absolutely terrifying up close. (Seriously, Google one before you go to sleep tonight. Then read about where they live. Sweet dreams.)

Now here’s where some of you might scratch your head: If there’s one thing me and the Human Dust Mites can agree upon, it’s that they absolutely should vote for Trump.

Hear me out.

I can’t erase all the hate in the hearts of the people in America, and I am done pretending it doesn’t exist. I can’t change the minds of those who thrive on this hate, and I will definitely never understand the evil that drives them. But what I can understand is why the members of the Hate Squad would choose Trump over Clinton. He aligns (way, like way, way, way, all of the ways) more with their values. I can’t fault them for that. I won’t fault them for that. I mean, isn’t that exactly why I’m With Her?

What makes America so Great is that everyone has the right to fight for what they believe in. Even if they believe in some really, really BAD, questionable shit. Because one person’s really, really BAD, questionable shit may very well be another person’s definition of super GOOD shit. That’s sort of how this whole thing goes. And though these racists, bigots, misogynists, white supremacist Human Dust Mites might be the absolute worst kind of people, they are not the worst kind of Trump supporters. At least they actually believe in everything he stands for (no matter how terrifying that stance is).

No, the worst Trump supporters are those that just can’t stand to see a Democrat in the White House. No, no, NO, not again. Not another four years! They have had ENOUGH. The people who would downright vote for the Devil himself if he declared loyalty to the Republican Party, find ways to pardon his past, questioning the souls he stole instead of the Devil himself, squawking about how terrible Johnny is after the Devil Went Down to Georgia. These people are the worst kind of Trump supporters.

Yes, I am talking to you.

Some highly respected Republican politicians can’t even bring themselves to back Trump. Why do you feel the need? Is it about religion? I thought the seven deadly sins were supposed to be frowned upon, not celebrated, crowned, promoted. Maybe because of your conservative values? Can you honestly look me in the face and tell me you think Donald Trump gives two shits about any of those? With all his divorcing and womanizing and pussy grabbing (yeah, I said it) and vanity and greed and hate speech? Yes, his million dollar self-portraits simply scream conservative.

Not either of those? What is it then? Have you let actually let hate for someone else (name starts with an H) burrow so deep into your soul, that you let it control everything that makes you, you? So deep you have forgotten your own common sense, your own virtues, your own morals? Are you really willing to forgive the sins of another that, under any other circumstance, you would consider so deplorable, so revolting, so un-Christian if that person weren’t running for President under the party in which you support?

The Republican Party might represent your values and everything you stand for. But I assure you (though I shouldn’t have to be the one to do that), Donald Trump does not.

This is not the election to dig your heels in. This is not about you and what you want. This isn’t even about politics anymore and it hasn’t been since the primaries. This is about the person we are electing to best represent who we are as Americans, the face of our country. This about straight-up human decency.

Yes, Hillary has done some shitty things governmentally. But she’s not an overall shitty human being. And you don’t have to like her or the Democratic Party. You don’t have to like liberals or abortion or the environment or hippies or drive a Toyota Prius or whatever you think the other side stands for. No one is asking you to do that. I would never ask you to do that, because I know that’s not who you are. And you can tell yourself all you want that you are voting against Hillary, and not for Trump. But you also need to accept that a vote against Hillary is a vote for Hate. A vote for Bigotry. Your vote against Hillary is a vote for Human Dust Mites.

But that’s not what you believe in. That’s not who you are. That’s not what you stand for.

Unless, of course…it is.

And if it is, I stand corrected.

By all means, Vote for Trump.

no experience necessary

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Leaving California

I’m just not that into politics. I’ve never been able to coerce my mind into weaving through the complex web of our government, the extent of my knowledge resembling a scary combination of House of Cards set to the tune of I’m Just a Bill from Schoolhouse Rocks. I try to avoid intense political discussions, because, like most people (even if they don’t realize it), I know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be effective. Things get dirty when people start yelling full opinions and half-truths at each other, mouths opened, ears closed.

Sometimes I feel guilty I don’t care to understand more than I do, that I don’t put forth more effort into the things I believe to be right and just, that I don’t take a bigger stand outside of voting in elections, considering that my voice. Personally I am grateful for the individuals who have made politics their chosen path because that means it doesn’t have to be mine. It can be a nasty, crooked, corrupt institution, no doubt. I mean, something tells me House of Cards wasn’t cooked up in a totally fictional bubble.

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Madison, WI

And this next part is sort of embarrassing to admit. When I was 19, I voted for Bush because my family did. When I was 23, I voted for Bush because my family did and my boyfriend was in Iraq and people basically told me he would probably die there if Kerry became president. When I was 27, I voted for Obama because a different boyfriend asked me why I was Republican, and for the first time, I actually thought about it. And I realized I wasn’t. On pretty much any level. Correction, that was 100% embarrassing to admit.

And it’s absolutely terrifying to think millions of 23 year-old-me’s will go to the polls next Tuesday to vote, with such little thought, such little knowledge, such ignorance. I mean, I’m a post-collegiate educated woman, a single homeowner, who falls into a fairly high tax bracket (er, when I’m actually employed). And it took three voting cycles for me to truly think about who I was as an individual, and who I believed most represented my values. I was the textbook definition of the swing voter political parties try to reach in these final days, huffing and puffing, hoping to blow me one way or the other.

And swing I did, but on my own accord. It took a while, but I eventually figured me out. I’m still not much for politics, but you know what I do love? Analogies. And logic. So let me make some analogies about logic in this 2016 election.

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If you haven’t figured out by now, the photo theme is flags. Somewhere on the AT.

Would you strap yourself to the chest of a person who had never jumped out of a plane before, trusting they’d reach the ground alive? Would you take your teenaged daughter out driving and make her merge onto a six lane expressway in Chicago two minutes into her very first lesson?

If you had to have brain surgery and were forced to choose between the only two doctors available, like you HAD TO CHOOSE OR YOU WOULD DIE (literally), would you choose the doctor with 30 years of experience on the surgery, but only a 60% success rate, or the person who never performed the surgery, actually come to think of it, he wasn’t even a real doctor. But he had been going to doctors all of his life and he’d watched a lot of doctor shows on the boob tube, shows like ER and Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy, and feels pretty confident he could handle the surgery, probably better than anyone.

I am willing to bet you would not strap yourself to the newbie skydiver, you’d start your daughter off driving in a parking lot to get out all the kinks, learn the feel of the car, and given a choice, you’d choose the doctor that gave you an actual chance of survival.

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Even so called “bad experience” seems preferable over zero experience.

Nearly every profession out there requires a certain skill set, a certain level of experience, proof that you have what it takes. Which is why I am sincerely trying to understand how President of The United States of America, arguably one of the most important professions in the world, became a position with “no experience necessary” listed on the job posting. You know, like any other standard entry-level position. You gotta start somewhere, right? Why not at the top! You can learn all the steps you skipped later, in the abundance of free time you have in your new position as POTUS. How fun!!

In fact, these days, the words “experience” and “career” are actually being held against the people who have them, mostly to cover up the fact the people using them as insults have none. Is it so bad to be a career politician? I mean just like any other field, people find things they like to do, are skilled at doing, and if they’re lucky, stick to them. Are career football players and chefs, and doctors, and lawyers so awful? They don’t seem to be when you’re picking your fantasy football team, or trying to find someone to represent you in that crime you allegedly didn’t commit. Should maybe a brain surgeon try to be an electrician and the baseball player take up hockey just to mix things up? Wouldn’t want to make a career out of it.

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Failing to see the negative here.

 

What’s that? You’re a businessman? Golly, that’s great! And that makes you qualified to run our government…how? Oh, I see. You’re one of those people who think raising a puppy is similar to raising a child. I get it now.

Most of us are not politicians or businessmen, so it’s difficult comprehend how absurd this comparison is, or even to relate to what is actually happening. But all of us either parents or not parents. I am a Non-Parent. So what would you Parents think if I were to stand behind a podium and critique each and every parental decision you ever made, the ones where you majorly f*cked up and you know it, the ones where you did something selfish to benefit yourself and maybe not the whole family, the ones you regret, the ones you should but don’t, because you learned from them. And then what if I told you how much better I would do it if I had kids? What if told you all the ways I would make my kids the best kids ever? How they would always clean their room and get straight As and never talk back and I would never make a single mistake, not one.

You’d silently smile and shake your head and think, Oh honey, you think you know, but you have no idea. But you also wouldn’t really have anything to critique me on in the parenting field, because I haven’t made any parenting mistakes. Not because I am awesome at everything, but because I am not a parent. But I do have two cats (practically kids, amiright?), and boy are they the best, most successful cats ever. Sure, both are pretty obese, one walks around with constant dingleberries and the other has a midnight meow that will wake the neighbors…

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‘Merica

But none of that matters as I loudly accuse you of terrible parenting, pointing out all your flaws, wondering why you haven’t done more, done better, while simulataneously boasting how much more awesome I would be because everything you can do I can do better, I can do everything better than you. And though I am only unflawed in this area due to zero experience, for some reason, I feel very qualified in telling you how to parent without knowing what it even is to be a parent.

And all of the other Non-Parents would cheer me on, nodding eagerly in agreement, because the only thing easier than pointing out all of someone else’s flaws while making a claim as to how I would do it better, is nodding silently along in the background.

Would you think, “Yeah, this makes sense.”

Or would you be totally fricking confused as to how you found yourself standing up against a crazy-non-parent-cat-lady for the Parent of the Year Award?

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