Go Bulldogs!

I just read that Fisk University, an Historic Black College and University (HBCU) is the first to field an Elite women’s gymnastics team. It’s about time! There’s so much talent out there and now at least some girls/women of color will have a chance to succeed in this fine sport.

Before Title IX whenever the gleaming wood floor of the boys gym was replaced/refinished we girls had to go sit in temporary classrooms because it was unthinkable that the boys go without exercise for six weeks.

After Title IX and even now, there remain vast inequities in how girls sports are funded and treated. The boys still had wood floors in their gym and we had linoleum tiles over concrete, so I lived my high school gymnastics “career” with constant shin splints from the vault.

My parents thought it necessary to pay for private piano lessons. That was in the sixties and seventies when public schools still had music programs, so my violin lessons and orchestra and choir were included. I also had to attend private ballet lessons for comportment, or as my mother told me, so I wouldn’t grow up walking like a truck driver. But most parents couldn’t afford that for their kids.

Outside of the high school gymnastics team, of which for some ungodly reason I was made captain, I chose to also take lessons at a private gym owned by a former Olympic champion. That wasn’t deemed necessary by my parents so I taught the little kids two classes each Saturday so I could take my class for free. I was never a good gymnast, but I fell in love, as did many young girls, with Olga Korbut at the 1972 Olympics, and I made a very good captain and teacher regardless of my limited athletic abilities.

Now little girls have so much to look forward to as they strive to emulate Simone Biles, Dominique Dawes and many others. I wish the girls at Fisk much success. Go Bulldogs! Dee

Memories

When a loved one is gone, he/she tends to come back via memory at the oddest times. It’s always welcome to remember a favorite moment, saying, quibble or foible.

A couple of weeks ago my sister asked for an old recipe. Since we moved, I found and cleaned up an old plexiglass 3×5 card holder with recipes I started collecting in high school. Many are from my Auntie L, who not only cooked us many family meals over the decades but catered for our family’s formal work receptions as well. She had one rule that moms everywhere should use with young children. “Try it! Then I’ll tell you what’s in it.”

I learned not to ask the ingredients first and allow my taste buds to be the judge. First thing she used it on was a bleu cheese dip for a party. I hated that cheese, but loved the dish so incorporated it into my repertoire.

A prime example that reminds me of her every day is the dictionary in the “loo.” She always placed one in the powder room (she was a high school English teacher) so to use the loo, we had to ask politely, then upon our return give her a word, its meaning and use it in a sentence.

In our new place, I’ve a large powder room so I expanded on the theme. I brought in one of my husband’s nightstands that were hand-made by his great-grandfather and placed several books atop, along with a decorative plate of Mom’s. The current Loo Library includes the aforementioned Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, The City of Florence, The Prince and for a bit of light reading, James Patterson’s The Chef. Also Orwell’s 1984 and Mythology by Edith Hamilton.

Wouldn’t you know it, a friend used the loo and suggested a complement to Sun Tsu’s The Art of War with The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It’s about breaking mental blocks to unleash creativity, by the author of many books which include The Legend of Bagger Vance. This book is required reading or recommended reading in all the military academies. News to me, so I recently purchased it to add to my collection.

Now here’s the strange one. Auntie L was known, on our annual family reunions, to rearrange hotel furnishings and pictures. She always made it better but we were aghast, as kids, that someone could do that. I came to thank her for it later on. Mom was in the hospital after her first cancer surgery. She was on morphine for the first time and a particular painting on the wall of her hospital room gave her nightmares. Auntie L went to a local art museum gift shop, bought a calming poster and taped it over the offending artwork. It made a difference.

I know there’s no canidae in our family gene pool but my dog has become an Auntie L with bed linens. I make the bed and she always has to help me fluff the down comforter. Once settled, all the pillows situated atop, she waits for me to leave. Then she rearranges everything to her specifications. Mostly knotting it all up in a ball. Upon my return, I merely say “thanks, Auntie L.”

Thanks for the memories. Hang in there, teachers! Especially English teachers. Until we can get the banned book situation under control, perhaps the fact that certain books (even the Bible, in one Texas school district) are banned, it may induce students to read them! Cheers! Dee

Toto

We’re back in Kansas! I clicked my ruby slippers three times and now Auntie Em and everyone on the farm made sure I have reproductive rights and can even have a career when I grow up! Wow!

At least I know how to go back to Oz and return when it comes to securing my right to have my vote counted fairly in true democratic fashion as the Constitution intended. Or maybe we can do it all on our own. All we need are strong women who don’t want to go back to the dark days of kings and queens, or back alley abortions.

What, Toto? Yes, I’ll try to get you some more local dog parks, too.

I’d better hang on to those ruby slippers, they sure came in handy. Cheers to democracy! Dee

Make Wisconsin Trump’s Again

And again. Again. Again. Again. Again.

I’ve been voting for over forty years and have never wondered what happened to my ballot once it entered the local precinct office. I do here. Never before has a losing candidate spent nearly two years trying to invalidate 3.3 million votes in one state.

I thought it was over after the last time Trump called Robin Vos, Republican Senate leader, to try to make him get the friendly (to Trump and Vos) legislature recall and invalidate our ten electoral college votes, and that was a couple months ago.

But no, the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. First our trusty (ahem) U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who’s done nothing for the past six years but deny COVID and call for investigations into Hunter Biden, oh, and run for reelection, wanted to hand-deliver fake elector certificates to former V.P. Mike Pence on the floor of the House on 1/6/21. And not just a fake certificate for his own state of Wisconsin but for another state as well. Bravo, Ron, you represent your people so well.

Now the State Supreme Court has invalidated drop boxes so when I drop my absentee ballot into the box in the elector’s offices downtown, my husband has to keep the air conditioning on in my car for the dog, then we have to switch places and he has to go to the 5th floor in the creepy elevator and repeat the process because otherwise I can be arrested for “harvesting” ballots.

Our former governor Scott Walker made sure the place was gerrymandered so the Democrats will never see power in the legislature, now the Supreme Court is taking up a ridiculous position that only the legislature can decide on electors, voters be damned. If we don’t keep a Democratic governor, Wisconsin will cease to be a democratic state in that voters will no longer choose their elected officials and electors for the Electoral College.

Aside from Milwaukee and Madison, this is principally a rural state, they don’t call us Cheeseheads for nothing. Drop boxes were a godsend during the pandemic when we had no vaccines and no therapeutics for treating COVID-19. It wasn’t a conspiracy, it was a public health crisis.

If you don’t think we’re backwards yet, consider that the abortion law that is now in effect, since Dobbs was overturned, hasn’t been revisited since 1849. Yes, 173 years ago. I told my husband that if our votes no longer count and a woman’s health is worth nothing, it’s time to move. But first we need a Democrat for governor, and to get rid of Sen. Ron Johnson.

I just got a button that says “Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.” Never truer than now. Vote! Dee

Wisdom and Books

It’s graduation time once again, sending another flock of young minds out into the world, always a hopeful premise. Living near a major university, I find the streets littered with everything fleeing new alums no longer need, the stuff that doesn’t fit into a trash bag or the parents’ SUV.

Sofas and mattresses line the curbs of old family homes turned student housing near campus. As to books, that’s another matter. I think I used to recycle my used textbooks through the college bookstore, having kept them remarkably free of damage or excessive highlighting. Some were retained. My aunt was an English teacher, so I never threw away a book.

While walking dog Lulu yesterday I passed a Little Free Library that had in it a copy of The Odyssey. Wow, that’s been a while. I imagine a graduate looking forward to finally getting rid of this classic while dumping it unceremoniously into the repository, only to have a senior citizen look at it with glee and bring it home to enjoy, despite its copious margin notes and highlighting.

For my father’s 70th birthday, his girlfriend took our families on a sailing yacht through the Ionian Sea tracing the route of Odysseus. It was a wonderful voyage but I haven’t read the book since college. Last year, I invested in another copy of Edith Hamilton’s classic reference, “Mythology.” I must have been foreshadowing my encounter with this local Little Free Library!

I even took the first lesson in modern Greek on Duolingo, where I’ve been doing my best to butcher both the Italian and French languages since the onset of world COVID.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, indeed. When one gets old and still chooses to learn something new every day, I hope that translates into wisdom. We’ll see once I re-read The Odyssey.

How about this, we do learn from history…. so, why not have a local Banned Bookstore? I don’t think current knowledge-haters want to stand in the public square burning books. But I may be wrong. Who knows what we’re headed for if we choose not to stand up for our democracy.

Perhaps I’ll read to Zoe about the first known fictional pet dog Argos. If I left home and Lulu was still around twenty years later, would she be the first to remember me? Somehow I doubt that kind of loyalty that she thinks only belongs to whomever filled her food bowl this morning. Read your history! Dee

Thank You, Rep. McMorrow

Last week, Michigan Representative Mallory McMorrow spoke out regarding a hateful attack against her by a supposed colleague. She spoke forcefully and eloquently about her background and how those who say they’re “for” kids by banning books and shunning everyone other than white males from privileged upbringings does a disservice to children in particular and our nation as a whole.

We currently live in a democracy, if we choose to fight to keep it. A democracy is signified by our votes for people who are supposed to represent our interests, all of our interests, within the bounds of our Constitution. To this day, Donald Trump is still trying to get Wisconsin politicians to nullify all 3.3 million of our votes, have the Republican-led legislature substitute its vote for ours and put him back in the White House. That’s not legal or constitutional, but our former president wants it anyway.

It is in our best interest as a nation to have every American who is eligible to vote, to vote. I’m even considering supporting Universal Voting in order to fix all the problems that current politics and gerrymandering have wrought. What can I do to make sure that I and other disenfranchised voters get our say?

Rep. McMorrow listed her qualifications. Here are mine. I am a straight, white, married, college-educated quasi-suburban senior citizen. I grew up in a village of 400 souls, all white. I learned about tolerance from my parents. Kids would call on Dad every evening to play ball and his rule was “everyone plays.” Girls got to play, even toddlers were carried around the bases to great applause when they got a home run.

I learned to read at age five and soon tired of kiddie lit. My aunt was an English teacher and we had a decent library in town so I learned about race from reading To Kill a Mockingbird, the horrors of war and genocide in The Diary of Anne Frank, and life in Death Be Not Proud. Our public school wanted to change to phonics for reading education and two mothers objected as we were already reading, so two of us brought our own books to school and read in the back of the classroom while the other kids learned the curriculum. My reading pal Steven only read kid-level books about sports. My choices at age 6-8 were my own, with some input from parents and Auntie L.

Divisiveness and hatred have come out from under their rocks beginning with the Trump presidency, giving credence to “both sides” of white supremacy. I was always a bit different and longed to be the same as all the other kids but settled for being different and accepted as such. And I always helped others feel as if they belonged as well. Years ago I heard from a grade school classmate. She and her little brother, my younger sister and I used to walk together from school to CCD (Catholic religious instruction) every week and the girls would taunt the boy mercilessly. He and I would walk together and let them know it didn’t bother us. Turns out he was gay, and his sister thanked me for treating her brother so well when she was being so mean to him. They’re now best of friends.

So what can we do about today’s unfortunate situation? Here’s what I plan:

I will vote and make sure my vote is counted and not vetoed by politicians who only want power.

I will only vote for candidates who support my right and the right of all eligible voters to be heard.

I will vote against any politician who has/had anything to do with legislation to curtail the right to vote and work to assure that all elections are held fairly and democratically.

I will vote against any candidate who discriminates against or tries to shame persons of another gender, color, religious background or sexual orientation.

I will vote against anyone who espouses ludicrous conspiracy theories. If you want to slander me by saying I’m intimately involved with martians who live on a spaceship in my back yard, you’d better darn well have proof.

* * * *

America is the land of the free, a melting pot by design. We should expect growing populations to be represented in our democracy. Calling everyone you don’t like a “pedophile” for no reason, won’t work for long. Ask Henny Penny, who kept telling all the villagers the sky was falling until they didn’t listen.

And stop hating groomers. My dog goes to hers for a nail trim every month and there’s nothing nefarious about it. And I use a hairbrush and comb every day. Aren’t those considered grooming tools?

Seriously, these personal attacks must end. Politics is the give and take of ideas, including the idea of compromise. Political opponents are just that, not enemies. This vitriol, constant spreading of hate and misinformation has no place in our society, no matter how much money it makes these politicians or companies spewing it.

Ms. McMorrow said it best in her conclusion, and I concur. “Hate wins when people like me stand by and let it happen. I won’t.”

Do something positive for your country today. And pray for Ukraine, Dee

Plotting, Not Plodding

Think about what’s been happening the past few weeks as an innocent democratic republic is besieged by a megalomaniacal dictator, who wants to take over a sovereign nation for his ego, legacy or both.

In the United States, the right wing is apoplectic, calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine the fault of Joe Biden, and saying that under Donald Trump, everything would be hunky dory. Wrong!

Behind-the-scenes negotiations have so far chastened the unwelcome usurpers, and united our allies and our fellow Americans to the importance of democracy. Just because Joe Biden isn’t hammering away at voter rights in the good ol’ US of A doesn’t mean it’s not foremost in his mind.

Just because he wants to allow NATO members and other nations to be a part of a united effort and is not out in front of the cameras tooting his own horn every day, doesn’t mean President Biden is not hard at work on our behalf of our nation and democracy around the world.

Yes, he’s not touting “love letters” from dictators or sucking up calling them brilliant and savvy. Yea for that! He’s not denigrating our own intelligence services or illegally hoarding Congressionally- appropriated aid to Ukraine to get political dirt for his campaign. And he’s not keeping a pandemic quiet and refusing to assist dying people because they come from “blue states” so are not “American” enough to be granted assistance by the federal government.

Hillary Clinton once asked who we’d want to answer the phone at three o’clock in the morning in an international emergency. Given the choice of Donald Trump or Joe Biden, I’ll pick Biden every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Every President has armchair quarterbacks in the opposing party and in the media, people who’ve never written a proverbial book but feel superior because they can criticize its’ writing. President Biden has a huge monkey on his back, however, called Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the perennial backseat driver that never shuts up.

Wake up, Americans. This is the world we live in. Do we want Vladimir Putin to run Europe? He wants to bite off a big chunk of it right now. First, Ukraine then former SSR’s. Do we want partisans to take over our elections at home, taking our votes and changing them so whoever they say wins, wins? Well, I certainly don’t.

Give our President a chance to do what he does best, and know we selected the right person for the job. Long live an independent Ukraine! Dee

Voters, Beware!

Just two weeks ago, Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded a democratic neighbor, mercilessly and without provocation. Here in the U.S., Donald Trump praised dictator Putin for his brilliance and “savvy.”

Trump was, of course, seconded by his supplicants who lauded this invasion of a peaceful, democratic country. Then, inexplicably, everything changed.

All of a sudden Trump and his U.S. “team” changed course. Now they want economic sanctions on Russia. Of course, the minute they demanded that the U.S. added oil sanctions, they got what they wanted, an opportunity to berate President Biden for his economic policies making gas prices rise. But that’s just politics as usual. There is something more nefarious afoot.

So now the GOP says it’s not OK for an autocracy to attack a democracy without a valid reason to do so. Might it be because they’d prefer this be done as an inside job? On November 3, 2020 Joe Biden won the presidency fairly and Republicans challenged voting machines, poll workers, harangued election officials and state legislators and every court in the land begging them to lie and cheat and give the presidency to the election’s loser instead of the fair winner. It didn’t work.

To this day, Donald Trump is on the phone to legislators in my current swing state of Wisconsin begging them to illegally and un-constitutionally re-cast our ten electoral votes for him. I say enough is enough. He’s been trying to take my vote away for 16 months now and I won’t hear of it!

Luckily for Ukraine, the world has come to its aid in rebuffing Putin’s ill-advised and disastrous invasion of a sovereign people. We cannot expect the same outpouring on our behalf. If we lose our democracy after 250 years, it’ll be all our own fault.

We are a free nation, one that has welcomed the world’s tired, poor, its huddled masses yearning to be free. With that comes a nation that is inclusive, not exclusive. Our state legislatures are now making it impossible to register to vote and to find a time and place convenient to cast a ballot. Worse yet, some of this legislation is designed to allow local election officials and state representatives to take our vote and change it willy nilly. They think we should be OK with them taking our votes from us and changing them so that their candidates win.

That does not sit right with me. What can we do to stop this? If you’ve incumbents running again, check their voting record. If they voted to cast out the 2020 electoral college decision at the federal level, vote for their opponent. Just this time, they’ll get the message. If it’s an open or contested seat, check what they’re promising. If it has anything to do with their priority being “voting integrity” be suspicious and ask what they mean by that term. Chances are it’ll be tougher for you to vote and they want to take your vote and change it to what they want the result to be. That is not democracy – vote for their opponent.

We’re going to need to hit the streets for voter rights before the 2022 federal elections so be ready to let your representatives know that you’re a voter and if they are elected, they work for you. That’s the spirit. That’s how we can use this groundswell of worldwide democratic power to assure our nation remains free for another 250 years. A vote is a precious thing. There are no wrong votes or duly registered voters. In a democracy every vote counts. Here’s to the American voter! Dee

There’s No U.S. Without US

On this President’s Day, let us remember We The People, all of us in this grand democratic experiment. It’s breaking before our eyes. I don’t want to go back to the fifties or beyond, but want a United States of now, and prepared for a bright future.

First, we must make it easy to register to vote, to cast a ballot, and to know that each and every vote will be counted. That is in jeopardy, and with it our democracy.

We can, and must, do better to save it. Your fellow American, Dee

Stories

Nineteen years of marriage, where did the years go? My husband still says he could live/work out of a hotel room or faceless corporate apartment and be just fine. He really doesn’t mind eating in a restaurant three meals a day. Me, I need a nest. I don’t know if it’s just a male-female thing, because I think he feels just as much at home at our home, wherever that may be.

We don’t have kids or grandkids so our walls aren’t stocked with the usual family and school photos, year by year. I do like, however, to populate them with memories.

Our new front entryway boasts two idyllic country scenes, two lithos I found at a consignment shop in Houston years ago for $2 apiece. They are of the Italian countryside, rustic but reminding both of us of our country roots. Facing us is a charcoal drawing of a pas de deux, as dance has been a part of my family for many years, as have the arts. It’s a competition winner from a former art school client, my Dad bought it for me at auction.

In the kitchen above my precious knives are scenes from travels in Greece and Italy, and a framed recipe for Chilean Sea Bass. Not just any sea bass, it’s on James Earl Jones’ letterhead and is signed. Dad bought it at auction from another client, an HBCU in Texas.

Most important are the quilts, which are the theme of our new home. My mother-in-law made two of them, one a crazy color mix which she made into an all seasons quilt, and another she made for my husband when he was a young boy, of boys in overalls in matching sun hats. There is also the flower/flour power hexagonal quilt that has been in her family for over 100 years and is made in a themed flower pattern of old flour sacks.

These quilts are further personalized by new ones purchased just for our new office spaces. I bought my husband a pastel version of a Texas flag for his office, and my roots come back to me with a classic farmhouse sampler quilt, but it’s made by four ladies in Canada who met every month for lunch for a year to share their squares. Mom was a lifelong Canadian.

We have paintings done by my father, who took up art in his seventies. I just framed some works from the part of Texas where my husband grew up, scenes from my cooking schools, and a number of travel photos taken by me before and after we met.

My husband got his degree in physics, but he said it was too lonely to work in a lab all day and go home to life as a single guy. Then he met me. Even though he’ll tell you the story about the number of square feet he took up in a moving truck (three, the absolute minimum) for an easy chair, dual-brained computer he built and huge CRT monitors. I brought him a kitchen and office. We built from there. And yes, it took 12 more linear feet in the truck and now, even more.

As a consultant, he used to fly out every Monday and return Friday evening. Then COVID struck, and now he has his own studio/office for Zoom meetings and training when it cannot be held on-site. We’re getting normal bit by bit but for now working from home is the new reality.

What he won’t tell you is that he does enjoy returning home to a hot meal and our dog Lulu wagging her tail to greet him. I don’t want to go live in a corporate apartment forever, while a few months at a time is OK provided my nest exists to go home to. He won’t begrudge me the few linear moving truck feet I cost as the ROI is worth it!

I’m closing the current decorating phase and ended up with a vastly better livable/workable space for the whole family. Lulu still doesn’t know where her “spot” is with us working at each end of our space, but she’ll work it out, and if not, we know where to find her a puppy friend. There is an impasse, however. Of course there is! Life wouldn’t be fun without a challenge. I’d like to match her Aussie brains and 42 lbs. of sheer muscle, and my husband would prefer a less-smart, more sedentary and less hard-headed beast. We’ll work it out.

Our home tells a story, it’s our story. Cheers! Dee