Sunday, February 19, 2017

Now it's your turn...

In the past couple days I've seen a lot of variations of a meme being posted on social media.  The wording varies, but it's something like this:

Dear Democrats,

For 8 years we put up with your crappy choice of president.  We complained but we accepted it.  You are showing us that you are weak, spoiled, and inferior because you do not have the same integrity to do the same thing.

It has taken most of my self-control not to start replying to these, but I know that it is pointless to do so and so I have refrained (and un-followed a few more people on Facebook).

There are many things wrong with this statement in my opinion.  The first being the phrase "we complained but we accepted it."  I spent the last 8 years seeing people criticize absolutely everything that President Obama said or did.  EVERYTHING.  I _guess_ you might say that is "complaining but accepting it?"  But, if that's what that means, then how is what we "liberals" are doing any different than that?  Is it because we're "complaining" louder?  Is it because we are protesting and showing more activism?  Is that beyond "complaining?"  I'd really like to understand what that means.

Second, because we are somehow doing more than "complaining but accepting it," we are "weak, spoiled, and inferior" and have "no integrity."  I guess I would make the argument that people who are engaged, show up for protests, stand up for what they believe in, and question our elected leaders, regardless of what party they are (both the leaders and the citizens) show a lot of strength, whatever the opposite of laziness is (so "spoiled" is pretty inaccurate) and sometimes courage depending on the situation.

When I protest or question something, I am protesting or questioning the issue.  I may be appealing to or questioning the judgement of leaders who have an opposing view point to mine on the issue, but I am protesting or questioning the issue.  Period.

But the thing that really bothers me is that somehow there is an implication that whatever party happens to have the person (in the case of the president) or persons (in the case of congress) that is currently in power or in a majority is there to punish the party that is not in power.  Or, conversely, that the citizens who voted for the person who was elected are somehow entitled to punish the citizens who voted for the previous person in power if the power changed hands.

The "us against them" mentality over the course of a presidency or congress is pretty ridiculous when you start to think about it.  Statistically, it is impossible or at least HIGHLY improbable that any one person is in COMPLETE agreement or disagreement with the president or with any other elected official they voted for or against, respectively.  I've been alive through 8 presidents now, 2 of which I was too young to remember, but 6 I can remember at least something about them, and 4 that I was a voter for.  Of those 4, two I voted 4 and two I voted against.

In all cases (and yes, this includes President Trump, even a few weeks into office), I can say that I agreed with some of the decisions of each president, and I disagreed with some of their decisions, and I can cite specific examples.  Did I agree more with the ones I voted for?  Yes, and it is likely that someone who voted for a president will, in most cases, end up agreeing with them more than disagreeing.  But I agreed with some of the things the presidents I didn't vote for did (INCLUDING the current one, yes).  And I have never had any wish that any of them (INCLUDING the current one) would not succeed or do a good job.  I hope every person elected or appointed to office does a good job and, on balance, improves the lives of the people they represent.  I say "on balance" because I understand that no one will always get everything they want, and in our society we have differing opinions on how we solve a problem or an issue.

Am I sometimes skeptical that someone who is elected will do a good job?  Of course.  Based on what they say and do in a campaign, their past history, etc. I may be more skeptical of some elected officials more than others.  But I still hope that they will do their best to serve their constituents.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

What's going to happen on November 7th, 2018?

Or November 4th, 2020?

I really don't spend a lot of time thinking too far into the future, or getting ahead of myself.  But yesterday I was thinking about what usually happens after an election where some amount of power shift happens, particularly a president of a different party than the previous one, or one or both houses of congress having a different party in the majority.

Right now, there are a lot of people becoming engaged and involved in what's going on in society.  Not just in politics, but also generally more involved in their communities, their neighborhoods, etc.  And many of these people, like me, are "new" to this kind of thing.  I see a lot of people in the younger (20s) age group who have largely grown up with Obama as their president getting motivated to get involved and engaged, and even run for office.

I have felt very motivated to find things I can get involved with that will make a positive impact or progress for something I believe in.  I'm not sure I'm the right person to run for office, but that doesn't mean I can't put in some volunteer time, serve on a board or a council, or show up and be a visible support for social issues.

Age and (hopefully) wisdom will keep me focused and motivated to continue to be involved.  But what I've been wondering is how long this general surge of motivation in society is going to last.  Really, will people (and I'm not excluding myself here) continue to stay motivated if things "calm down" - if in 2018 the balance of congress shifts - if in 2020, we get a new president.  Will people stop showing up for protests?  Will people not feel as much motivation to be involved in change or progress?  Will these 20-somethings motivated to run for local or even state office carry that enthusiasm and idealism past 2020?  Will the upcoming generation grow up seeing this kind of involved be "the norm" or will they see it more like I saw growing up, that as long as things aren't too bad, or as long as your candidate wins, "the norm" is ok.

I am not trying to point figures or pin blame on anyone - and in fact if I'm pointing a finger, it's at myself because I need to be the change I want to see before I start looking at the rest of society.  But I do wonder if we will see a shift in society where we see it as a responsibility of our citizenship to be engaged and involved, or if we will go back to "being ok" with the norm.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Coffee and "Resistance"

I had the opportunity to join a small group of people today at the home of a friend to have some general conversation about the state of the world, the country, the state, the county, our towns, etc. The Facebook event was titled "Coffee and Resistance" but really, most of the discussion centered around our desire to be more involved in the community and the world.  We thought about and discussed several different ways and ideas as to how that might look.

This was a group of people who have a generally similar political outlook, which made it easier for us to discuss what kinds of things we think might be useful or helpful to do or get involved in.  But later in the day, as I was thinking about what we were discussing, I was thinking how great it would be if similar little groups were all happening all over the country.  Because really, THAT is the first thing we need - people to become more engaged in the community, society, the country, the world.

I will be the first to admit that I have very little idea as to where to even start.  I have always liked the idea of "getting involved" and being an "activist" for whatever cause or causes I find need involvement.  But often just thinking about that, about where to start, is daunting, and I settle back into whatever else I was doing.

One thing that's been on my mind since the election, and I shared this this morning, is the feeling that we need more, better quality candidates running for office.  Not Democrats or Republicans or any party in particular.  We need better candidates by the time the choice is narrowed down to 2 or a few in the general election.  Which means learning about the political processes for primaries or caucuses in your district and in your state.  Which means thinking about these things a year before the election, not 6 or 3 months before.  Which means showing up for said primary or caucus.  Which means doing some research and reading and maybe even attempting to meet candidates at the local or state level before that.  And...and this is probably a difficult one for many people to think about...realizing that voting on party lines or making your goal to "get a Democrat" or "get a Republican" in office does not further the idea of getting better people in these positions.

I've already seen calls to "take back congress" in 2018.  Is that really what we want though?  Is that going to bring about positive change or progress?  Because most of the time, when I go to vote in the general election and vote for an office, I feel like I am picking the least bad option.  Not always, but often.  What I'd love to see is that by the time the general election gets here, we've already "won" because we have the best 2 or 3 candidates on the ballot for an office.

Learning - the candidate selection processes for state and local offices in Minnesota
(There is no single/direct page with the MN Republican party candidate selection process on it, but a friend of mine has shared with me the high-level summary and it's very similar to the DFL's)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Marches and Rallies

One of the first things that happened on this journey of motivational renewal was having the honor of being a part of the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017.  I marched in St. Paul, MN, alongside my dear friend Shelley and her longtime friend (and now my friend) Gretchen.  Shelley has been a longtime, fierce advocate for LGBT civil rights, including making phone calls during the 2012 election season in support of defeating Minnesota's anti-marriage amendment (and WE WON that one!!!!)  More recently it's become apparent that women's rights are being targeted more and more, and I told her now it's time for me to have her back.

I've never been to a protest/rally/march like this in my life.  I'm more the "silent" type, and a firm believer that changing hearts and minds comes one heart and one mind at a time, and that it's a long slow process.  And I still believe that.  I've been out for about 12 years now, and every person I encounter in my life is someone I hope to have a positive impact on when it comes to what they think about LGBT people.  That's an ongoing, lifetime process.

But I'm learning the value of "big and loud" now too.  Certainly, the Women's March made a huge statement in Minnesota and across the country.  In St. Paul they expected 20,000 to show up for this, by the end there were over 100,000.  There were similar results across the country.  But there is great value in just seeing that you're not alone, by being surrounded by people who think and feel the same way you do and who want to change the world for the better.  Since the election I've had a really hard time reading news of what's going on in the world, and what's going to happen.  Sometimes I was just sad, sometimes I felt helpless, and most of the time I wonder how things are ever going to change. 

But my attitude has changed since the march.  I can read the news and be "angry" without being depressed or overly emotional.  I don't carry it with me all day long.  And I'm motivated to be a part of the solution.  I've realized that myself, and probably many people who have similar ideals and beliefs, probably got a little complacent in the last 8 years.  It's not necessarily a bad thing - when at least some things actually ARE changing in a positive way, there isn't as much to stand up and fight for, and ultimately that's the kind of world we'd like to see.  But I think the abruptness of this change has caught a lot of us off guard.  And it's easy to get angry and depressed and bitter - unfortunately social media has made it all too easy to get sucked into back-and-forth posts that result in very little actually getting done.

The following weekend was a rally in Rochester in response to the ban on refugees and travel from predominately Muslim countries.  I also attended this rally, and felt much the same way as I did the previous weekend.  There were 1000+ people in attendance, which is a fantastic turnout for a city that only has a population of about 110,000.  There were some great motivational speeches given, but also some very actionable things that we can do to help.  I went away from the rally with a similar boost in energy and motivation.

I am optimistic and hopeful that this will continue, that people will continue to stand up for what they believe in, and be similarly motivated to be the change they want to see.  I'll end with a quote from "The American President" (I wish our government looked like it did in that movie).

"We fight the fights that need fighting."

I'm back...and the world has motivated me

It looks like my last blog entry was 3+ years ago, and even then they were very few and far between.  It's not that I haven't had lots to write about or talk about, but lack of time (and a little laziness maybe) have contributed to me not actually writing it out and publishing it, even though I've thought about it many times.

But I'm back.  There's a lot going on in the world, and besides being involved, I need an outlet to "talk" about things and hopefully even get some discussion and debate going.

Just to catch you up....since June, 2013 a lot has happened:

  • I got married!  Yes, in October 2014, surrounded by MANY family and friends, my husband and I were married.  It was a wonderful, beautiful day.
  • I moved into a new and interesting/challenging project at work that really aligns with the masters degree I spent two years earning.
  • I'm still doing CrossFit :)
  • We lost a kitty :(  Mr. Fluffy Face passed away very suddenly one night at the age of 5 years and 4 months.  We still miss him all the time.
  • We got another kitty!  (about a year later)  Bubby has been a wonderful addition to the family.
  • The band I got involved with at the beginning of 2013 continued to grow in popularity and became hugely (locally) successful, we recorded a CD, we played at "Down By the River Side" and "Thursdays on First", played all over the area to great crowds at bars and other venues, and even flew 16 hours to the Marshall Islands and played there for a week.  And...we've now retired.
I'll be posting more shortly.  To whoever is reading, thank you, and I'm glad to be back :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things I wish I could tell my younger self

I generally don't dwell on thoughts like this.  I'm a firm believer that a person's experiences, good and bad, shape who they are and get you to where you are today.  If you could warn your younger self not to make the mistakes you've made, or if you could share pieces of wisdom you've gained over the experiences of your lifetime, you'd probably keep your younger self from learning from those experiences and gaining the very wisdom you're sharing.  Of course my sci-fi geek friends and I would debate about whether or not you're creating an alternate timeline...but I'm talking philosophically here :)

That being said - there are a couple pieces of wisdom I really wish I could share with my younger self that I don't think would hurt my "timeline" and would be of positive outcome.

First, I've come to realize that with just about any skill in life, there is just no substitute for experience and repetition.  Certainly aptitude and ability differentiate someone's maximum potential or capacity for something, but in the end, NOTHING replaces years of experience and practice.  This is most evident to me with my saxophone playing.  I've been playing saxophone pretty much continuously since the 6th grade (26+ years if you're counting).  That's thousands of hours of playing and practicing a wide and vast variety of music and musical situations.  My horn is like an extension of me now.  I have many musically talented friends where I see this sort of thing too - a longtime friend and colleague plays piano and when I watch him I can just tell that he doesn't have to think about it anymore, it's just an extension of his mind and fingers.  I've made some attempts at learning other instruments in recent years.  Some I just don't have the physical aptitude for (trumpet - requires the right lips).  But others just require a lot of practice and experience, something I don't seem to have the time or attention span for at this point in my life.  And gaining 26 year of experience on something starting now is going to be awhile .

Second, I would share EVERYTHING I've learned on eating, exercise, and health.  Mainly because what I've learned contradicts all the "conventional" wisdom that was drilled into us as kids and young adults.  When I was younger I just sort of assumed I didn't have the capacity to lose weight, be in good shape, etc. etc. and I've since proven all of that wrong to myself.  I'd love to tell my younger self that you are capable of all of those things, and not only capable but they're not as hard as you think.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Healthy Living Update

I do INTEND to set aside time to blog more, and I have even had the idea of creating a separate blog to share all my health and fitness experiences and research...but alas, life happens :)

I felt compelled to give an update though, in light of some of the many recent articles I've read related to healthy eating, genetically modified foods, CrossFit, and self-image.

On Food - I'm glad to see that some of the "true" science is finally coming to light and starting to expose about how backward our food system, the FDA, laws, etc.  The fact that giant agribusiness companies like Monsanto are trying to control anything and everything about our food system, getting laws in place to protect THEM, and fighting tooth-and-nail to stop mandatory labeling of GMO foods pretty much tells you that they know what they're doing is not in the best interest of the world, but they must protect their business model.  I believe that we all have the right to KNOW what is in the food we eat; and then we can make the choice ourselves as to whether or not we want to eat something that's labeled a GMO.  And I also believe that there should be no way that "life" can be patented.

Along the same lines, we continue to perpetuate bad  and disproven "science" and allow special-interest lobbies (both food and pharma) to influence our dietary and nutritional recommendations, which spills over into the medical field.   The "low-fat" diet that has become accepted practice for healthy eating came into play around 1977, the same time the obesity problem in this country started its rise.  Studies and emperical evidence have shown over and over again that the low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-carb diet doesn't work, and is based more on speculation and observation than actual science.  This article sums up a lot of these points nicely, but I've done much reading and research on my own.  And of course I have been following the low-carb/low-sugar/paleo diet since March 2011 (see some of my earlier posts) and am as healthy as I have EVER been in my lifetime - my "numbers" are all normal to great, my blood pressure is as low as it's ever been (much of that might be due to CrossFit though) and I haven't been truly sick since March 2011.  I eat REAL food.  I don't feel starved or deprived.  I enjoy the food I eat because real food tastes good.  I drink real, fully-caffeinated coffee with real cream.  I don't count calories.  I avoid anything marked "low-fat" or with ingredients I can't pronounce like the plague.  Sugar is almost non-existent in my world.

On CrossFit - wow, I could talk for hours, and I'm sure some of my friends get sick of it :)  But this is really good stuff for me.  My ONLY goal when I started last August was to STOP DOING NOTHING.  I wasn't horribly out of shape or unhealthy, but I was pretty sedentary.  I am definitely whatever the opposite of sedentary is now.  Just to give you an example of the amazing stuff we do in these workouts - today we did what is called "Prowlers", which is basically pushing a 250-lb sled 25 yards up and back, for 6 rounds (alternating with a partner).  I was slightly woosy by the end, but by a couple of hours afterwards, I felt FANTASTIC.  And that's typical for me now.  I can tell that I have more energy, sleep better, am MUCH stronger, and am MUCH more flexible (and I still have a LOT of room to improve there).  Sure it's great to be able to lift the big weights and do more situps or pushups or burpees than you did the time before, but this stuff carries over into being able to do things in real life, which is really the goal.  When I'm 70 I want to be able to carry my bags of groceries or bags or lift my grandkids (and yeah, with the age I'll be starting to have kids, 70 for young grandkids is pretty likely).  The workouts and the community are great and fun, but seeing the results of health and fitness in real life is even more fun.

On self-image - there is a lot of discussion among our CrossFit community on combating and redefining what our society idealizes as the "perfect" body type.  My favorite slogan on a T-shirt my friend Caly has is "Strong is the new Skinny".  I wish everyone would believe that.  And I know that body image issues and wanting to be "skinny" is a much larger issue with women than with men, but the up-and-coming generations of men are getting programmed with the body self-image issues too.

Growing up, I ALWAYS wanted to be skinny.  I'd be jealous of the people that seemed to have no problem being skinny no matter what they ate or did.  And I admit that I still have a little bit of that thinking - sometimes I'd like to, for just ONE DAY see what it feels like to be skinny.  But I've also come to realize that my body is built a certain way, and that being skinny for me is not being healthy.  And I've also come to realize (wisdom?) that just like I wish I could be like some skinny person I see, they probably wish they could be "built" like I am.  I am able to bulk up and build muscle with relative ease - I've ramped up really fast on Olympic Weight Lifting at CrossFit even in the 8 months I've been going.  If I were skinny I wouldn't have that ability.

I love to see the women at my CrossFit classes.  I love seeing them working just as hard as the men do, and getting just as excited at a new lifting PR or being a previous time record.  I love to see the self-confidence that they have in being STRONG and fit, not necessarily "skinny".  A recent WOD article talks about this (it was written for women but I think men can take wisdom out of it too).  If I have a daughter someday, I hope  that her self-confidence and self-esteem is built on being smart, strong, fit, etc. and not being whatever society's image of a woman's body is at the time.

OK, maybe blogging shorter and more often would be a good idea :)