I’m So Excited – Frankie and I Were on The Daily Beans Podcast!

Allison Gill, aka “AG” host of the podcasts Mueller, She Wrote & The Daily Beans

Fourteen months ago, I had a decision to make – do I get another cat, one more that (hopefully!) will die before I do, causing me to grieve another loss? I love my Libby (short for Liberty, a story for another day), a shelter kitten we were assured wouldn’t have long hair.

Libby Then
Libby Now

So epic fail – huge and hairy, clearly part Maine Coon, but she’s a sweetheart and I can’t imagine not having her here – although I dream of no longer having to deal with all that hair! In fact, adding the cat hair to the short lifespan made me realize that I didn’t want to add another four-legged friend to my home. Instead, after thinking long and hard and consulting with my children, I did what I’d been wanting to do for my entire adult life and bought myself a companion bird, an Timneh African Grey I named Frankie (from Grace & Frankie – since she’s a girl) and brought her home in June, 2019.

In the time she’s been with me, I’ve learned what it means to have a toddler around 24/7, although with Frankie, I’m not in danger of being arrested for abuse if I put her in her cage for the night! She’s smart as a whip, already talking in short sentences and picking things up I wasn’t even aware I was saying.

When I listen every day to The Daily Beans Podcast, there’s a jingle they play before the first commercial break that they got from the Saturday morning cartoons in the 80’s, and Frankie learned to join in. I recorded her with me late last month.

She’s so damn smart!

I sent the clip in to The Daily Beans for their Good News segment. Tuesday, I was excited to hear my email read on the pod, along with our little jingle. Here’s that part of the podcast:

They even gave a shout-out to my blog!

News, with swearing – the only way to get updated!

Today’s episode of The Daily Beans

Thanks for the shout-out, Allison, and for using your time to give the rest of us the information we need, the stuff that keeps slipping by as we get overwhelmed with the outrage.

If You Plan a Viable Future – VOTE

There are multiple reasons for the embarrassingly low percentage of those eligible to vote who actually vote regularly in elections in the United States. There are things the federal government could do to encourage those who have chosen not to vote to exercise their franchise short of mandating that everyone vote in every election, but that won’t be considered until Republicans no longer have control in Washington.

Why is in necessary for us to register to vote in the first place? We have already given the federal government all the information they need (except for party choice) by applying for a Social Security card, something every parent has had to do for their children since at least 1980. There is no logical reason not to have national automatic voter registration in this country. The right to vote is written into the constitution. The federal government certainly knows enough about everyone in the country in order to add everyone eligible to vote onto the voter rolls on their eighteenth birthday and then share those registrations with the states where the individuals reside. The only ‘reason’ there appears to be for requiring individuals to register separately to vote is to put another roadblock in the way of those trying to vote.

In countries like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Iraq (yes, Iraq!), voting participation increased between 76% and 81% once automated registration took effect. In a liberal (vs illiberal) democracy, the goal should be to get as many eligible voters as possible to get involved and cast an informed vote; automatic registration is the first step towards higher voter participation and engagement.

The Republicans, however, know that the demographic group that has been most likely to register and vote with them is aging and leaving this mortal coil. Polls show that only 25% of eligible voters align with the Republicans, 31% with the Democrats, and 40% with Independents. Therefore, from the point of view of the Republican Party, encouraging a larger percentage of the eligible voter pool to cast a vote is demographically counter to their purposes. This is a major factor in the Republicans continued hold on power despite having a minority throughout the country as a whole, since fewer voters overall (of which 71% would NOT be Republicans) gives them a disproportionate share of votes cast.

This leads to the outrageous lies being made by the President of the United States spewing conspiracy theories about the security of mail-in ballots. Trump continues to claim for no reason except to scare his own base away from using mail-in ballots that there will be wide-spread fraud. First of all, there was a recent report from the conservative Heritage Foundation that found just 14 instances out of 15.5 million votes. Secondly, the most recent and egregious case of someone using mail-in ballots to commit voter fraud involved a Republican campaign operative in North Carolina. Third and most disturbing, there are actually thousands of mail-in ballots that are deemed ineligible compared with a minimum of in-person ballots, often for mistakes made by the voter or because of a questionable signature match. In order to have fewer legitimate votes disallowed, rules and regulations about verification of these ballots should be standardized across the country.

After Joe Biden is sworn into office in January, 2021, it would behoove all of us to do whatever we can to push for making it easier to participate in the electoral process throughout the country, in addition to all the other things needed to undo voter suppression and gerrymandering Republicans have used since the Nixon administration to keep those not voting for them from exercising their franchise.

The media has to step up, too. Media outlets not specifically designed to propagate right-wing disinformation and talking points must get off of their ‘both-sides’ soapbox. There is nothing consistent with fair coverage that requires any news outlet to give on-air time to anyone from either side when what they are saying isn’t even true. The opinions of party sycophants are of no importance, nor is their outrage at perceived offenses outside of the right-wing media bubble. If those on the ‘conservative’ side of the aisle cannot provide actual subject matter experts who have serious, fact-based information to bring to the discussion, they should not be provided with a platform from which to spread their crap. Climate change, for instance, isn’t a matter of opinion – it is happening, and it is man-made, and anyone who claims anything different without providing science-based hard evidence for their conclusion should no longer be offered the chance to speak. Ditto for those who want to argue about systemic racism, Covid-19, or any other subject which has been scientifically investigated and understood.

I think it should be mandatory for everyone eligible to vote to do so, but in order for that to be an accepted demand, it is also necessary for every obstacle currently placed between the eligible and the ballot be torn down. Automatic voter registration, Election Day as a national holiday and country-wide mail-in ballots would go a long way towards giving more of our fellow citizens the chance to vote without losing time from work, finding a babysitter, looking for a ride, or any one of thousands other reasons why everyone who can do so does not cast a vote.

The presidency and administration of Donald Trump should have opened the eyes of everyone, whether they have previously voted or not, of the importance for everyone to get informed and cast their vote. Everyone has something that they care about, whether it’s climate change, taxes, election security, money in politics, etc., and the only way to make sure that your government knows how you feel about those things is to vote. Social media could be a force for good, but not as it is currently configured. Print media has suffered mightily in this digital age, and broadcast media has been maligned for real and imagined offenses, making it the individual responsibility of every American to find actual facts about candidates, issues and policies from reputable sources upon which to base political choices.

This country has so much potential to life up to (sort of like both of my former husbands). It’s up to each and every one of us to put our big person pants on and do that which is required of every citizen – learn about the issues, decide which side of the issue you agree with, and vote in every election for candidates whose platforms and plans are what you hope to see going forward.

Vote as if your very future depends on the outcome of every election. Vote as if the life your children and grandchildren will be living will be determined by the election winner. Vote as if the continued existence of the very planet we all live on will be controlled by the next office holder.

It should be painfully obvious by now how very true that is.

Trump, the Fascist Swine

John Bolton doesn’t have to publish a book to let the public know what he saw and heard during his time in the Trump Administration; all he has to do is contact a non-right-wing media outlet and agree to a no-holds-barred on-camera live interview or even just offer to make a statement.  Of course, those options do not successfully line his and his publisher’s pockets, so damn the damage Trump does to the country, let’s wait until we can charge people for the information!  No giving anything away for free, no siree!

Not that Bolton’s self-interest is anything new – this is the same man who refused to testify to the House to provide first-hand knowledge during the impeachment investigation, after all.   In fact, most of the revelations Bolton has made in public have been made during paid speaking engagements, not during media news interviews.  Bolton’s behavior is on a par with Trump’s, although with much less power to wield and he appears to share in the narcissism Trump is so clearly suffering from. The point is that John Bolton, in order to benefit his bottom line, is completely happy in his disloyalty to the United States.   His continued silence in the face of rising, brazen fascist actions and rhetoric from Trump is all the proof anyone should need to recognize that Bolton does not care about the country anymore than Trump does.  No one should spend money on his book; we’ll see the most inflammatory parts in the media anyway, so why line Bolton’s pockets?

I hope that more people now recognize that John Bolton, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, et al are not showing their patriotism now, as the world watches the United States turn into a tin pot dictatorship – they are trying to be let into the lifeboat.  They had a chance to make a difference during the impeachment, although we’ll never get to know if their information could have swayed the Senate Republican denizens to put country over party.  Their continued silence at that time means they now have ownership in the absolute abdication of responsibility or accountability that Trump has exhibited, this fascist bent including the most recent abuse of power, subverting the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest by using excessive force to get a photo-op.

So again, thank you to all the former administration collaborators/employees/sycophants who have waited until now to tell us what most of us knew before the 2016 election – that Trump is a useless piece of shit who only got where he was by stealing his father’s money and abusing the legal system, the latter a skill he has continued to benefit from since taking office.  I’m unable to understand why, with the first-hand experience you have all had with this incompetent boob, it took so long for you to speak up, although there are still more of you who remain silent out of greed or what?  Fear?  Of Trump?  Seriously? 

Trump may be tall in height, but he is otherwise a very small, scared, shell of a man.  He has never, in his entire life, ever been required to do anything he didn’t want to do.  His ego is so fragile; he is utterly incapable of acknowledging his mistakes or obvious lack of understanding for so many things that they require their own blog post!  His opinion of himself is inversely proportionate to his actual knowledge base, making me wonder who he paid in order to graduate from college and graduate school.  There’s no question why he keeps all his school records hidden – it’s impossible to pretend you’ve always been all that and you’re a “very stable genius” if your post-secondary records reveal you graduated “summa cum prematurely”.

All who have kept silent, regardless of your reasons, have culpability in what comes next.  For those who served in the military, thank you for your service.  That said, when your country really needed you, this time to put only your reputation on the line, you refused to do so.  When you offered your life in service, you were one person out of thousands doing so, but when you were one of only a select few who could have averted at least some of the ongoing crises, you sat back and did nothing.  That’s not patriotism.  That’s greed… or cowardice.

The silver lining to this huge thundercloud of disaster we are now living through is this – we are now painfully aware that there is an overwhelming need for sweeping changes regarding things once considered ‘norms’ but not officially enshrined in statutes and laws.  No longer can we go blithely along, expecting that those with the power will do what’s expected of them without the force of law that provides for swift and fair repercussions when the executive branch refuses to submit to oversight, ignores subpoenas, or misappropriates money using bogus emergency declarations. 

It is now no longer acceptable for those in positions of power, including in the Senate and the House, to remain in their seats indefinitely; twelve years for either chamber, whether consecutive or not, should be the maximum amount of time anyone can serve, and maybe it’s time to change the House from two year terms to three years.  Along with this, there has to be huge election reform, particularly with regard to election financing.  Elections must be federally funded in an equitable way, while allowing actual people only (no companies, corporations, SuperPACs, or other entity) to contribute to those they wish to, using some type of voucher system so that everyone, regardless of income or wealth, can participate in this part of politics.  The time for only the most wealthy to have all the political power is over.

It is no longer reasonable for judges throughout the judiciary, up to and including the Supreme Court, to be given lifetime appointments.  When this was first written into the Constitution, the average lifespan was 35 years, so a lifetime appointment was only a few years.  Now, judges routinely sit on the bench for 25 years or more, leaving at an average age of 78!  There is no reason at this point in our development to continue with this outdated method of populating the bench.  All federal judges must serve for a limited period of time with every president given the opportunity to name two justices to the court during each term (see https://fixthecourt.com/fix/term-limits/).  Although there is always the possibility of an unexpected death of one of the justices, having a term limit means that death is not the most frequent reason justices leave the court.

It is no longer acceptable for lobbyists to have a place in Washington, DC.  The wealthy, including corporations, foundations, foreign governments, and who knows what else, should no longer be allowed to continue their unfair and undemocratic ability to influence policy that disadvantages the rest of us.  Corporate welfare at all levels must be eliminated; no more subsidies for giant agribusiness, the fossil fuel industry, the pharmaceutical industry, etc.  Once, monopolies were broken up into smaller companies, now they’re approved and allowed to overtake everything, concentrating the wealth at the very top.  This should never have been allowed, and must be undone ASAP.

Racial inequality and oppression must be addressed.  It requires all white people to work at it, since we are the ones with the problem; the black folks are the ones who suffer because of our problem.  Every one of us must work, every day, in all ways, to change not just our own misconceptions and biases, but we have to speak up when we see or hear them in the people around us.  That’s the only way we can begin what we’ve been pretending was done after the Civil War – treating people of color with the dignity and respect we have often only shown to fellow white people.  See White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism at your local bookstore or ebook platform.

Finally, social media has to be brought to heel.  Jeff Zuckerberg does not care about the damage being done to our social discourse, so long as people keep clicking.  Jack Dorsey will keep letting Trump and others like him post false, misleading and inflammatory things in order to keep people coming back for more.  These and other social media platforms, while not the creators of the information posted, have a responsibility greater than that of the established media giants.  The ability of their platforms to spread in a nanosecond makes it more imperative that they be held accountable financially so that they are more likely to do what other media outlets have been required to since the beginning – prevent the dissemination of lies, propaganda, etc., and be required to prominently post retractions and corrections when something slips by. 

Vote the Democratic ticket – only by taking power from the obstructionist Republicans can we hope to see the changes we need.  Then hold those we vote into office accountable.

I Find Myself Crying…

Frankie
Liberty (LIbby for short)

I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that I cry more easily, often over things that honestly are strange to be brought to tears over.  For instance, when I took my big cross-country trailer trip in 2018 with Libby in the passenger’s seat, I found myself crying over everything I saw.  I cried at all the National Parks multiple times per location, on the road to the next stop at the vista surrounding me, at animals seen only on TV before – just think of the National Geographic or Discovery Channel shows – I cried at all of them.

Since then, I’m still finding myself brought to tears more often, and it’s definitely gotten worse since Covid-19 hit us.  I’m relieved that I let my nursing licenses lapse more than four years ago because if I’d kept them active longer I may have felt obligated to volunteer to help.   Although I needed to be a licensed RN to do my case management jobs, I didn’t consider myself a ‘real’ nurse.  When I graduated from school in 1994, the nursing shortage that had been raging when I started in 1991 was over, and I wasn’t able to get a job in any of the hospitals in my area, forcing me to work in long-term care facilities, AKA nursing homes.

Of all the specialties we rotated through in nursing school, the one I liked the least was geriatrics/nursing homes.  I almost lost my lunch during one of my clinical days, when the instructor was showing us how to measure tunneling in a decubitus ulcer/bed sore.  In an effort to shield the squeamish, let me just say this:  the smell of rotting flesh is cloying, clinging to the hairs in your nostrils and lingering on your clothes, so even if you dart out of the room to avoid throwing up you can’t get away from the smell.  After that day, I started carrying a small container of Vick’s Vaporub to smear under my nose the next time, so I could remain in the room and learn what I needed to know should I have a patient with a similar issue later.  From 1994 until 1997, I worked mainly in nursing homes, essentially passing medications, providing wound care, and writing notes for anywhere from thirty to sixty patients at a time, depending on the level of care of the unit.  My point is that now, twenty-three years after my last patient care experience, I lack the practice and updated educational information to really feel I could safely return to nursing.

Nonetheless, I find myself with tears running down my cheeks multiple times a day now, whether over the pride I feel as the health care workers all over the country continue to do their jobs, despite insufficient or no PPE, too many patients or coworkers sickened by the virus, or at the overwhelming loss of life all over the country, or when someone who has survived Covid-19 receives a standing ovation from hospital staff as they’re being discharged home.  I wish it was more of the latter.

Yesterday I found myself teary-eyed when Frankie, my Timneh African Grey, sang “Good morning, good morning, good morning” to me.  I’ve been singing that part of the Beatles song to her almost every morning since I brought her home last June, so finally hearing her sing it back to me really made my day.  At least this little cry was a happy one.

Am I the only one?  I don’t think I’m clinically depressed, although the anxiety meter has ticked up quite a bit.  Certainly I feel overwhelmed by what I perceive as my inability to do anything to make the federal government perform its role; that’s why I started writing this blog.  The only way I can think of to untie my thoughts and feelings is by writing them down, and I hope my PCP will find my blood pressure has responded by going down at least a little now that I have this safety valve.  I’m sure that this need to bring us as a nation to a better place for everyone is what drives many bloggers to share their work.

It’s funny – I’ve spent the better part of the time since I came back from my trip alone in my home, with just Libby, and now also Frankie, for company, and I’ve always had a pretty small list of friends, so I thought this stay-at-home thing would be a breeze for me.  I’m finding it harder than I expected to, in part because it’s human nature to want the thing you’re not allowed to have and we are a social species.  Mostly, though, I’ve recently done what people my age do, and started reaching out to reconnect with some old friends that I haven’t seen for a long time, and now I want to spend time with them because we’re not getting any younger…and now, Covid-19.

I hope that we become a stronger, more egalitarian and equal society on the other side of this.  It’s the only thing that keeps me sane right now.

I Wish I Had a Lawn Service

I love spring – in fact, it’s my favorite season.  What I like is weather that’s warm enough to work outside without a jacket and cool enough that I’m not dripping sweat (and I really sweat), and for sure that time is now.  I enjoy planting annuals in the beds I’ve made, getting my pond ready for the warm weather, and hopefully completing the repairs to my above-ground swimming pool so that I can actually use it this summer.  I’ve spent years slowly adding ground covers, planting beds and other projects throughout my property for both my ongoing enjoyments as well as to improve the final value of the place when I sell it.  I get personal satisfaction from using my own labor to accomplish these changes and the physical activity is beneficial to my overall health.  My friend Mike helped me get my garden tractor running for the season (although I’ve been doing it by myself since 1985!) last week, and it’s been raining almost every day since, so today was my first real chance to jump on the tractor for that first cut of the season.  I have to admit it – I hate mowing the grass!

We (my first husband and me) moved to my current home in 1984, when our kids were both under the age of five.   I was fortunate enough back then to be able to stay at home with the kids while their father was at work, and I made the mistake of offering to do the grass cutting that could be done with the tractor because of the novelty of it all.  This of course resulted in my being the one responsible for the inside of the house as well as more than an acre of ground on the outside, the kids all day and, much of the time, a part-time job in the evening after my husband came home from work and could take over the care of the kids.  What he did, to be honest, was babysit his own children, often acting as if he were an irresponsible teenager rather than a parent.  It’s bad enough having two kids to take care of, but adding a grown man who acts like a kid to the mix was more than I could stand.  “If this is ‘til death do us part,” I thought, “Then one of us better die soon!”  But I digress.

My first spring, with the new tractor and spreader, I drove all over the property spreading weed and feed, like the books I’d been reading recommended.  I was so frustrated a few weeks later as I surveyed my domain, which had gone from being sparsely covered with something green to a more consistent dirt covered with dead stuff.  I hadn’t even considered that none of the stuff I’d had growing all over the place was in fact grass – it was all weeds – so what I was left with were really hard to kill weeds that I’m still dealing with more than thirty years later.  Mental note to self….

I’ve been the primary landscaper/gardener and all that entails for thirty-six years, and every year I try to postpone that first mowing in the spring, as if watching the ‘grass’ grow taller will slow it down somehow (it doesn’t!).  I really hate having to go all over the back yard, where the majority of the trees are, to pick up all the branches that the winter and wind knocked to the ground but haven’t yet come up with a way to stop gravity inside the fence.  Fortunately, I do have a dump cart for the tractor, so I move it around the back yard to collect the twigs and branches.  Today’s experience was the worst to date.

I started out, as I have for the last two seasons, by firing up the compressor to inflate three of the tires on the tractor.  Sure, I could have bought new wheels last spring, but that would have cost around $400, and I do have a compressor and hose that makes inflating the tires every time I use the tractor quick and relatively painless, so I’ve kept my cash while filling the tires.  Last season, I could use the tractor all day (or as long as I usually used it on a day) without a problem, and I expected things to remain the same this year.  Apparently, I did not take into consideration that the tires might have another plan.

In preparation of that branch and twig clean-up in the back yard, I inflated the tractor tires and pulled the dumpcart around to hook to the back, discovering along the way that one of the tires on the cart was also flat on the bottom.  Of course, when Joey and I replaced the tires on the cart a few years ago, we managed to put both of them on backwards, so I have to tip the cart up onto its side in order to access the tire valve, so definitely an empty cart endeavor.  As I was spinning the tire around to find the valve, I saw why it was flat – someone (who knows who it could be?) had driven over something that made an L-shaped hole in the tire.  Not one to be stopped by minor inconveniences, I went into my newly organized laundry room and found some contact cement and extra-sticky duct tape.

With the glue along with a scrap piece of rubber pond liner, I patched the tire, and then used the duct tape to temporarily hold the patch on until the glue dries.  It may not have completely fixed the problem, but it did slow down the air escaping the tire enough that I was able to use the cart for a few hours, until it was almost dark and I was done with it for the day.  I still had enough light to mow the grass, and the tractor does have headlights, so I dropped the cart and climbed back on the seat of the tractor to cut more grass.  As I did so, I noticed the mower deck moving out of the corner of my eye.  I decided I’d imagined the movement and started the mower blades as I accelerated forward exactly nowhere.  It felt as if something was preventing my mower deck from moving ahead, so I shifted gears and reversed without a problem.  When I still couldn’t drive forward, I got off and discovered that the clip that’s been holding the mower deck up since I got the tractor had apparently decided to shelter at home.  I have no clue where that home is.  

I tried to use my giant magnet on a handle to locate the hardware in the grass, and quickly determined that I would be dragging it all over the place for days, so instead I grabbed the metal detector I’d borrowed from Joey’s stepfather when I lost my keys in the yard (it’s a long story for another day) and walked back out, following the newly mowed grass tracks swinging the detector side to side like a weirdo, but I didn’t find what I was looking for before it was too dark to tell where I’d been from where I hadn’t been.  No wonder I hate the first cut of the season!

I’m pretty sure I have reasonable facsimiles of the parts I’m missing to let me use the tractor until my parts order arrives.  All my apocalypse supplies, you know.

Day 2, First Mowing of the Spring

I decided to order four new tires (without rims) for the tractor on Amazon for $147, because it’s really a pain having a tire that simply can’t hold air. 

My plan, when I ordered the tires, was to keep doing my inflate-as-I-go plan until the new tires arrive, then take the tires and drive the tractor to my mechanic, about a quarter mile away.  I can stay off the street for a good part of the ride, and I firmly believe that there’s no one in town here who would bat an eye at me even if I was on the asphalt.  I’ve seen stranger things all over town.

Anyway, I was driving around the property, trying to mow as much of the property as possible that didn’t have winter debris still to be removed, so I returned to the part of the back yard that I’d cleared off the previous day.  By that time, it was around dusk, and it gets dark pretty quick now because the trees are leafier, so I flipped on the headlight.  I began to notice that it was getting harder to turn the wheel, but I know I need to add some grease so I attributed it to that.

Nope – the front tire had not only lost all its air again, it had lost its connection to the rim, making it impossible to inflate.  I had to give up trying to fix it because of darkness, and I’m possibly going to have to utilize a slightly dangerous but effective means of resealing the tire to the rim that involves a small, contained explosion.

What could go wrong?