Category Archives: Sustainability

Grateful for Advocacy Training—Part 1

What You Can Do Now Training
photo courtesy of ashiaray.com

For weeks, feeling like a small cog in a big world, as I’ve absorbed the outpouring of tweets and network news about our nation’s challenges, I’ve wondered how to focus and weigh in, how to make a difference.

This past Sunday afternoon, I joined about 500 others in an What You Can Do Now 2017 Advocacy Training event, a day of activism and #resistance training organized by the Newton, Massachusetts Democrats.

The scene: Newton South High School Cafeteria, stripped of tables and warming stations, lined up with row after row of chairs. I came early for the keynote but all the seats were filled. I was fortunate to sit on the edge of a table, up front, to the right of the speakers. The visibility and sound were great!

The Keynote speakers: Jordan Berg Powers, MASS Alliance and Brian Barrish, Legislative Director and General Counsel in the Office of Massachusetts State Senate Majority Leader, Harriette Chandler.

Both men were incisive, spirited, knowledgeable, and filled with specifics on issues which they imparted with spirited, spunky, no nonsense “can do” language. In this and subsequent blogs, I will offer highlights taken from my notes and a transcript—

FOR NEW ACTIVISTS—IT’S NOT HOW YOU DO IT BUT HOW TO THINK 

Stop labeling issues 

  • Lead with values and real people (underlines are mine)
  • Make real the terrible things we see around us
  • Policy has the power to destroy or create people’s loves
  • “criminal; justice reform” vs. “decriminalizing poverty” or “no one should go to jail because they cannot pay a $50 fine.”

My Take: Be mindful. Focus on details, tell a story, use metaphor, allegory, a visual reference that shows understanding, embraces empathy, can stick.

Stop expecting your representatives to be leaders

  • Their job: to get 51% of the vote in their next election
  • Our job: building a progressive future
  • By definition, a candidate cannot get so far out in front that they lose their followers.
  • We will lead us and they will respond…or not get elected.

This was an eye opener— the idea that if an elected representative gets too far out in his/her vision and mandate, the voters will lose faith. Tone, the step by step shaping of a vision, in pragmatic terms gets my attention. I lean towards representatives who have a keen grasp of the English language and can paint a verbal picture that resonates with my values. I miss Barney Frank— his passion and sense of humor.

Expect to fail…and dig in

  • 90% of this work is failure and anticlimactic wins.
  • Wins just happen: there’s no parade, no balloons.
  • Typically, there’s 10 years of work behind any major bill.
  • The left spends a lot of time worrying about winning vs. trying and learning from doing.
  • If the conversation is, “I don’t know if this will work,” WALK OUT OF THE ROOM.

My takeaway on this was huge! I felt enormously grateful for how these speakers encouraged empowerment of each individual to make a judgment and to sign onto causes, movements, ideas, in which there is engagement, passion and a belief in “can do.”

Be Brave and creative

  • This fight will demand both. “We are going to see the things we love destroyed.”

A Hard Truth: Destructive decisions targeting the EPA, the environment, immigrant safety have been disheartening. This administration’s avarice for power fuels my #resist imperative.

Don’t be a “nattering nabob” of negativity

 Don’t be this person: “That’s not going to work,” “you’re doing it wrong.”

  • If someone’s being brave, encourage them!
  • The litmus isn’t “will it work?” The litmus is, “Will it move the conversation?”
  • If you think it’s not as effective as it could be, make it more.

Takeaway Warning: We all want to be accepted. In the back and forth discussion of political imperatives, new activists can be intimidated by strong, skeptic voices. Build a team with risk taking folks who are not afraid to speak truth to power—those folk who need to clean up their power over posturing.

Dig in on SOMETHING

  • Find one thing you care about, and go deep
  • There is always work to be done….websites, press releases, photos, op ed pieces, etc.

I am grateful to share what you can do now advocacy training. Comments re: what you care about, where you might go deep, are welcome. To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plants: My Trump Winter Balm

Gaillardia & Gerbera
on the Windowsill

Two weeks ago in the Northeast, in the midst of the Russian /Flynn /election connection and the endless Trump twitter maelstrom, spring temperatures warmed the ground. Clumps of daffodils began their stretch to maturity. Lily leaves peeped out. Buds appeared on shrubs. I embraced the warm air.

Spring in February, a seductive distraction, seemed too soon. Within days, a  snowstorm blanketed every bud and plant with soft snow, a coating that is protective. After the spring thaw, some leaves will look fragile and need to be cut. Thankfully, the blossoms will emerge intact and open.

The seduction of spring stuck. Just as the plants began to stretch upward in the warming earth, I culled my garden catalogs and began to fantasize about rich colors and new plantings for my garden.

There is nothing more appealing to a winter-shut-in-gardener then the  sight of red, yellow, peach and pink primrose plants at the entry to the super market. My first choice was a red plant, my second choice, yellow. Primroses are easy plants. They like “wet feet,” meaning that every few days they require watering from the base up. It’s easy. I simply pop the plant into a bowl of water and let the plant infuse what it needs. I then place it in the sink to drain out the excess moisture.

The next week, I was tempted but hesitant to buy a bright orange gerbera. My prior efforts at growing gerbera in summer have resulted in wilt. But this was a winter experiment. I had the intuition to water my orange beauty the same way I watered the primrose. Gratefully, the plant has thrived and produced multiple blooms.  My hope is to set it in the garden along with the yellow and red gaillardia with its effervescent blossoms.

My gaillardia and gerbera plants on the sunny windowsill draw me into a practice of mindfulness. Every day I check each leaf, each bud for wilt, aphids, any sign of distress. When a blossom fades, I cut it off to engender more nourishment to new buds. A drooping blossom signals the need for water. Rotation helps the plant stay tall, otherwise it bends too far  into the sun. It’s about reading the signs.

As a child, I enjoyed  the freedom to indulge in flights of imagination and play in the backyard. Often, my dad joined me as he trimmed shrubs or cut the lawn. During World War II, I watched as he chose a half moon shaped tool to cut the edges of a bed and turn the soil for planting tomatoes, green beans and peppers. Every summer day, he tended his garden. It was part of the war effort. My father was a careful man; he understood the signs. At the right moment, he invited me to pick a lush tomato to bring to the table for supper.

I am thankful for the lessons of my father: gardens and plants engender beauty, food and connection to the earth; nature is nurture. Especially during this extended Trump winter, I am thankful.

 

No Gratitude in Trump’s 77-Minute Press Conference

Gratitude block on my windowsill, thanks to Beth

I was pretty shaken by the president’s recent lengthy press conference—77 minutes of on-my-mind-on-my-tongue comments. Afterwards, a question nagged. Where is President Trump’s gratitude for having won enough votes to win the country’s highest office?

His negative, belligerent tone gnawed at me. Here was a man whose parents — his mother, a Scottish immigrant, his father a successful developer—provided opportunities far beyond the average, setting the stage for the privileged and fastidious lifestyle he can indulge at any moment.

It is the United States government, its considerable resources and dedicated civil servants, its very working, which has provided the foundation and cushion of his life. Yet, by all accounts— from his inauguration speech, subsequent communications and impromptu tweets, he asserts that it is we who must be grateful to be saved from the catastrophe of living in America, 2017. I just want you to know. I inherited a mess, he declared last week.

We are fast learning that Trump must criticize, must tear down what is and has been operational and functional, so as to declare his place in history— the savior of a crumbling scaffold, to redesign, to replace the old and well-enough-served with the new. His mantra, “Make America Great” is intended to promulgate the belief that he and he only (with his chosen people) can envision and change the trajectory of our destiny.

No doubt, our scaffolding needs repair at significant junctures. But improvement does not appear in Mr. Trump’s plan. Straight out of the gate, he is compelled, driven to make good his promise of rooting out illegals, securing borders, building the wall, dismantling the administrative state. (Banner’s words)

Would that President Trump could offer compassion and empathy for the dilemmas of immigrants who have set down roots, yet have no clear path for citizenship. Would that he could embrace the possibilities of the range of immigrant resourcefulness to our national well-being.

After I printed out the transcript of the 23 pages from Trump’s press conference, I searched for words, thoughts and ideas, which might reflect thankfulness, a sense of personal gratitude. Thirteen minutes in, Trump had an opportune minute to express appreciation for the swell of voters who pushed him over the top. Instead, he offered, 270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes.

And that’s the way he and it goes, throwing out words as if they were real descriptors, set in stone, proof of the intent to deconstruct what I have lived and appreciated over the past years. At the very end, he did politely state, It’s a great honor to be with you. Thank you very much. Thanks.

I wish I could say “Thank you, Mr. President.” I am grateful to Fox News and the New York Times for the transcript; I am grateful for a discerning education; I am grateful for the freedom to write this blog.

 

 

 

Gratitude Amid Chaos

Women’s March,Sundance Film Festival,Park City, Utah. Thank you, VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

I do not like chaos in my life; I prefer order and a semblance of predictability. I am not alone given the number of crowd-swells starting with the day-after-inaguration Women’s Marches throughout America and continuing night and day, in the streets, at senate and representative’s offices, and at airports on this 9th day of Trump’s presidency.

We are living with a leader who , by nature, shoots from his gut in total defiance of rationality, especially if it fits a sound bite that feels true to his “fantastic” sense of self. We have elected a man without the resource of executive functioning—i.e., the ability to consider consequences of rhetoric in service of self-aggrandizing emotional spillage.

Those of you reading thus far know exactly what I am describing. We are all in the same boat, unmoored, longing for a navigator to set our course, provide assurance and reassurance about how this trip will end. But setting this boat called Democracy right, and keeping it on course depends upon all of us. Trump leads by defying what makes moral and legal sense. Our right to protest, long ago modeled by the founders of our Republic set the format for how citizens can create order out of chaos through peaceful demonstration. Case in point: The Women’s Washington March attendee estimates range from 440,000-500,000. There was not one arrest.

I have endless gratitude for the thousands of women who planned ahead, left their families or included them, bought bus, train, airline, metro tickets or drove to the capitol to show our newly elected president that his crass rhetoric, bankrupt values, and bullying-my-way-or-the -highway leadership style will not be tolerated in our United States of America.

I wanted to attend the Boston March but did not, my own effort at executive functioning in acknowledging my age and need to balance my energies. Instead, I watched on television with pride at the outpouring of families and women, their pointy pink hats and bold signs.

Four (yes 4!) female organizers, in conjunction with Planned Parenthood, organized and planned the event. The issues — reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, gender and racial inequalities, worker’s rights, environmental issues, to name a few. It was amazing to witness the sheer numbers, the energy and dedication of so many navigating what they/we believe are the issues we need embrace and protect.

One week later: we are in the midst of the chaos ensuing from Trump’s immigration ban on January 23rd. I am grateful to Judge Ann Donnelly who, on a Saturday night, stepped up, made the phone calls, determined that safety for people came first and ordered the first emergency stay on the ban.

For myself and for so many with common concerns, the course ahead is about how to maintain focus and a healthy balance. The how, the where and when will depend on what feels essential to each of us. Each in our own way, joining others in the essentials of democratic principles, can make a difference.

As a guide for focus, I offer this Boston Sunday Globe’s Citizen Guide to Survival in Trump’s America: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2017/01/29/citizens-guide-survival-trump-america/gMZVkKI3thauRlgUxH4dWM/story.html

 

 

Trump: Like The Weather, Hard To Predict

January 19, 2017

Yes, the weather is unpredictable and variable, ranging from chaotic to sunny. We fear tornadoes, earthquakes, and intense coastal storms. We frequent our weather apps, stay up late (at least I do) to catch the 11:00 news, to watch my local weather person track the trajectory of what lies ahead. I like to plan; I need to plan.

I spent the two days before the inauguration watching CNN and MSNBC to educate myself about a few of Trump’s cabinet choices—who they are, how they think, how they respond under the pressure of astute questioning.

I’m grateful to these networks for their willingness, without extensive commentary, to cover as many hearings as possible.

In my last blog post— I am NOT the Enemy, I addressed my concern over Trump’s lack of executive function as demonstrated by his itchy-finger communication style. Given his reactivity and potential for impulsive decisions, I needed to see first hand if any of his cabinet choices could balance Trump’s inclinations.

  • Nominee: Health and Human Services Secretary, Representative Tom Price, a dedicated Tea Party member and 10-term representative. Smooth talking and unflappable, even when confronted with gapping conflict of interest investments, Dr. Price assured but did not promise that he would maintain the intent of the Affordable Health Care Act. Under the precise questioning of Senator Elizabeth Warren as to how he can justify his recommendation to cut billions from the Medicare and Medicaid budgets, he said that spending on the programs was the “wrong metric.” How can his metric— care of patients, be separated from economics ? This man’s policies will take careful monitoring and translation.
  • Nominee: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, company employer since 1975. At first, Tillerson appeared straight forward, possibly a man of his word. But as the hearing focused on his cozy dealings with Russia and his assurance of support of sanctions (in direct contrast to Trump’s stated opposition), beads of sweat and stress appeared on his forehead. Can we believe Tillerson’s assurance that Trump would heed his lead on sanctions and on the effect of fossil fuels and climate change. I want to believe but cannot.
  • Nominee: Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs banker and now CEO of his own fund, Dune Capital. By far, Mnuchin’s testimony was the most fascinating—it was the complexity of his character. Ingratiating and polite to a fault, it was as if the sincere articulation of personal phrases such as “thank you” and “I’m empathetic and sorry,” could wipe out the multiple stories of people who lost their homes under Dune Capital’s watch. Only when Mnuchin turned to the tasks of the job at hand—modernizing the outdated Internal Revenue technology and a willingness to track and monitor overseas investments which violate tax laws, did he seem a credible candidate. My verdict: Maybe, on some accounts ( no pun intended), given his expertize in technology and tax laws.

Like the challenge of weather, we need to develop  ways of tracking and resisting the complex machinations of Trump appointees and their effects. I’m grateful for this forum for grounding me like a port in the storm.

 

I Am Not The Enemy

Faye Snider,
circa 2013

Readers, I’m grateful for this blog, the freedom to write on this difficult subject. Since New Year’s, I’ve been pondering Trump’s New Year’s eve tweet, not quite believing that as president-elect, he wrote the following:

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!

The word “enemy” caught me. Does he believe I am one of his many enemies because I voted for Hillary? Are all Democrats, all who voted blue, his enemy?

The definition of “enemy,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is:

  • “one that is antagonistic to another; especially: one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”
  • “something harmful or deadly”
  • “a military adversary, a hostile unit or force.”

At first, I brushed it off— the words of a non-thinking man, a man who uses Twitter as a megaphone, in the moment, tweeting out whatever is on his mind. When I looked closer, I noticed that Trump, in fact, used the word “and” to separate his “many enemies” from “those who fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do.”

In reacting emotionally, I merged the words— enemy, fought, lost, and the final insult— “they just don’t know” ending with “LOVE.” Huh? LOVE?

Gratefully, I know to take a deep breath, slow down, pause, try to think it through. What was Trump thinking when he typed these words on New Year’s eve? In my opinion, he was not thinking. The man who will assume the executive office in just one week, lacks ‘executive function,’ the ability to regulate stimulus reactivity, to consider the effect of his words, to offer an appropriate response.

What I know is that I am NOT Trump’s enemy. I am, however, not his friend, either. I’m a citizen who voted for a woman I respected. I would like to respect Mr. Trump. But to do that, I need behavior that shows he is taking into account all those who did not vote for him. How do we get a man who is gleeful over rendering Democrats “helpless” to consider inclusion of the other and responsibility to all?

I watched the confirmation sessions with gratitude yesterday. Our country DOES have checks and balances. There are bold representatives and senators who are digging in, speaking out and doing the job of legislating best they can. Yesterday, I embraced a new heroine, a woman nearly my age, Diane Feldstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary committee, who on the second day of the Jeff Sessions hearing, took a day off for pacemaker surgery.

She surprised her colleagues by returning to the hearing the very next day to pick up,  without fanfare, where she left off—holding Mr. Sessions accountable for his behavior and questioning his intentions.

I am grateful to realize that all of us who lost the election are not alone. We are a unit, a voting block of 65,844,954 men and women, who, by speaking out and opposing thoughtless measures, can bring reasonable solutions and civility to our national life.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Solstice: Farewell to Obama

Potus@Press Conference
December, 2016

I watched and listened to our president’s press conference yesterday. For an hour and twenty-seven minutes (a record for him), he stood, often leaning on his elbow in that I’m only-talking- to-you stance. Barely hiding his fatigue, he laid out his thoughts, his regrets, his justifications, his strategies and not-so-subtle messages, to the president-elect.

I am/ have been/always will be grateful for president Obama’s dignity, intelligence, wit and compassion. Marv and I sat riveted— this press conference, after all, was reported to be his last. He was coherent and specific, detailed and ironic, witty and yes, sad, as he spoke of his term ending in 30 plus days. He noted, in particular, how sad he felt as he posed for a last picture with the U.S. Marine Military Band. His candor was refreshing; as president, he could not show tears in front of the Marines.

Obama is almost a decade younger than my own son, but now looks years older, the weight of so many decisions especially as he spoke of his legacy— what he faced when he entered the office, what accomplishments he leaves for his successor. I wondered if he felt dread the way I do, that all he has worked for, all he has achieved could be dismantled, brick by brick, by people with opposite values.

I came away oddly calm,  hopeful with the thought that this steady and steadfast man, once out of office, rested, settled in a new home, the mantel and obligation of the presidency behind him, might continue to lead, to offer his opinion and ideas for maintaining our democracy.

As Obama prepares to leave, we enter the week of December 19th, when two events— the Electoral College vote and the winter solstice, the day with the fewest daylight hours— converge. In my present location near Boston, Massachusetts, the winter solstice is on December 21st at 5:44 a.m. On December 22nd, the light, imperceptibly, will begin to shift. Six weeks out, those of us in the Northeast will note a difference by day’s end.

Unlike the gradual return of light over the next six months, I cannot predict the future regarding our president-elect or the effect of his new cabinet on our country. Post election, in a comment on Facebook’s Pantsuit Nation site, a woman wrote that she had been on a conference call with President Obama. Thanking the group for their tireless effort during Hillary’s campaign, he promised that after he and Michelle had a few weeks rest, he would re-engage. “I’m still fired up,” he said.

I am grateful for hope that those now in office who, to the core, honor and live out our democratic values, will continue to lead in whatever way they can. On this day, 24 hours before the Electoral College vote, 3 days before the winter solstice, I am grateful for the promise of evolving light through the next presidential season.