Election Connection: Voter Suppression

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Across this country, at least 43 states have over 250 laws proposed by Republicans to limit voting access (source: ACLU mailing), and these predominantly negatively affect minorities and lower income voters.

One of these bills that recently became law in Georgia is SB202, and when asked in Congressional committee about what it does, Stacey Abrams was cut off by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), so she released a video on Twitter that explained it.

We cannot rest while Republicans continue to keep eligible voters from casting their ballots. Voting is a right and should be accessible to all eligible voters.

Follow Democracy Docket for more legal challenges to these proposals and laws as well as Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight.

The below video of Stacey Abrams is a good example of the preconceived notions and misinformation that GOP lawmakers accept even when experts in voter suppression are willing to explain the situation to them. They just don’t accept it, and are willing to dismiss the voting rights of people unlike themselves (ie. middle class white men).

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World Press Freedom Day

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On this World Press Freedom Day, I’d like to share with you three links:

UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day Commemoration and Activities

The Committee to Protect Journalists Website

ACLU: Freedom of the Press

I’d also encourage you to familarize yourself with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which holds the freedom of the press as one of the most important tenets of our democratic beliefs.

Mental Health Monday – Mental Health Awareness

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we’re kicking it off with the first of a series of Mental Health Mondays.

Mental Health isn’t simply an awareness tool for those with mental illness or issues, but for all of us. We all have mental health, and we consistently ignore it, and as we’ve found during this last pandemic year, ignoring our mental health isn’t good for our…mental health. Or our physical health for that matter.

Right before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety I was having knee problems. I went once a week (it should have been three times a week, but I couldn’t afford that even with “good” insurance) for physical therapy, and it did help a little bit, but it was really the action of going to the physical therapy building and having the schedule more than doing the exercises. I’m sure the exercises helped my knee, but the schedule of the appointment helped just as much. Once I began talk therapy, medication, and discovering my own self-help tools, my knee pain virtually disappeared.

I’m not suggesting that taking care of your mental health is all on your shoulders. I could not have come out on the other side without medication and therapy. Depression and anxiety (and a host of other mental health issues that I’m not qualified to speak on) are almost all chemical imbalance, and oftentimes, regardless of what some may insist, the only option is medication. And that’s okay. I take medicine for my diabetes and my high blood pressure. No one would suggest not taking it and just “relaxing” and/or “cheering up.” That’s not how recovery works.

And everything that’s working for me now may not work in the future. Being self-aware is important to know when to ask for changes, whether it’s for more therapy in the week or month or a change in medication. Schedule changes, eating habits, stress – all of these can contribute to changes in your mental health and may necessitate changes in your treatment.

For this first week of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would suggest sitting down with yourself in a quiet space and reflecting on what your feelings lately are. Take the time to sit with it and see if things are better or worse than they were a few weeks or months ago. It’s also important to accept that there may be temporary changes that will go away, especially if those changes developed during and because of the pandemic and the lockdowns. In your isolation, what worked for you? If you continued working, how did that effect you? Do you have needs that need addressing?

A really useful graphic appears below (with attribution). Read through it and ask yourself the questions that apply. Think about the suggestions, and seek out a professional for help. I am not a professional; I can only share what I’ve done, and what has worked and not worked for me. It may not seem it but our mental health is a community effort. As I heard on a retreat last week: Take what you need; leave the rest.

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How Fully Immunized Feels

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It’s been an entire week (and one day) since I’ve been fully immunized. Two and Two. (That’s two doses followed by two weeks for maximum protection.) I know that we’re still waiting for a determination as to whether we’ll need a booster shot or if that potential booster shot would be yearly but that’s for Future Me to worry about.

The question for Present Me is: How do I feel?

After the initial bout of second dose side effects that went away after almost three days, I’m fine. No aches, no pains, no fevers; back to my normal.

More importantly, I’m relieved and that relief is palpable. I’m down to regular levels of stress and anxiety and that in itself is a relief.

There’s a lightness in the air that wasn’t there a few weeks ago. It’s like the weight of the world was lifted off of our collective shoulders. I see it wherever I look. More people in the stores, the restaurants, and on the roads. (Honestly, I didn’t miss the traffic. At all.) People are more apt to talk and smile behind their masks rather than be hesitant and step away. At least in the places I’ve been there’s a feeling of we’re all in this together.

My writing group is getting back together – still outdoors, but most of us are now fully vaccinated. My retreat house is doing hybrid retreats with some attending in-house and some over Zoom. I’ve done both, and while I love Zoom and will continue to attend over Zoom, I miss the atmosphere of the retreat house that I really can’t get at home with a house full of people (even when those people are being relatively cooperative). I go to church in person at least once a week and I’m thinking about returning on Sundays.

We’re talking about hugging friends again.

We’re talking about visiting family.

My husband went out Friday night for a work dinner and Sunday morning went for his first dose of the vaccine.

My son is planning on seeing Black Widow in the movie theatre. I’m still a little hesitant, but by July I may feel differently, and in five weeks he’ll be fully vaccinated.

I don’t know, however, how I feel about a return to what was considered “normal”. I don’t know if I want to go back to what was routine a little more than a year ago. While my calendar is filling up again, I’m thinking twice about what I want to spend my time on and I’m starting to say no to some things.

I also noticed that throughout the pandemic, my children’s principal (at the high school) emailed us (all parents) a minimum of once a week to keep us up to date and updated on what was going on at the high school with not only covid-related notices, but regular school information. This would have never happened without the pandemic. At the high school level, you don’t hear from the teachers or principal unless there’s a problem. I found this communication to be a positive and welcome practice, and I respect and appreciate the extra time that it takes for the principal to maintain this level of involvement with parents in addition to their regular duties.

I would never say that this has been a blessing – it hasn’t, and for the majority of the country, it hasn’t in tragic and profound ways – but we’ve been very blessed and I recognize the privilege we have with my husband working from home and my younger children being able to continue school at home with a minimum of change. We’ve spent more time together, watched streaming movies, went on drives, cooked more, and have been well overall.

As a first responder and frontline health care worker respectively, my oldest son and his girlfriend never stopped working and were the first in our family to receive the vaccine. For any parent, their children’s health and safety comes before their own, and I was relieved when they were one of the first in our state to be eligible.

What I want to do now is remember and not dismiss the tragedy of the past year but also take from it the positives that we’ve encountered and move forward with intention.

World Book Day

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On this World Book Day, I’d thought I’d share my favorite books.

The Magic Tunnel by Caroline D. Emerson was my very favorite book as a child. I still have it although the book jacket is almost long gone. It takes place in New York City and the main characters, children about my own age at the time took the subway and ended up somehow in New Amsterdam. It was a combination of my favorite things: time travel, history, and being that I lived in NYC it seemed plausible to my child mind.

Maybe one day I would get on the subway and end up somewhere far away and long ago.

My second favorite book came to me as an adult while working at Waldenbook’s. It was the cover illustration that caught my eye, and of course the title: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.

Like The Magic Tunnel this was also historical fiction, no time travel though; this time taking place in Medieval Wales during the time of Llywelyn Fawr, the Prince of Wales. It set my on a path of learning Welsh history and discovering myself. I was enthralled with the story and even more enchanted by the author’s note that revealed how much of the fictional account had actually happened, including burning mattresses, adulterer’s murdered, and in the third book a kidnapping by pirates! Not to mention the release of Llywelyn’s son from the King’s custody as spelled out in the Magna Carta no less.

Everything you could ask for in a book!

The most recent books I’ve read (out of about eighteen for the year so far), and all that I would recommend include:

Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker,

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho,

When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, and

Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat by Michael Giorgione.

National (UK) Tea Day

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I never miss an opportunity to celebrate the glorious nature of tea. Below is a selection of the variety of United Kingdom teas in my collection. Not pictured is a Scottish afternoon tea, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, and others that I’ve tried and liked.

One of my perennial go-to’s at Starbucks is a London Fog, which is made with classic Earl Grey with steamed milk and hints of lavender, vanilla, and Italian bergamot which lends a citrusy element.

There is no bad time to enjoy a cup of hot British tea.

UK Tea for National (UK) Tea Day.
(c)2021

Friday Food. Nostalgia.

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How many times do you smell something cooking or take that first bite of something and you’re transported back in time to a special occasion or your childhood, Grandma’s house or getting a quick bite before a doctor’s appointment?

Whenever we have baked sweet potatoes, pools of melted butter mixing in with the soft, sweet flesh I always think back to when I was sick. I was sitting up in my parents’ bed and on my lap was a plate with a hot sweet potato, butter melting as I mashed it in the skin with a fork. It is the best tasting thing in the world, and it makes me feel calm and better.

Speaking of food when you’re sick, chicken noodle soup is known by some as Jewish penicillin and the ingredients blend together to make the common cold disappear or at least wave away the symptoms so sleep will come.

Chicken Noodle Soup.
(c)2021

Other of my comfort food favorites include:

The perfect grilled cheese. Two to three slices of cheese depending on their thickness. Instead of buttering the bread, I put the butter in the pan as if I was doing French toast. Before flipping, I add more butter. I cover the sandwich with a pan lid until the cheese is perfectly melty. I have also used ghee instead of butter, and this is an excellent substitute.

Perfect Grilled Cheese.
(c)2021

Matzo ball soup. I use a box mix, which says to simmer for twenty minutes. I let it simmer for an hour, at least, sometimes longer. After the first half an hour, I’ll add baby carrots (fresh or frozen), some chives, and leave it until dinner time. Delicious.

Matzo Ball Soup.
(c)2021

Macaroni and Cheese. Kraft. The blue box. (The 7oz. one.) I use butter and not margarine and add milk for creaminess. I could eat this all day, every day, and I am the only one in my house who makes it right. (That’s not me saying it; that’s the rest of them.)

Macaroni and Cheese.
(c)2021

Fruit and Sour Cream. I don’t know when in childhood I started eating this, but it is delicious, and healthy, and comfort food at its best. I cut fresh fruit into pieces and put in a bowl, add sour cream, and that’s it! No sugar, no granola, no nothing; just fruit and sour cream. My favorite fruits to use are: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches. It can be all or some, but the bananas are a must. (I have no idea why!)

Fresh Fruit with Sour Cream.
(c)2021