Sunday, May 19, 2024

One bite at a time (by the numbers)

The recommended method for eating an elephant, it turns out, is the best way to get other projects done.

I want to call 1000 people this election season, and I want to call them sooner rather than later, but making 20 calls at a time can be wearying in certain states (I get it, some swing states are getting a lot of calls, but all of those hang ups and wrong numbers can be a little disheartening). I cannot make 20 calls every few days, but I can make ten calls every week day. That's what I did last week, and now I'm up to 180 calls. Hell yes. 820 more to go, and I can do it.

I've averaged 1000 transcribed words of my saga every weekday. That was A LOT when I embarked on this in December, and because of numerous appointments in May, I missed a few days. I didn't panic--no one is tapping their foot waiting for me to finish this--but I happened to have some time on my hands yesterday, so even though it was a weekend, I transcribed a lot more than usual. And then this morning, even though it's still a weekend, I transcribed a little more. Which is all to say that the eight installment, Factor of Loss, is now transcribed (and commented to hell, high heavens, and back), and the whole saga--literally and figuratively--is up to 190,285 words. 

Did I mention that this means I'm halfway through the installments?

My note-taking, which had been staring at me for almost a year, finally began in earnest a few weeks ago, and now I have stack of note cards from regular sessions of reviewing notes and "making" five notes a day. It's gratifying to see the pile increasing, even as I'm learning some disturbing things, in no small part about myself. But that's a post for another time.

And finally, I had my annual physical this week. My doctor is very pleased with my progress. It was humbling to hear that many people who had my diagnosis of cancer aren't doing as well as I am two years out (in case I didn't mention it, I'm clean as a whistle--but don't throw the party for another three years). I credit this to my diet (you can insert everything you want to about relative privilege--you wouldn't be wrong, and that's infuriating). That seems to also be having an effect on other health metrics, particularly my cholesterol. (The fact that a long-time vegan and practically eternal vegetarian can have a cholesterol issue should be the only evidence you need that there is only so much you can control.) I've brought it down a lot with legumes, whole grains, produce, nuts, and negligible amounts of refined sugar and ultra-processed foods--but apparently I've still got a little bit of wiggle room.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'd like to be *done* with certain things so I can move on. But to what? Well, part of why I embarked on these journeys is to answer that question, and it's probably better that I take my time answering it.

Deb in the City

Friday, May 17, 2024

In real life

I had to dig deep for my 100 days of blogging experiment to *not* talk about the issue that has been weighing on me since September. There were, in fact, three or four posts that touched on the situation, but I had to unpublish them when things took a turn and I thought it would be prudent to not look too...human. 

Well, I guess now I can.

Long story short (that would be eight months into one paragraph): my mother broke her hip in early September, and my husband and I cared for my autistic, non-verbal adult sister for one month in their home nearby. It was not nearly as difficult as I always feared, but because I missed my own children, I didn't object when my mother wanted to come home. It was immediately evident that she wasn't able to care for herself, much less my sister, so, with two of my other sisters, we began pursuing guardianship. We tried to discuss it with my mother calmly, but it didn't matter. We began legal proceedings, and before my mother found out, she proved our point for us by nearly giving my sister medication that she doesn't need, which could have killed her. It was excruciating, but it was only a matter of time. The attorney my husband engaged did a fantastic job with a frustrating set of circumstances, and we were successful. 

Having spent most of my life being gaslit about my family, it was amazing to have a judge validate, um, reality. I didn't feel the proverbial weight lift off my shoulders, but I felt more optimistic than I have in a long time. Problems no longer required me to talk in circles; I still have a number of challenges I need to meet, but I now have the authority to meet them. And that is not nothing.

One of those challenges remains my mother. When she was served with legal notice, she was so angry with me that she made it clear she didn't want me to come to their home. When I did finally go back after the case had been settled, she told me how nice it was to see me. Based on conversations she's had with my sisters, I know she has no recollection of the matter, based on her manner with me as well as her conversations with one of my other sisters. And that is infuriating: a neurology nurse practitioner assessed her in November and could only come up with "mild cognitive impairment". I have no idea what the official definition of dementia is, but I do assume it includes forgetting conversations within minutes, and that's where we are now.

Where we are now, but not where we're going to stay. That is a promise.

Deb in the City

Friday, May 10, 2024

125 down, 875 more to go

Friday morning at 11 is my time to make get out the vote calls. If I want to make it to 1000, I need to add more sessions, but this is a good pace for now. 

I am one-eighth of the way to my goal. I think I'm going to make it.

Have you considered making any calls?

Deb in the City

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Please make it stop

Oh come on.

I literally groaned when I read this headline: "Michelle Yeoh to Lead Blade Runner Sequel Series at Prime Video" Why? Who are all of these people clambering for more Blade Runner? And the title: Blade Runner 2099. My husband chuckled and said that sounds like a title out of the 1970s. All I can think now is how Network was supposed to be, you know, a warning, not a roadmap, but here we are.

To be clear, while I've criticized the movie sequel for its sexism, that's not my gripe here. I'm just so over sequels and reboots. I don't even have to watch them to be done with them--I can't escape them if I ever want to turn on a screen. More concerning, the fact that they are taking up all of the funding means that original content just isn't being produced. I am so done on so many levels.

I encourage people again to listen to Foreverism, an installment of the Tech Won't Save Us podcast, but also have a think on who is being served by the *constant* retread of material that hasn't been original since some of us were in grade school.

Deb in the City

Monday, May 6, 2024

Boston's Blue Bottle stores are now unionized!

Most of the time I, like the majority of all bloggers in the world, keep a blog because I have things to say about things that affect me. Rarely, it's to make sure that something is memorialized because no one else is touching it.

Such is the case with Blue Bottle's Independent Union, and it's bizarre.

I talked about the work my daughter and her colleagues were doing to unionize last month here and here. I'm really proud of her because I think this is essential work, and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. It has been well known since I had jobs in food service (and most other parts of retail) that you can't afford to live off of that salary--excuse me, wages. The only way to survive--and that is literally how people put it--is to be in management. That is easier said than done in many businesses, and it's still a hustle, even if you can now afford your rent and your meals.

Once you don't have to live in that, it's quickly obvious how ridiculous that is. If food service--if retail--can't offer sustainable employment, then it is not a sustainable business, period. Asking for a livable wage is not unreasonable or unrealistic, especially when the product you're serving is premium priced. And the fact that people are starting to assert their rights to organized labor is a very big deal, and it should be a bigger story.

Last month the Blue Bottle stores in Boston filed their papers with the National Labor Relations Board, but in order to be fully unionized--i.e., they could begin negotiating with management--they needed to have an election, which they did last week. This wasn't a foregone conclusion, and up until the last minute the management was trying to dissuade employees from voting to unionize. Yes, they were successful, as the title of this post indicates, but *that wasn't a foregone conclusion*.

Why, then, when I did a search for the story just now, three days after the election, is there no news of it? Someone in my family suggested that the BBIU should have sent out a press release, but sorry, why isn't the press covering this on their own? This is an important story--no, it's an important VICTORY.

Well, to hell with the establishment media. If you're reading this, now you know. So go tell everyone, and celebrate with coffee from a union shop. There may not be that many now, but soon there will be.

Deb in the City

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Malice in so many combinations

A few years ago, I was leading a group at my synagogue that focused on food justice. It was really championed by a nationally renowned pediatrician who was also a member of our synagogue and started The Grow Clinic in Boston. That group's mission is to help children who suffer from "failure to thrive" due to malnourishment. While it has a food pantry, it also leads advocacy efforts and research.

My husband was similarly leading a (larger and more active) group focused on criminal justice. Because we talk a lot, he suggested to his group that they start focusing on the nexus between food insecurity and criminal justice. When I spoke to the pediatrician in question, she sent me loads of information, and it wasn't what I expected.

What I was expecting to read about was that suffering from food insecurity made you vulnerable to becoming involved in the criminal justice system. That isn't a difficult combination--the people who suffer from food insecurity are people who suffer from economic insecurity, and they tend to be the people who are over-policed and therefore more likely to be "caught". What I got instead were all kinds of research on the connection between having a parent or relative involved with the criminal justice system and suffering from food insecurity. The research also explored the problems that resulted both during and later in life, including not only physical health but mental health. It was mind-blowing, and in no small part because it explained a lot about my family of origin (but that is a story for another day). I felt like I was wading into murky waters before; now I realized that I was so far underneath it I couldn't see daylight. 

That is how I felt when I came across this report on school hardening by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Wow--wow. Here I had thought that the evil connection between guns, racism, and sexism was to be found in the increased vulnerabilities of Black women to dying during or shortly after pregnancy at the hands of an intimate partner using a gun, but these are the poisonous mixtures that just keep on giving. To read this report, you can see that *another* effect is that as schools respond to gun violence with "hardening"--metal detectors, security surveillance, and on-site security guards--it is Black girls who are suffering the most, being not only over-policed (you knew that, right?) but also sexually harassed (yeah, you knew that, too).

Why was I so naive to think there was only one truly awful manifestation that acted against the most vulnerable among us? Am I just that linear? Have I not listened to my Black friends enough to understand the multitude of ways our country is a land mine for them?

Again, we are past "having a serious discussion" or "exploring the problem". We are also past pseudo-incrementalist, half-assed measures like installing security cameras in schools or anywhere else that is subject to mass-violence. (And no, arming *teachers* or sales clerks is not a solution, either.) We need to control the distribution and sales of guns, period. We need to not allow people to assemble arsenals in their homes. We need to be less interested in "the freedom" of people "exercising their Second Amendment rights" and more interested in the people suffering from that exercise. 

I'm making 1000 phone calls to get people to the polls this election season. It's important for a lot of reasons, and this is one of them. Please go vote this year, please vote for the person most likely to push through gun reform, and please tell the people in office now that this is what you want. This isn't just a matter of democracy, this is a matter of life and death. 

Don't worry, we'll still have a lot of work to do on racism and sexism, but at least it will be (a touch) less deadly.

Deb in the City

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Did I mention that I'm up to 104 calls?

I don't have to blog on the weekends, but I can if I want to.

This week has been go, go, go, and it doesn't let up just yet. But I carved out time for what's becoming my Friday routine and made 20 more phone calls, this time into Nebraska. 

While one person did swear at me (which I didn't take personally and won't deter me--we're talking about democracy), over all people in Nebraska are pretty nice. Hope I get to call them again before their primary on May 14.

896 more to go, but I feel like I should give myself a little celebration now anyway. 

Deb in the City