Happy New Year!!!

tumblr_mfwmcdeZV31qig4rjo1_500

5 Notable Events of 2014

20140302_152322IMG_20140613_233009garretday1

  • Kidling (and the family) got a new puppy.
  • I graduated with my BA!
  • Reunited with family!
  • Kidling entered 7th grade.

And the absolute most notable event of 2014 (drumroll, please) …

  • John was promoted to supervisor!

4 New Things I tried

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA10313447_10205287638897007_5289591964747803584_n10885150_10204507043889133_7054860930439139346_n

  • Dip-netting for crab in the Sound.
  • #exercisealifestyle (daily walks)
  • Sewing dolls!
  • Crocheting (not the lovely model — the scarf! I did that!)

3 Favorite Non-Fiction Books

                                     home_book_cvr 9780520271425 2278_reg

2 Favorite Fiction Series

                                                        100K2 (1) saga-vol1-web

And my absolute number one totally most favoritist part of the year …

Spending it with this guy:

10526001_10204503924224630_1432735985952319981_n

Advertisements

xmas eve

I started a rather long post last week that maunders on about the broken ways we talk about discrimination and privilege in our society. I plan on finishing it (it may be a multi-post effort), but it needs some revising and editing. I do have a tendency to go on and on. So instead I’m focusing on the holidays.

Today we’ll be spending the afternoon/evening with extended family, which I’m looking forward to. I’m trying out a new recipe for bienenstich cake, a German pastry. I made the sponge for the brioche on Sunday night. The recipe recommended letting it “ripen” for a day, so on Tuesday I added the rest of the components for the brioche dough and let it rise again. Then I put it in the fridge to firm up overnight and this morning I made the honey-almond glaze and set it up for the third rising.

I hope it turns out. I’ve never done a yeast-based cake before, and the recipe I’m using didn’t do a great job of translating European measurements to American measurements. I really wish we’d get on the metric system with the rest of the civilized world.

For gifts, I’ve gone with a dual approach: Far-flung recipients received candy shipped to them from the internet or Shutterfly photo gifts. Recipients within driving distance receive the (dubious) benefit of my crafty creativity, from hand-painted jars of cookie mix to homemade dolls to crocheted items.

20141224_085249

Hand-painted jars with cookie mix

A topsy-turvy doll in progress (Anna/ Elsa)

A topsy-turvy doll in progress (Anna/ Elsa)

A topsy-turvy doll in progress (Elsa/ Anna)

A topsy-turvy doll in progress (Elsa/ Anna)

A purple ninja doll.

A purple ninja doll

I don’t have pictures of the crocheted items to show, because I didn’t think to take pictures until gifts were half-wrapped. Anyway, obviously I’ve been pretty busy with painting and sewing and baking and whatnot, so I haven’t had quite as much time to write blog posts or even on my book. That said, I did write at least 500 words this week on my manuscript, so yay me?

I’m pretty stoked about Christmas this year. Well, honestly, every year. It doesn’t matter how many holiday seasons I see, I keep loving Christmas best. I found a recipe for these cookies my mom used to make around the holidays: Chocolate Mint Surprise Cookies. I’ve baked several batches of those, and I’ve also tried my hand at gingerbread cookies. I think next year I’m going to try a Yule Log.

Kidling wanted to do an Advent Calendar this year, but we forgot. I’m thinking next year, we’ll do an Advent Calendar and maybe figure out a way to incorporate some version of the Advent wreath. Although my family was not Catholic, we did an Advent wreath every year — I think my parents picked it up while in Germany. Each Sunday during December, we would gather ’round the family dinner table in the evening to light a candle on the Advent wreath. I think my mom or dad would also read the story from the Bible about Joseph and Mary traveling to Jerusalem, but I’m not 100% on that aspect. It seems to fit in with my family traditions — my parents were all about making sure Jesus was front and center in our holiday festivities and Santa was a backseat character. What I remember most, though, was the rice pudding served when we lit the Advent wreath. One of the bowls of rice pudding would have an almond hidden in it, and whoever received the almond got a little present.

I think we can probably do a version of the Advent wreath that acknowledges the Christian origin myths underpinning our personal family histories while also drawing in the overall religious/ solstice reasons we celebrate the holiday. I think that would be a good tradition to start/ continue in our family.

coming up on the end of the year

This has been an interesting month. John has been promoted, which means his schedule has been upended. This is good (more time with husband!) and bad (less time to write!). Luckily, the good more than outweighs the bad, and I have an amazing son and husband. They’ve done their best to create space for me to write.

In fact, my son and I agreed that on Sundays, we would turn off the tv and gaming systems and focus 100% on reading (him) and writing (me). This last Sunday, I wrote 2000 words. Today I wrote 3000, when my husband left the house for the entire morning to get some shopping done. They’ve both been incredibly considerate and helpful in doing what they can to help me reach my goal of writing and someday publishing a book.

John is helpful in other ways, too — a week or so ago, I was venting about how I’d lost the thread of my story and it had become a dystopian action adventure. I said I needed to backtrack about 25,000 words and start re-writing. He asked why, and I explained that about 25,000 words ago, I had taken a lazy shortcut and said something like,

It didn’t take long to settle into a routine, especially with such familiar work to do. Merci often griped that they weren’t allowed to go on patrol yet, but Bex was secretly relieved at the extra time it meant for research. She managed to wrap up two unsolved cases by the end of Harvest, much to Merci’s amusement.

Obvious shortcut is obvious. With three short sentences, I manage to skip past months of character development and world-building, and my entire plot suffered because of it. I’m not trying to write another futuristic dystopian sci-fi about a corrupt totalitarian government, but by taking that shortcut I ended up having to manufacture action and drama in order to try and flesh out the plot. It jumped from a sci-fi vision of a future with a functioning government worth defending to another generic no-hope post-apocalyptic fiction, all because I got lazy one afternoon.

So I was bemoaning the fact that I would have to backtrack by about 25k words and start over, when my husband made his brilliant suggestion. He said, “Why do you have to start over? Just go back and add in the character and plot development for that time frame, then use what you have for the conflict arc, then wrap it up. You don’t have to tank 25k just because it doesn’t work right now.”

It was perfect advice. Whether or not I end up trashing those 25k words of plot, my husband took the weight of making the decision at this point in the process off my shoulders. My daily writing counts skyrocketed after that — I was trailing down to about 1100 words a day when I was struggling with the realization that I’d lost the plot, but now that I have the story back to where I intended, I’m averaging about 2500 words per writing day. I’m feeling pretty stoked right now.

Aside from writing, life is going well. I’m still walking the dogs every morning and trying to get in regular every-other-day exercises (squats and push-ups). I’ve lost about 15 lbs since I started my #exercisealifestyle goal in September.

My sister in law has inspired me, too, and I’ve begun making homemade yogurt after she posted her results online. We both like canning and home food prep, so it’s pretty cool to follow her recipes and see what she’s trying. It gives me some new ideas. We went shopping together last week and I picked up some kefir grains so I can try that too — I’ve recently realized I’ve developed lactose intolerance as I’ve gotten older.

It’s cool, because I never really liked milk in the first place, but it does mean that I can’t eat cereal or drink milk with cookies/ cake when I wish to. That’s kind of annoying. Also, ice cream appears to be a bad idea. Mostly I’ve dealt with it by … not dealing with it. I and my family have been subjected to my intense gastrointestinal distress the rare times I do drink milk. Then I discovered kefir at the store, and when I realized it was essentially drinkable yogurt, I figured I could make it at home just like I can yogurt. I’m super excited to try this.

I signed up to volunteer at my sons school, too. I did it partly because I want to contribute to the school, and mostly because I felt bad that John is always surrounded by people. As an introvert, I get the necessity of quiet/downtime, and how even when other people are simply being in the same room (or house), there’s still a sense of … personal intrusion. Of expectation. Of needing to be “on” for other people. I get that you can love/ adore someone, and still need space away from them, time to mentally and emotionally recharge.

Recently, I realized that while Kidling and I both get quiet/downtime to mentally and emotionally recharge, John doesn’t. He gets up in the morning, and we’re both here. He goes to work, and is surrounded by his coworkers. He comes home, and both his wife and son are here. All day, every day, people surround him. There is no privacy, no sweet solitude. So I signed up for volunteering at the school to give him at least an hour a week of time alone.

The days are odd and jagged, stops and starts of busy quiet. I will have no plans for days on end, and then abruptly discover I have a full calendar of appointments and social activities. I often whittle away the hours on things like shopping, baking, and writing, and when the sun sets I wonder where the day has gone. I don’t feel particularly productive, yet an assessment of my activities composes a satisfying list of daily accomplishments. Or minutiae. I’m not entirely certain.

For example, today I vacuumed, washed/dried/ folded two loads of laundry, took out the trash, emptied the little box, walked both dogs, took a 2.5 mile walk with my husband, baked a batch of cookies, wrote 3k words, crocheted two rows on an infinity scarf, oversaw Kidling’s homework, and cooked schnitzel and spatzle for dinner. I also plan on making yogurt tonight.

So was this a waste of a day? Minutiae? Or were these necessary and useful activities? I often wonder where the line is. All these activities are rolled into the useful and bland title, of “homemaker,” which calls to mind anti-feminist stay at home moms enjoying leisure hours.

But these activities are also things that are outsourced or abandoned when I was working. When both John and I were employed full time, the daily chores slid. We often debated hiring a weekly housecleaner to handle the chore load while we worked 40+ hours/ week each. Neither of us created homemade meals, either — the closest we came to “homemade” were quickly heated freezer or deli items from Costco, like their pre-made frozen lasagna. Now, I make lasagna from scratch. It saves money and is healthier, but it takes an investment of time and know-how. There is a trade-off to be made.

When I worked full time, my writing and personal interests suffered. Rather than craft homemade gifts and spend time with my son, I came home and napped on the couch while my son played videogames. His homework suffered as both John and I were too distracted by the demands of work and household to maintain a regularly watchful parental eye to keep him on task.

So when I fill my day with these tasks, I am aware that the investment of my time, talent, and skills is saving our household money. I am aware that I am not, in fact, wasting time and filling out days with minutiae. I am aware that if I were to disappear or cease existing tomorrow, somehow that slack would have to be picked up. Perhaps my husband would hire a maid, perhaps he would find another partner. I know I am not useless. I just don’t really get that message from our culture.

In America in the 21st century, the middle-class stay-at-home parent is many things: A status symbol signaling financial stability; almost necessary to the smooth running of the household; a replacement for outsourcing cooking and cleaning. What the middle class stay at home parent is not is valued by our culture. Sure, certain conservative religious factions praise the stay-at-home mother for her fortitude and maternal nature, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not bemoaning a lack of benevolent sexism in the culture at large; I am bemoaning the fact that being a stay-at-home parent is still so often seen as (somehow) a cop-out, a lazy shortcut. I am bemoaning that it isn’t validated and financially reinforced through workers’ rights legislation, targeted tax rebates, and similar measures taken by other developed countries to support families and stay-at-home parents.

thoughts on police brutality

10429328_531032443666389_9193200306408015241_n

I recently read this article on Mic.com: The DOJ Just Released Its Cleveland Police Investigation. In case you weren’t aware, apparently the Department of Justice has been investigating nearly 600 use of force incidents which occurred in 2012 and 2013.

The author of the article, Gregory Krieg, selects 8 disturbing facts from the report and summarizes them. Sans summary, these are the facts he shared:

  1. Cleveland police officers consider themselves an “occupying force” and one station has a sign calling it a “forward operating base.” (as in an occupying military force)

  2. More than 100 patrol officers chased a single car through city streets speeds surpassing 100 mph for about 25 minutes.

  3. Officers twice “drive-stunned” a suspect they had on the ground in handcuffs. (that apparently means delivering the shock from the taser without actually firing the darts. The report found that drive-stunning was used to punish rather than subdue).

  4. An officer punched a handcuffed 13-year-old two times in the face.

  5. Officers routinely violated citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights and rarely offered an explanation.

  6. A sergeant shot at a recently escaped hostage who was wearing only boxer shorts; the boy had just escaped after being held captive by “armed assailants.”

  7. Officers shot a man with his hands in the air.

  8. “CPD officers hit people in the head with their guns in situations when the use of deadly force is not justified.”

The Department of Justice is also examining use of force incidents, practices, and policies in almost 20 other police departments nationwide, including our own Seattle Police Department due to ongoing complaints of police brutality. I know of several incidents in Seattle involving racially charged police brutality … the Seattle police are kind of locally notorious for their behavior, so I’m not surprised to hear they’re being investigated, as well.

Remember, all these investigations regarding police brutality were instigated long before the Ferguson outrage. The investigations started in 2013 because of hundreds of complaints per year and backlogged complaints over the previous years. The brutality has continued nationwide, even as police departments were actively being investigated. Ferguson is not an anomaly in terms of police brutality. It is the norm. Those riots could be happening in pretty much any precinct across the country right now.

Of course, the usual suspects on social media have responded, basically saying some variation of, “Not all cops are like this,” or, “Rioting isn’t the answer,” or “What are you doing to change the situation?

First off, the “not all X are like this,” is a stupid and reductive argument that I despise. It’s a pointless and obvious thing to say. Of course not all X are like whatever the current conversation is about. The sole reason for even making that statement is just to detract from the original discussion by starting a related argument about semantics and nuance.

Not all men are rapists. Not all feminists are misandrists. Not all misogynists are serial killers. Not all cops are racist bullies. Not all gun owners are irresponsible fuckwits. Thank you for stating the obvious. The normal, sane, non-discriminatory, responsible, nice people are not the problem under discussion. The issue under discussion is the crazies messing it up for everyone. I hate it when someone (myself or someone else) brings up a perfectly valid point, ie:

It is not the right of cops to be judge, jury, and executioner, and we need to stop bad cops from abusing their power,

and a disturbingly loud contingent of the population responds,

Cops are heroes! Not all cops abuse their power! How dare you! Don’t act guilty if you’re innocent! Cops are heroes!

And it’s just like … uh, thank you for completely fucking missing the point. We’re not having the same discussion here. Nuance exists. Here’s a mindblowing thought: It is possible for a police force to have both good, heroic, kind officers and cruel officers who abuse power and are violent. It is also possible for good, kind officers to turn a blind eye to cruelty and abuse of power because they fear repercussions to themselves or their families. We need to change the policies that allow abuses of power to perpetuate and give cops a bad name.

Second, that rioting isn’t the answer: Again, shut the fuck up. Don’t be a fuckwit. In one of my classes at Evergreen, we had this namby-pamby idiot hippie who was preaching love and peaceful response in one of our seminars. It was MLK day, and we were talking about the peaceful protests MLK promoted. You know what this quivering ballsack said? He said that MLK and his associates were no different from the Black Panthers and terrorists. He said that peaceful protests — counter sits and the bus boycott and whatnot — were still acts of aggression because they were a form of resistance and resistance is inherently aggression. Then he suggested that a truly peaceful way for MLK and his allies to change the world would be to plant a garden in their neighbors yard.

I shit you not. Plant a fucking garden. To end racism and discrimination.

Now you tell me, if your neighbor is a racist, homophobic, sexist fuckwit, you think having a queer woman of color going in to plant a garden in his yard is going to help matters? I don’t think so. I think the type of person who thinks another person is worth less because they happen to be queer or a woman or a person of color is the type of person who will get all aggressive and angry about trespassing on their property. I think that if civil rights activists tried to go onto their neighbor’s property and plant a garden, that would also be seen as an act of aggression.

I think that riots, protests, etc. are a natural response when a community or population is pushed too far. There’s only so far you can bend until you break. History is full of uprisings. When they are successful, it is called an uprising or a rebellion, and it is cast as heroic. When it is unsuccessful (or perpetuated by people of color), it is called a riot and is cast as overreaction.

When the colonists went and raided British ships in the Boston harbor to throw tea overboard, that was a riot. That was a minority population rising up and destroying the property of the ruling class. In our history books, we call it the, “Boston Tea Party,” and laud it as the spark that lit the flame of rebellion. It has become a mythical and heroic moment; the instigators brave men who were fighting for a brighter tomorrow. At the time, it was not so cut and dry. The individual characters of the participants included men who were not wholly perfect. Some had unsavory pasts.

So what if Michael Brown robbed a convenience store? Darren Wilson didn’t know that. Wilson just shot a guy who didn’t obey his orders. The robbery did not factor into Wilson’s response or decisions. Hypothetically speaking, even if Wilson had been aware of the robbery allegations, murder is not the correct response to that situation. First, there’s just no way to defend murdering someone in response to the theft of property. No material item is worth more than human life.

Second, that was not Wilson’s job. His job, as a police officer, is to detain the suspect. The suspect is then supposed to be tried and found guilty or not guilty in a court of law by our justice system — you know, lawyers, judges, juries, that lot? Then, upon being found guilty, a sentence is determined by the court. Not cops. Wilson skipped (at minimum) like three steps in that system. He went straight for shooting. Hell, he didn’t even shoot a suspect, so far as he knew. He just shot a guy on the street who didn’t immediately obey him.

10801589_906337026073823_1846203464216332406_n

Finally, what am I doing to stop police brutality? Well, that’s an interesting question there, and one of the reasons I think riots are starting to break out. Like many in America who have accepted the blatant reality of police brutality, I feel helpless in the face of it. Not threatened. I am a white woman, and the heart-aching reality is that I benefit from the safety of that racial privilege. And I treasure that safety. I would like that safety to be extended to all the people of color in our country.

Everyone should be able to feel safe walking down the streets in their neighborhood, regardless of the color of their skin. Every innocent individual should be able to feel comforted, or at least unmoved, by the sight of a police officer or cruiser. Not frightened, or trying to figure out how to come across as least threatening, or wondering if this is the day they die because they “looked threatening.”

But I don’t know how to change it. Police departments are not accountable to ordinary citizens. They should be, but they’re not. I can urge my elected leaders toward reform and changing legislation, but that’s a slow and ongoing process. It’s been ongoing for many years. Investigations have dragged and politicians have prevaricated, and the brutality has continued. Lives continue to pile up. In the face of political intransigence, is it any wonder that riots are beginning to break out?

What else do I do? I don’t know. I don’t live local to the places with rioting, so there aren’t protests or riots I can attend. The closest protests to me are in Seattle, which is still an hour away. So instead I post about it on social media. I discuss it online. I argue and debate and attempt to educate my fellow citizens about police brutality. I continue to write my legislators and agitate for police reform. I feel helpless and pointless, silent and useless in my empathetic pain.

As a civilian who does not have the ability to report on internal department training and work safety issues, I cannot effect change from within. How can civilians within the community change these situations? I don’t know. Obviously, contacting elected representatives and voting in politicians who favor reform is one step. But it’s a long and not always productive process, and sometimes it’s not enough to change things. So when you’ve worked within the systems allowed to you and nothing has changed, how do you call for reform then? I favor police reform, as do many. I fear that the protests and riots currently sweeping our country are a natural and even necessary response in the face of overwhelming silence for these calls for reform.

So what sort of reform do we want? Personally, I favor reform that includes strong citizen review boards comprised of community members; holding officers found guilty of unnecessary force criminally responsible for their actions; and incorporating policies (as well as legislation) that accounts for the role of unconscious bias and adrenalin in police responses.

I also favor reform that stops tying the funding and supply provisions of police departments to drug-related arrests. The war on drugs has been a HUGE player in the overall militarization of the civilian police force, and we need to enact legislation and policy changes that address this incredibly serious issue.

I am a fan of cameras on cops. I favor reform that enacts that, too, especially as preliminary studies and testing indicate it is beneficial for the the police and the community. Such cameras benefit the police by providing more context to the incident in dispute and appear to encourage better behavior and de-escalating tendencies in both the police and the community when use of them is properly implemented

Overall, I would like police in general to shift toward policies that are keyed to responding to and investigating crimes instead of trying to predict/ prevent. They’ve shown themselves woefully inadequate at predicting, preventing, and de-escalating situations, so it would be nice if they stopped trying and just focused on investigating crimes and catching actual criminals.