With gratitude

 

This year more than any other continually challenged me to remember all that I have. On this day of giving thanks, I share the following entries from my mental gratitude journal.

Friends who feel like family. Near and far, I love you.

Everyone who helped (whether I asked for it or not) get me through two bad and unlucky injuries; three months in a wheelchair would have been horribly lonely not to mention on the edge of impossible without you.

Friends and family who encourage my writing, get my jokes, and listen patiently when I say,“last night, I had this dream..”

Hugs from my boys, growing into curious, caring, open-minded young men who still like to spend time together —and often with me too. (Though the younger one is pushing it with his insistence that the world looked like a black and white film way back when I was born.)

The honor of witnessing the union of Rachel and Sandra and seeing the looks on their kids faces as the deal was sealed.

My Latvian grandparents —dead more than 20 years— who rejected fascism and escaped tyranny en route to gaining passage to this great nation. (I’ve been wearing my grandmother’s ring as a reminder.)

Shelter. Creativity. Resources. Health insurance. Good skin. Wine. Fall foliage. Books. Yoga. Cats.

And while I’m at it, freedom of the press. Freedom of speech. Freedom to make my own health decision. The right to vote. A passport that can get me nearly everywhere.

The list goes on, but my pie needs to come out of the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Goodbye, Facebook

I first signed up for Facebook in 2008 shortly after returning home from my 20-year high school reunion. At the time, I was emotionally transitioning out of my job in the U.S. Senate. Facebook represented a fun and easy way to remain in touch both with old friends from high school I didn’t call or email regularly and colleagues whose daily presence I wanted to keep in my life.

Then my family got on Facebook. After a brief period of not putting my kids’ cute faces on the internet, I embraced the convenience of posting their photos and the funny things they say so my siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins can keep up with their lives. All without my having to write a single letter or schedule a time to talk on the phone.

Like most users, my roster of “friends” ebbs and flows. Occasionally, I unfriend (thanks, Mark Zuckerberg, for adding this vocabulary word to the English lexicon) people who I don’t think would recognize me if we collided with hot coffee. But then I meet a new person, enjoy our brief conversation and five hours later, Facebook deems us official friends. The world feels brighter. Smaller. More accessible.

Facebook has been great for distributing my writing. (Shameless plug: you can sign up to get blog posts delivered to your inbox.) Facebook connected me to Latvian cousins living in Canada. Facebook makes it possible to ‘chat’ with friends abroad. But Facebook is no longer just a quick sharing of our current condition. I miss the days of status updates in the third person. Remember? Chelsea Henderson is listening to Hamilton. The Facebook of today is perfectly filtered and cropped photos of kids, meals, pets, projects, outfits, and sunsets. Facebook knows when we’re celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, changing jobs, drinking wine, entering or leaving relationships, having babies. Facebook is who we tell when we’re on vacation. With our humble brags, we invite a constant invasion of our privacy.

Facebook gave me a false sense of closeness while enabling me to drift farther apart from my core.

And over the last month, we’ve used the site to engage in new level of political debate, which is healthy. I don’t think it’s good to shroud yourself around only those who think exactly like you. So I sucked it up when people I don’t know wrote hate-filled comments on my public posts. (By the way, I’m what’s wrong with America.) I resisted the urge to write my own frothy responses because hate begets hate. But then news of the pervasiveness of fake news shared and re-shared on the site sent me over the edge.

I need a break.

Goodbye, Facebook. I’m taking a hiatus from now until the end of the year, at which time I will reassess. In the meantime, I vow to call friends and family more. I might write a letter. I look forward to filling up time usually sucked away by Facebook with reading, sleeping, writing, and preparing wonderful foods that I’m sorry you won’t see pictures of unless you come over to share a bite.

I look forward to this journey and encourage you: post less, connect more.

 

 

What next?

Dear President-elect Trump:

You will be our nation’s next president. With your victory, you baffled pollsters, emboldened supporters and left half the nation in shock. I promised my kids that if you won, I’d model the good sportsmanship I instilled in them. So I will not claim the election was rigged. I won’t demand recounts. I won’t suggest the Russians hacked voting machines and delivered this election to their horse.

But I will work with every breath I have to fight  the divisive and hateful policies that underscored your campaign. I will work with every ounce of energy I can to continue to fight for the causes I believe in, especially those you mock. This victory is not a mandate. It reveals huge cracks in our society; it’s now in your purview to oversee the mending. You won. Now you have to lead.

I know you think you can do it all on your own, but let me offer a few suggestions.

Stop the hateful rhetoric. You’ve insulted blacks, hispanics, muslims, gays, the disabled, and women. (Note: sorry if I left anyone out.) You won this election on the backs of white uneducated men, fanning racist and xenophobic flames in the process. Stop. You weren’t elected president of old white men. You represent us all now. Act presidential. Set the tone and the example.

Stop investigating Secretary Clinton. Over the last 25 years, Congress has already wasted an estimated $500 million taxpayers dollars investigating her. Don’t be a sore winner. Do not follow through on your campaign promise to “lock her up.” Treat her with dignity. Call Congress off her tail. Treat her with dignity.

Retire the word tremendously from your lexicon. You claim to be a man of many, many words. Use them. Amaze us with your eloquence. Inspire us. I challenge you.

Take a crash course in civics. It’s just off putting to have a president who doesn’t know how many articles are in the Constitution and who might not even be sure how bills are passed. Americans clearly said they want an outsider, but it’s actually kind of useful to have a basic understanding of how things work around here. You don’t get to rewrite the rule book. Not without help. Three branches, checks and balances and all. (Thank you founding fathers.)

Yes, I’m tired. I’m sad. And I am fearful of what kind of president you will be. As you measure drapes and plan your inaugural speech, I hope you learn to accept criticism, learn that a president doesn’t have to appeal to all the people, and you don’t have to lash insults at those who don’t embrace you. What’s great about America is we don’t have to like our leaders. We can speak out against them and advocate for alternatives to their policies.

I wish you luck. Our futures depend upon your success.