• thanksgiving in the sun

    This year, I held off planning our Thanksgiving dinner until the last minute. I knew Leryann and William would be joining us, and my older son said that he and his housemates would be coming, but still, so much was up in the air, what with my bakery work load, the spiking pandemic, and the big X-factor: the weather. If it was cold, rainy, and windy, then we’d probably have to pick a different day or else nix the company idea altogether (unless we opted to throw the windows wide and wear masks in the house which didn’t strike me as very much fun). 

    And so I waited. 

    But then the forecast said it was supposed to be 65 and sunny (!!!), my days at the bakery weren’t as long as I’d feared, and nobody in our bubble got smote (smited?) by Covid. 

    So Tuesday morning I pulled the turkey from the freezer to thaw and emailed my parents to see if they wanted to join us, too. Wednesday afternoon when I got home from work, my younger son proudly showed me the sweet potato pie he’d made from scratch — pie crust and filling — for the feast.

    And that evening I made the stuffing and a double batch of ludicrous mashed potatoes and started giving some serious thought to the pies.

    Thursday morning, I emailed the crew with final plans. We’ll eat around two, I said. Dessert will be around five. We’ll be outside all day, so dress accordingly. 

    All that morning I steamed around the kitchen baking pies, roasting turkey, and making gravy and cranberry sauce. The rest of the family worked outside, raking and mowing, scrubbing the porch, and washing windows. Once everything was ship-shape, I fluffed the porch, aka the living room, hauling out the house plants and a couple soft easy chairs, and tossing throw pillows and old (clean) blankets about.

    with a tutorial, carving goes much more smoothly
    notice the tray, because a regular plate wasn’t big enough

    All that afternoon and evening, we lounged around, eating ourselves silly, drinking coffee, visiting, and playing corn hole.

    At dusk, the twinkle lights clicked on and I dug out a couple candles. My younger son built a small bonfire and we toasted our toes (my shins were still marbled red the following morning) and told stories. 

    Then, tummies full and clothes smoky, everyone split for home. The kids dismantled the outdoor living room, my husband finished washing up the dishes, and I filled my biggest soup pot with the turkey caress and vegetables, topped it off with water, and set it to simmer on the stove for the annual big-batch of turkey broth, the end.

    This same time, years previous: 2019 garden stats and notes, the day before, kale pomegranate salad, monster cookies, Thanksgiving of 2011, pumpkin pie.

  • how we homeschool: Jen from Oregon

    When I first happened upon Jen on Facebook, I immediately developed a fangirl crush. She’s salty, whip-smart, and really, really funny. That she homeschooled, too, was just icing on the cake. When I decided to do this series, she was one of the first people I approached, and, fortunately for all of us, she said yes!

    Hello, Jen! Tell us about your family!
    My husband David and I have two kids. Verona (10) is super social and loves writing and fashion designing when she’s not being the maker of jokes and life of the party. Finnegan (9) loves video games (specifically programming and designing them) and architecture. David is an engineer in the tech industry, doing all the fancy stuff with big words that boils down to “he’s part of the reason computers and phones and anything with a microchip works,” and I have a handful of small internet business I can do from the computer.

    Why did you decide to homeschool?
    We started talking about homeschooling when Verona was still a baby, mostly because we’d both had decent experiences in school but were very aware that, educationally speaking, it was definitely not set up for us and even if we enjoyed it we would have benefited a lot more from a wildly different educational system. We wanted that for our kids. 

    Wait. What do you mean by “it [school] was definitely not set up for us”?
    Both of us (David and I) are smart but neither of us fell into the traditional learning styles or educational time frame that most schools use. For example, I was gifted in a lot of ways in elementary school and a very very “late” reader. I think that an environment that encourages the growth of things you’re really good at, while slowly working on the things you’re not, is a much more efficient way of educating. One can “do well in school” (for the most part, we both breezed through high school, bored) without those hours spent in a chair in a classroom actually being all that beneficial.

    So how old were you when you learned to read?
    About 10. I went to an amazing school full of amazing teachers who had the freedom to use a lot of out-of-the-box kinds of methods and one-on-one instruction and all that, but my brain just wasn’t ready. Until the summer between two of the grades, when it just clicked. By fifth or sixth grade I was at an upper high school reading level. 

    Some of our brains are too busy doing other things for a bit, so we gotta wait til there’s an open space to put something new, like reading. 🙂

    So as you were saying: you were thinking about homeschooling….
    Yes, and the older the kids got (read: the closer they got to going to school) it became obvious how ridiculous it would be to stop all the amazing learning that was already happening so they could go sit in a desk and do worksheets. Verona was already reading by then, and it made my eyes roll knowing how that would affect her in an overcrowded and understaffed classroom, especially where test scores are paramount and kids who are “ahead” often get ignored in favor of getting everyone else up to par. I used to joke that we couldn’t send them to school because it would take away from all their time to learn.

    How do they learn?  
    Usually we have a few books going and topics that people are interested in, so in the mornings when everyone gets up and about (10ish usually, we’re not early risers), I’ll make breakfast and then while we eat, we’ll read and talk and do whatever other “schooly” stuff I had planned. Usually this means we listen to a piece of music and discuss it, and sometimes we’ll read a short passage, or work on a poem we’re memorizing. I’ll read aloud while everyone eats, and then once breakfast is over, we’ll do anything from busting out the art stuff to Minecraft projects to more reading to watching an (at least moderately) educational something… whatever. 

    Afternoons are kept open for anything we’re doing out in the world. One day a week we participate in a small, child-led co-op. One day we have a standing date for coffee with some really awesome old ladies who tell great stories and have wisdom I can only dream of. Other days we meet friends at the park or go to a museum, or maybe somebody has a class that they wanted to do, or someone wants to go down to the river to explore or fish. 

    On days that we don’t have anything else planned, Finn’s favorite favorite thing is going to one of the coffee shops or brunch places right by our house with card or board games and hang out all afternoon playing together. We all get drinks and share a big plate of fries. The waitress is so used to seeing us in there she worries about us if we’re gone for a week or two.

    As the kids have gotten older, how has homeschooling changed?
    The only thing that has changed is the amount of things the kids plan on their own. When they were younger there was lots of me saying, “Here’s a couple things we can do today, what sounds wonderful?” and as they’ve gotten older there’s a lot more of them being like, “Ok, today I want to finish working on X, Y, and maybe learn something about Z” and me just helping them find resources and being around in case they need help.

    Is it hard to balance your own interests with those of your children?
    I haven’t found that to be too difficult, mostly because we’re so relaxed in our homeschooling — we just all work with each other to get what we all need to get done, done. I also am a pretty big extrovert and thrive off the 100,000,000 “but why?”s of children, so once they got past being really little, I didn’t ever really have to deal with getting enough “alone time” like a lot of moms talk about.

    So what are the challenges?
    I think one of the major challenges is just the fact that we’re doing something new, we’re doing something different. There’s always risk with that. If kids in school graduate without knowing certain things, nobody bats an eye, but if a homeschooled kid can’t answer a relative’s unasked-for pop quiz at Thanksgiving dinner, suddenly people get very concerned about “the kind of education they’re getting.” Especially when you’re further on the unschooling or eclectic side, it feels really hard to talk to people about what we do because in order for them to even begin to understand, I feel like I need to completely reframe the entire way they think about family, education, the way the brain works, etc.

    What have you learned from homeschooling?
    Homeschooling completely reframed the way I thought about my own education. I used to think I’d be in college forever, just because I liked learning. But now I’ve figured out how to do that without college. Really digging into how people learn, and understanding that college isn’t always necessary (though it is sometimes helpful), has given me the tools and courage to attack my own education in new and amazing ways, even when my schedule/life/financial situation made it impossible for me to be taking any actual college classes. As a result, I no longer feel the need to formally take classes in order to feel like I’m learning.

    Homeschooling has also totally changed the way I view children and how they learn. We were part of a distance learning charter for a while: they let us homeschool however we wanted, and they gave us funds for books, supplies, and classes, but one of the catches was that the kids had to do some regular testing to make sure they were “on target.” Once I started seeing how my children were scoring at the same level as their publicly schooled peers even though they’d never had a formal math lesson in their entire lives, I realized how much of children’s learning is in spite of school. Not because of it.

    Where do you get your support? 
    I am lucky to live in a city (Portland, Oregon) with lots of very relaxed homeschoolers and unschoolers (and all the activities that go along with that). Being able to get together frequently with so many other relaxed home — or un — schoolers has given me a ton of support and inspiration for the kinds of things we do, and is a wonderful blessing for the kids.

    What are Oregon’s requirements for homeschoolers? 
    You have to register and test a handful of times over the course of the kids’ childhoods. I don’t have to have anything approved or have someone looking over my curriculum or anything. Just, a handful of tests across grade school.

    Any good resources to share?
    I use several blogs and a lot of pinterest to find ideas, and I draw a lot of book ideas from the Wildwood Curriculum, which is a secular Charlotte Mason curriculum that’s available for free online.

    Do you have a homeschool philosophy?
    Our homeschooling philosophy is that wonderful and engaging time together does a lot more for education than things like worksheets. We’re very unschooly, but the unschooling world can get weirdly cliquey so I usually describe us as eclectic instead, and with a healthy dose of Charlotte Mason because that has worked well for our family and everyone has loved it, and a lot of Gameschooling. 

    My philosophy has evolved as I realized more and more than even “have no rules” is sometimes a rule, and we can do what best works for us without worrying that it’s enough this, that, or the other thing for anyone else. We’re never going to be schooly enough for a lot of people, we’re never going to be unschooly enough for hardcore purists, and that’s fine. We don’t need to be.

    Any advice for people who might be considering homeschooling?
    Make sure you don’t skip the deschooling process. Even if you plan to move towards a more structured schooling setup, you, as the parent, probably need that deschooling time more than your kid does, just to unlearn and relearn how learning happens. That, and don’t feel a need to keep up with public schools. Until they start showing real evidence that they’re doing it right, they don’t need to be your measuring stick.

    I said what I said. 


    Thank you so much, Jen! It’s a treat to have this little peep into your world!

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.25.19), apple crumb pie, in my kitchen: 7:35 a.m., the quotidian (11.25.13), a Thanksgiving walk, steel-cut oatmeal.

  • pie!

    A few weeks back, the Magpie Powers That Be asked if I’d be willing to take over the pie-making part of the bakery. I said yes, of course.

    I love pie. 

    Turns out, making pies at home is one thing. It’s another entirely to make them in bulk in huge ovens. It’s not nearly as easy or straightforward as one might think. 

    prepping for Thanksgiving orders

    First, the kind of pie. At home, I bake fruit pies year round — sour cherry, rhubarb, grape, berry — because I have all those fruit, fruits we picked in season and squirreled away in the freezer. But for the diner, I don’t have a freezer full of prepped, in-its-prime fruit to pull from. Plus, I have to think about things like shelf-life, fridge space, and customer preference. 

    All this means I’ve been experimenting with lots and lots of pies. (Thank goodness Magpie lets me take home rolled crusts — at the bakery, we use the sheeter to roll them out — for my test bakes!) I make a bunch and then run a plateful of samples over to my parents for them to taste test. The bum pies that no one wants go to my brother’s family because they say they want them. 

    A sampling of my fails…

    Black Bottom Oatmeal: tastes like Ellie’s food bin, my daughter said.
    Salted Caramel Apple: made with a fabulous homemade caramel sauce that, once baked, could not be detected, so — why bother?
    Apple Sweet Potato: nah.
    Spiced Shoofly: too dry, and the spices didn’t add anything.
    Another variation on Shoofly: didn’t like the dry top.
    Bourbon Pear Crumble: Bland and too sweet.
    Assorted fruit pies, assorted crumb toppings, etc.

    fail: black bottom oatmeal
    fail: salted caramel apple
    fail: sweet potato and apple
    fail: shoofly

    My mother says I’m getting too picky. I disagree. Rather, I say I’m becoming acutely discerning. (Recently scrolling through a NY Times pie montage touting “pies that taste as good as they look,” I was horrified: gelatinous fillings, blatantly imbalanced flavor combos, and scandalously soggy bottoms. What, oh what, is this world coming to?)

    Second, the baking. Even set at 400/425 (the ceiling/floor temps) and baking the pies directly on the floor of the oven, it takes the pies longer to bake than in my home oven. They don’t burn, which is nice, but it takes forever. 

    Because the pies start out on the floor of the oven (for proper brownage), they have to be transferred to baking sheets part way through when they start bubbling over (and it works best to start them on the floor of the oven so the bottom crust gets sufficiently browned). Also, when parbaking (or straight baking) them on the floor of the oven, the pies have to be placed at the front of the oven so they’re accessible — this means, only about six pies at a time and all that wasted space and heat at the back.

    Maybe there’s a sturdy thin metal peel that we could use to get pies all the way to the back? On the other hand, heavy glass-pan pies and floppy aluminum-pan pies are pretty tricky to manage… 

    To parbake a crust, I line it with foil, fill the pan with dried beans to weight it down, and bake it for about 25 minutes. Then I remove the foil full of beans and return the crusts to the oven for another 10 minutes or so. Sometimes the crust, freed of its bean weights, bubbles wildly, even rising up above the pan rim. Other times, the crust doesn’t bubble even a little.

    There is no rhyme or reason, best I can tell, so when it bubbles high, I just press it back down and go about my life. 

    Third, the pans. My mother had always told me that glass pie pans were the only way to go — how else to see the underside to make sure it was sufficiently browned? And most all the aluminum-panned pies I ever saw did look colorless and soggy. So my whole life I believed her.

    almond cream pear

    But for the bakery, we needed to figure out how to make pies in those dreaded aluminum pans. So I started working on it and — guess what! — they brown beautifully!!!

    blueberry

    The trick is to parbake the crusts until they’re golden before adding the filling. (Pies baked with raw dough will brown on the bottom but the sides have trouble getting color — something I’m still puzzling over.) This means, for to-go pies, custard pies and fruit pies with crumb toppings are best. 

    pistachio coconut cream

    (Update: just this morning I discovered that pastry in aluminum pans can be parbaked on baking trays — not directly on the oven floor as I do for the glass pans — which means that now I can parbake twelve, and maybe even fifteen, crusts at a time!) 

    So far, I generally bake pies for the diner on Monday — I choose pies that have a good shelf-life since they need to last several days (if/when they start going through two to three pies a day, I’ll add in more fruit pies) — and then I bake a dozen or so pies on Friday to sell whole, out the door. I’d love to make more, but we’re still building clientele; hopefully, I’ll soon be able to pull out all the stops and go full throttle. 

    These are the pies I’ve made, both for the diner and to sell out the door…

    • Grits: vanilla custard with grits as the base, served with sour cream whip and lemon marmalade; this pie, the head baker’s choice, is available weekdays in the diner.
    • Sweet Potato: served with buttermilk whip (people seemed a little unsure of this pie which surprised me, considering we’re in the South and all)
    • Coffee-Spiked Shoofly: this was surprisingly popular
    • Apple: both lattice-topped and crumb topped
    • Triple Berry Crumble: the spiced oat topping is so yummy
    • Blueberry Crumble
    • Red Raspberry: store-bought berries are quite different from homegrown ones; I’m still tweaking. 
    • Peanut Butter Cream
    • Pumpkin Torte: a fig-walnut biscotti crust, pumpkin mousse filling (leftover from the diner), whipped topping.
    • Pistachio Coconut Cream: pistachio and coconut crust, pistachio-infused custard, whipped cream and toasted coconut; I never even tasted the final product!
    • Almond Cream Pear Tart: one of my favorites.
    • Millionaire’s: coconut, chocolate, and pecans drowned in caramel — wildly delicious
    • Pumpkin: except I use butternut

    I have a couple new pies I’m excited to roll out in the next few weeks (citrus! chocolate! cranberry!), and have even more I’d like to experiment with soon (salty honey, mincemeat, chiffon, buttered rum cream, fig crumble, chess, savory).

    peanut butter cream

    I’m especially trying to up my fruitless (ha!) pie game, so if you have recommendations, do share!

    This same time, years previous: a fun kitchen hack, curried Jamaican butternut soup, apple raisin bran muffins, how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in 10 easy steps, cranberry pie with cornmeal streusel topping, apple rum cake.

  • fight poem

    My cousin(in-law)’s book of poems came out last week and, in a blaze of glory, immediately skyrocketed to number one on the NY Times paperback bestseller’s list, can you even imagine? (I can’t, but it’s true!) 

    Last night my husband picked up the book and started flipping through, reading, reading, reading.

    I cut him a look. “You’re more absorbed in that book than you were in mine.” 

    “This book is finished, Jen. Yours isn’t.”

    As though that makes any difference.

    And then— “Listen to this,” and he read out loud:

    Crescendo
    The moment in the argument
    when the only sound between us
    is the buzz of locusts, cars from a
    passing street, God licking her
    fingertips, wondering how this is
    going to go.

    We both burst out laughing. God licking her fingertips! Oh, yes.

    Later, talking in bed, my husband rudely interrupted more than once and I fell silent. 

    Him: So now you’re not talking to me. 
    Me:
    Him: It’s really quiet. [Beat] Is God licking her fingers? 

    And we both busted up laughing all over again. 

    Thank you, Kate. And congratulations! We’re all so very proud of you.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.19.18), spiced applesauce cake with caramel glaze, sock curls, the quotidian (11.19.12), orange cranberry bread, Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin, peanut butter cream pie.

  • my favorite moment

    photo credit: my older daughter

    The other morning, quite by accident, I discovered my favorite moment of the entire day. 

    It was Sunday, I think, and I was standing in the kitchen pouring my first cup of coffee.  My husband was leaning against the island, chatting with me. The kids still in bed, the house was quiet, clean. I’d lit candles, a fire burned in the woodstove, and outside rain clouds threatened. Already, I’d gone on a run, lifted weights, and showered. Dressed, with my eyes in, make-up on, and hair scrunched, I felt both gloriously wide awake and luxuriously relaxed.

    As I screwed on the lid of my thermal mug, I sighed happily. “This is the best part of the whole day.”

    As soon as I said it, I realized just how true it was. All the hard stuff was done and now I got to enjoy my coffee. Visit with my husband. Catch up on computer stuff. Eat.

    There are lots of other happy moments throughout the day — all of us lingering at the table after supper, talking sput; shooing the kids off to bed and cuddling on the sofa with my husband to watch a show; burrowing deep into a writing project (or rather, finishing a writing project); drinking tea on the porch with a friend — but there’s nothing quite like the deep satisfaction of a dreaded task completed mixed with the anticipation of that first cup of coffee and it’s-a-new-day buzz.

    It really is the best. 

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.18.19), the quotidian (11.16.15), in my kitchen: noon, the quotidian (11.18.13), lemony lentil goodness, three things.

  • change

    Hello, hello!

    In case you haven’t already noticed, this blog is in the middle of undergoing a massive overhaul. After months of listening to me fuss about the new blogger format, and then coming to my rescue over every little thing, my brother finally convinced me to let him switch the whole thing from blogger over to wordpress. 

    For a little bit there, it was touch and go.

    One night, with the transfer in process and my blog in tatters (or at least inaccessible — is there a difference?) and the rest of the world falling down around my ears (a state of affairs which are, I’m afraid, becoming increasingly normal but some days I just can’t even), I had to pop an Advil PM just so I’d be able to sleep. 

    And then my brother worked his magic and everything turned out hunkydory!

    Or mostly so. There are glitches, still. Scrolling through, you’ll see line-spacing, font, and centering issues (just to name a few), all lingering evidence of the HTML contortions I had to put myself through to make my posts look uniform.

    Now all that junk is visible.

    photo credit: my older daughter

    It pains my soul, it does.

    But not enough to make myself go back through and painstakingly pick through each knot! My time is too valuable (or so I like to believe) and this blog too inconsequential. The content is still legible and that, I’ve decided, is good enough. Thank you, in advance, for being gracious and overlooking my computery ineptitude. (That said, if you do come upon a particular post that is twisted unbearably — especially the popular posts and the ones with recipes — tell me.) 

    But now, for the good news: I love wordpress! I’m only just getting started, and I’ve got miles to go before I’m even a little bit competent, but — Holy cow, it is so easy!!! There are so many options! It makes sense! I have control! 

    The other night, jittery with excitement from all the wonderfulness, I left my desk to stand in front of the sofa where my husband was deep in an episode of Game of Thrones. “It’s amazing,” I hissed. “Like, really, really amazing. It’s like—” I cast about, trying to find the words — “It’s like all those years with blogger I was chiseling my bog posts out of stone.” 

    Sure, there will be glitches and headaches and unfixable problems — this is me working with a computer, remember — and I have a dozen years of blog posts that are in varying degrees of imperfectness, but so what. I’m imperfect, too, and heck if I’m going to let that stop me from trying to coax beauty and meaning from the daily grind of my flawed and oh-so ordinary life. 

    To change! [clinks glass] To imperfections! [glass shatters] To life!

    xo

    This same time, years previous: sourdough English muffins, guayaba bars, success!, Thai chicken curry, the quotidian (11.16.15), I will never be good at sales, lessons from a shopping trip, official, the quotidian (11.16.11), chicken salad.

  • introducing how we homeschool: a series

    photo credit: my younger daughter
     

    Over the summer a friend (no idea which one — sorry, friend!) suggested that I write a blog series profiling homeschooling families. With so many children being educated from home, she said, it might be helpful to hear from experienced homeschoolers. 

    At first I was hesitant. In the beginning when Covid hit and schools shut down, it bugged me to hear everyone refer to themselves as “homeschoolers.” For me, homeschooling was an intentional lifestyle choice rooted in freedom, not to be confused with being confined at home all day washing our hands nonstop. This parenting-in-a-pandemic thing was not normal for us, either. 

    The whole situation got my panties in such a twist that I even wrote an op-ed about it. Being forced to stay at home full time with one’s kids because of a pandemic is not homeschooling, I ranted: It’s parenting in the midst of a global crisis. And supervising school-mandated assignments is not homeschooling; it’s helping with homework.

    Nobody snatched the piece up though (sniff), which was probably just as well because then, a few weeks later, I was like, “Hang on. If anyone’s homeschooling, it’s these pandemic homeschoolers because they are, quite literally, doing school at home.” If anyone was misnamed, I realized, it was us, the pre-pandemic homeschoolers, aka the dinosaurs. (What should we be called? I’ve been pondering this for ages, and have no idea. Help me out, people.)

    And even while I was getting all worked up about our fringe lifestyle getting co-opted, at least in name, by the mainstream — Who would’ve thunk it! — I knew I wasn’t being entirely fair. The divide between schooling and homeschooling has never been clearcut. Schooled kids study at home with their parents’ help. They learn via all sorts of nonschool activities like clubs, community volunteering, jobs, and voracious reading, same as homeschooled kids. And homeschooled kids, in turn, often enroll in actual school courses.

    There’s no one right way to homeschool. 

    So here’s the thing: As Covid has drug on, more and more parents, worried about contagion and frustrated with the switch to virtual learning (and its accompanying many hours of screen time), have bailed on school — some just for the year, others maybe for longer. Some parents are even beginning to question the value of school, an institution they’ve always taken for granted. They’re starting to ask hard questions about what they want their children’s learning to look like, and to make changes accordingly.

    But should I host a blog series as my friend suggested? The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Homeschoolers are a wildly diverse bunch, and showcasing a few of them might help make the transition to homeschooling easier for all these newcomers. If nothing else, interviewing a bunch of interesting people would be a heck of a lot of fun for me.

    And that, my friends, is how my new blog series — that I am oh-so creatively calling “The Homeschool Series” — was born. 

    If you’ve signed off of school-sanctioned learning temporarily (or indefinitely, or forever, whatever) OR if you’re considering doing so OR if you’re just curious about what life without school looks like, this series is for you. I’ve got a bunch of people queued up for the next few weeks and months, ready to tell the nitty-gritty of homeschooling.

    Stay tuned! 

    This same time, years previous: study stills, the quotidian (11.12.18), enough, for now, George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, refrigerator bran muffins, sparkle blondies.

  • the quotidian (11.9.20)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace
     
     

    Sweet ‘taties and beans.

    Satisfaction.

    They don’t like mushrooms; I made it anyway: with white wine, bacon, and leeks.

    Breakfast for one.

    You know you work in a bakery when you discover you’ve been carying around a disk of pie pastry in your purse for the last two days.

    Community organizing with a side of pie.

    Obsessively checking the results.

    Laundry-folding party.

    For the steers: farm compost.

    Happily hurling the eggplants.

    Sweetening up the beef.

    She can hardly contain herself.

    Our valley, our home.

    This same time, years previous: what we ate, of mice and men and other matters, unleashing the curls, the quotidian (11.7.16), the quotidian (11.9.15), for the time change, maple roasted squash, pumpkin cranberry cream cheese muffins.

  • wait for it

    Today, I joined the noonday silent vigil downtown. 


    For half an hour, we gathered: young adults, retired folks, teenagers, whole families, children. Spread out along the sidewalk around the courthouse, some people held signs and others just stood quietly, watching the cars pass. 







    A few drivers honked and waved, but most just ignored us. There was no heckling. Other days, I’ve been told, some people have pulled over to talk. Sometimes they push to find out which candidate people in the group have voted for, but we don’t talk about that. This group Hold the Line is nonpartisan. It’s about respecting the democratic process. It’s about counting all votes (in case you didn’t catch that from the signs, ha). 

























    Yesterday when I was taking my turn at monitoring the ballot box, I had to keep telling people to wait while the machine processed their vote. The light has to switch to green so we know it’s been counted, I’d say. Married couples were the worst since they’d approach the box together and try to slip in their ballots in quick succession. Then I’d have to yell No no no! and explain the process yet again.  

    All the explaining felt cumbersome, and awkward. Standing there, whiling away the minutes (900 of them, to be exact), I racked my brains, trying to think of a better, more concise way

    And then I recalled the video clip a friend had sent me the night before.


    From then on, a gentle “Wait for it” was all I needed to get their attention and make them pause. 
    The process matters, people.



    Wait for it. 

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.4.19), the quotidian (11.5.18), meatloaf, musings from the coffee shop, the quotidian (11.4.13), bierocks, piano lessons.

  • #holdtheline2020

    photo credit: my younger daughter

    This morning I couldn’t sleep. When I woke around two (or was it three? the time change has me kerfuffled) to go to the bathroom, my mind started racing. I forced myself to stay in bed for a bit, but eventually I gave up, went downstairs, and fixed myself a pot of coffee.

    I’m worried about the election, friends. The elections, ha! This process I’ve hardly ever even thought about (besides, you know, who I’m gonna vote for) is actually keeping me up at night. The situation in our country right now is truly alarming. Basic principles — every vote counts, majority rule, the loser concedes, and there is a peaceful transfer of power — are being threatened. It feels surreal, but make no mistake: it’s real.

    About a month ago, I took an unarmed accompaniment training. Over the last year, I’ve repeatedly bumped up against the violent underbelly of our culture, and the people who fuel it — the 2A meeting, the youth-led BLM rally, books, the learning tour of Charlottesville, the shouty neighbor, Walk the Walk — and, what with all the hate speech and anti-democratic rhetoric coming from the White House, I thought it might behoove me to ground myself with a few techniques. 

    Then I took another training from Choose Democracy led by George Lakey and, right around that time, I met with a few other local people who had also taken the trainings and wanted to talk about ideas and discuss possible next steps. Someone brought a recently-released manual called Hold the Line to the meeting and, after some discussion, we decided to adopt it as our guide. 

    And that’s how our local Hold the Line team was born. 

    Currently, over a hundred people in our area have signed on. So far, we’ve focused on establishing communication channels with our local media, legislators, district attorney, sheriff, and election officials. We’ve also gathered outside a congressman’s office to ask him to denounce the president’s dangerous rhetoric that undermines the integrity of the elections, and to counter any voter intimidation or manipulation of election results. And we are hosting daily noon vigils at the courthouse from now until whenever. It could be a while.

    What are the lines we are holding, you ask? Well, let me tell you!

    Line 1: All votes must be counted, without interference or intimidation.
    Line 2: Incidents of fraud, voter suppression, or other election irregularities must be investigated impartially and remedied as appropriate.
    Line 3: The true election results must be respected, regardless of who wins. Preserving democracy is more important than any individual candidate.

    It’s basic stuff. But if these lines are crossed, then we’re in coup territory. 

    HTL’s premise is simple: elections must be free, fair, respected (regardless of who wins), and safe. The strategies are also simple: as citizens, we have power and we will use it nonviolently — this is hugely important — to make sure that these lines are not crossed and to challenge them when they are. 

    Last night, one of my son’s housemates sent me a TED talk. I watched it this morning, while the wind thumped against the house and the rest of the family slept. If you’re just now becoming aware of the danger our country is in, this is the place to start.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months. Maybe nothing? I sure hope so, but I don’t believe it, not for a second. We’re humans, like every other human in the world. Our country is not exceptional (let’s kiss this self-destructive myth goodbye), and democracy is fragile. These next few weeks and months are critical. Voting is not enough. As Van Jones says, prepare to get active, and prepare to get loud.

    Let’s go. 

    ***

     

    More Information

    Hold the Line Basics

    *If you’re local, sign up to be a part of the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County HTL chapter here. We meet Monday nights at 7:30 by zoom.

    *Hold the Line National is also hosting weekly assemblies on Sunday nights at 6:00. Sign up here.

    *The HTL Handbook: read it!


    Other Useful Links, lifted from HTL and other places

    The Street Medic Handbook: zero in on page 9 and 10 for a RIVAL activity to prepare for protests and actions. (I’d like to take a virtual training, too.)

     

    How to Talk about a Contested Election.

    Online Handbook on Nonviolence and De-escalation Guidelines

    A few things I learned from the Lakey training regarding how to handle violence: 

    1) minimize the likelihood of violence through building connections with power holders and thoughtful, strategic planning 

    2) meet violence with de-escalation: sloooow things down and, when in doubt, sit

    3) if violence happens, expose it, contrasting it to the nonviolent protestors.

    Backfire Basics: 5 nonviolent tactics to make violence backfire.

    Protect the Results: sign up for actions on November 4 and November 7.

    Each voice matters!

    ***

    And now the family’s waking up. Gotta go… xo!

     

    This same time, years previous: old-fashioned apple roll-ups, cinnamon pretzels, 2015 garden stats and notes, cheesy broccoli potato soup, sweet and sour lentils.