A letter to the editor, No. 2

Just submitted this to my local paper. They did post my letter from last week; I didn’t check to see if it was in the printed edition, but there were only 3 new letters posted online, so I’m assuming yes. Pretty sad that I had enough material for a completely new letter just one week later…

(edit: I previously accidentally posted an earlier draft instead of the final piece I sent to the paper. This is the final piece.)

Last week I wrote about several strange and disturbing occurrences that took place in the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency. Unfortunately, this week has brought several more such events to add to the list:

Four senior State Department officials were relieved of duty before successors were confirmed, leaving a gaping hole in the department’s senior management team.

President Trump signed an executive order adding Steve Bannon to the principals committee of the National Security Council. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national security were informed that they need no longer attend meetings that are not directly related to their areas of responsibility.

President Trump signed a rash and confusing executive order imposing a temporary limitation on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. This order was worded in such a manner as to include legal permanent residents (“green card holders”) in those barred from entering the country. It was enacted so quickly that there was no time to plan for its implementation or to make sure those tasked with implantation fully understood the order. The administration later said that the order did not include permanent residents, but the jury is still out on whether the order was simply misunderstood, or deliberately unclear.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates instructed Department of Justice lawyers not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration, citing it as unconstitutional. She was then fired, just days before the Senate was set to confirm her replacement.

This is definitely not normal.

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A letter to the editor

I’m afraid this blog has morphed into a kind of action log lately (not that I’m posting everything I do here). I should get back to writing about other stuff, but my big introvert struggle right now really is activism.

I saw another good suggestion for introvert activism– writing letters to the editor of one’s local paper. The article I saw pointed out that though it seems like no one reads these, people do, often older people who tend to come down on the conservative side of the political spectrum. So, appealing to these people might not be a bad idea.

To that end, I submitted the following letter to the editor to my local paper today:

To the editor: Several disturbing events have taken place surrounding and in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

1. A group of eight people, two French nationals and six Canadians, were denied entry into the US when they revealed that their intent was to attend the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Border agents said that attending the march was not a valid reason to enter the United States. The Canadians were told they would be arrested if they tried again to cross during the weekend, and the two French citizens were told that they would be required to apply for a visa for any future visit to the US. France is a member of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows French citizens to enter the US without a visa unless there is a pretty good reason not to allow them entry. Even if turning them away on this instance were justified (a claim that is debatable), requiring them to obtain a visa in the future because they had once tried to cross the border to attend a lawful protest is ludicrous.

2. Six journalists were charged with felonies for covering the inauguration protests. They are facing a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

3. After the National Park Service re-tweeted photos of the small inauguration crowd, the Trump administration temporarily suspended the agency’s Twitter privileges, and imposed restrictions as to what could be posted on its official social media outlets.

4. The Trump administration has instructed the Environmental Protection agency to suspend its contract and grant programs, as well as all outgoing communication, immediately and until further notice.

These things are indicative of isolationism and an attempt to control the press, both of which are detrimental to a free and democratic society in a world that gets smaller with each technological advance.

This is not normal.

Words, Words, Words!

Warning: Gratuitous mommy-gushing ahead! Proceed at your own risk.

My son is coming up on his second birthday (in March) and he’s learning new words every day. I can’t believe how excited I get with every new word I hear! (As an introvert, I’m not usually too excited about people talking, haha 😉 ). But every time that little boy says a new word, it feels like I’m learning a small piece of especially delightful news. These are the words that he knows as of today:

Mommy

Daddy

Auntie

Papa

Nana

Baby

Coopie (dog name)

Bacco (dog name)

Kali (a friend)

TT (daycare provider)

Scooby (Cooby)

Puppy

Woof!

Cow

Moo!

Skunk (kunk)

Mouse (mou)

Eee eee eee [mouse noise]

[pig snort noise]

[monkey noise]

Doodle-doo! [rooster noise]

Sssss [snake noise]

Eyes

This?

Hi

Hello

Bye

Please

Sorry (I think)

Come on in

See him?

Zoom

Naughty (because of the dogs)

Pizza

Peas

Food (Foo)

Eggs (Ehhh)

Cookie

Num!

Bus

Beep beep

Choo-choo

Shhh

Uh-oh

Ow

Wow!

Bonk!

Boom

Muah [kiss noise]

Shoe

Bubble

Ball

Show

On

Up

No!

And, hilariously…. Nae nae (Whip Nae Nae) 😀

 

Dec 29th, just a few days later, we can add funny, nose, thumb, Koo Mouse (Mickey Mouse), hot, dark (dook), bunny, duck, owl, buppo (which, inexplicably, means “hippo”), meow, fie (five– as in give me five), bump (fist bump), key, chee(se), cup, and poop. 😀

Jan 8: Yes, monkey, nu-nu (noodles), off, go, apple, potty, book, bock (block), cock (clock!), Kaba (Kaiba), tractor, turkey, fumm (farm), cake

By Feb 6: Pig, pants, hat, coat, boots, dance, bounce, jump, [apple] sauce, beans, tail, Trip, Geedy (Gilly), ROAR, teacher, binkie (blankie), sleep, sheep, [Uncle] Mike 🙂

Feb 27: Moon, mountains, window, Grandma, rain, shovel, bucket, plane, bug, birdie, rocks, ready, (tor)tilla, moke (milk), mine, (re)mote, outside, jacket, bath, nuggets, help, please, thank you, toes, walk, hand, feet, face, seat, kulla (koala), horsey, penguin, fries, house, water, Jumpy, Hundley, Moki (Gnocchi), i-keem bus (ice cream teuck), signs, fishy, phone, Auntie (Em), Cushoo (Crusher), couch, chair, sit, Elmo, boni (Zamboni), man, phantanta (elephant!), and coffee. 😄

Ok, that’s over 100. I am going to stop counting now. Maybe. 😄

 

 

OMG Pat Rothfuss!

Yesterday I attended a reading, Q&A, and signing with one of my current favorite writers, Pat Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles. (Squeeeee! I do not often “squee,” but….squeeeee!) It was a great time. First of all, it was at my favorite local library, the Roseville library, which was awesome. Secondly, a few of my friends from Fest (namely, former Hardtack Jack members Jon and Chris, and Chris’s wife Rae) were also attending. I went to a thing! With people I know! From Fest!

There were several cool things that happened, aside from the fact that it was a reading/Q&A/signing with one of my current favorite writers. The first thing that was cool was that Pat came out about 20 minutes before he was scheduled to talk. Holding a stack of index cards, he announced that he wasn’t “officially here yet,” but that we’d be doing some Q&A, and that he realizes that “some people might be introverts.” So he passed out the index cards, for those who might want to ask a question but not shout it out in front of 300 people (and there were about 300 people there). I didn’t have a question, but I was so impressed that he addressed the introversion question head on, and took steps specifically to make the event introvert-friendly! Much appreciated, Pat!

The second cool thing that happened was that one of the questions he read was “What are your favorite words and what words do you dislike?” The word he liked was “incarnadine,” which is indeed a lovely word. But the really cool part was that the word he doesn’t like was “utilize.” He basically said it’s a synonym for “use,” and the only reason to say “utilize” instead of “use” is to sound smart/important/fancy. Ha! This was awesome because I had this conversation with someone just the other day and had come to the same conclusion. Awesome. I told him this while he was signing by book, and he seemed genuinely amused and impressed that we’d had this same thought process, which was cool.

Another cool (but sort of weird) thing that happened was this: When I entered the library and got in line to buy my copy of The Name of the Wind (having previously only owned it on Kindle), I started talking to the woman behind me. We continued talking as we went to sit down, so naturally we sat down together (also next to Chris and Rae). She told her her kids’ uncle was coming to meet her. When he showed up, his kids were with him, and I recognized his daughter right away, and subsequently, him– they used to live 2 houses down from me. Small world!

The reading and Q&A was a cool thing, too. Aside from the content itself, it was a great social activity for an introvert. I got there and chatted with like-minded people (okay, mostly people I already knew, but not entirely) for a while. We had a built-in topic of conversation. Then, we all sat together and listened to Pat read and answer questions. Then we all talked again while in line. A socially acceptable hour-long break from talking at a social activity! Fantastic!

2015 Ren Fest Recap

Another successful year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival has come to an end. This was a really, really great year– the weather was lovely (only one really hot weekend), and internal drama (the bad sort) was virtually non-existant (and usually there is a LOT of internal drama).

It was also a great year for me. This year, after 11 years as a participant (5 of those on cast), I finally got up the courage to implement my very first idea for something to do at Fest, which was performing as a solo flautist. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the (several) other ways I’ve been part of Fest, but I really, really enjoyed doing the solo thing.

There are two was by which I measure success at Fest– audience engagement (measured partly, but not entirely, by tips) and how much I personally engage with fellow participants. I wasn’t sure how the crowds would receive a solo flautist. I honestly didn’t go into it expecting to make much in the way of tips, but I think I did fairly well. (I set a goal for myself to do a $100 hat the last weekend, and I’m proud to say I achieved that goal. That may not sound like a lot to some performers, but I was quite happy with it.) And I had many, many people indicate their appreciation in ways besides putting a tip in my basket, which is completely fine– in some instances, a kind comment or smile from a child can mean more than a tip.

The other way in which I measure a successful Fest season is how much I interact/connect with my fellow cast members and participants. It was a great year on that front, as well. One of the main reasons I had been reluctant to be a solo act in the past is that I worried that if I wasn’t part of a group, I wouldn’t talk to anyone and would just be alone all the time. And even after working/performing at Fest for 11 previous years and knowing plenty of people, I was still worried about that this year.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  I’ve noticed in other situations that if I go to things (like receptions at international education conferences, for example) alone, I actually do somehow step up to the challenge and talk to people I don’t know, or don’t know as well. That proved to be the case at Fest this year, too. I talked to several people I didn’t know or know very well (Jennifer, Marco, some of the Scots, new Terps, Peter, Anita, Manna and Manna, Dennis, Saskia, Stephanie, Penn, Cornelius, random people on the Fest bus) and reconnected with lots of people I did know (Jon, Chris, “old” Terps, some Scots, Randy, the Alein’ Whalers, Too Broke Blokes, Kate, etc). Of course, it seems every year that somehow I don’t get around to seeing all the people (or shows!) I intend to–notably Jamie (I barely made it to Queen’s Gate this year!) and the Bloodwake (whom I never seem to get over to visit any more). I only made it to like 1/2 of a Four Pints Shy show this year. Doing my own thing, I feel, for some reason, a lot more pressure to be performing all the time between my scheduled sets.

This year, I took a few days off – three Sundays and Fest Friday. One of the Sundays I attended with Gerard and the brother who were visiting, and I brought the kiddo out for a couple of hours Fest Friday afternoon, but I had two Sundays completely off. I also ended up working at the Fest booth at the State Fair on the Saturday of Labor Day (because they really needed people and I can’t sit around while someone needs help that I can give), so that’s three Fest days I wasn’t there at all and 2 others I wasn’t working. Consequently, I’m not really burnt out this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I probably enjoyed Fest more because I had a few days off, even though the days I was off, I missed it. But now I’m not really ready for it to be over, whereas when I’m burnt out by the end of the season, I’m really ready for it to be over for awhile. I’m not sure which is better– to want it to be over before it is, or not want it to be over when it is!

I’m already looking forward to next year, of course, which will probably be the last year on the current site. That will be bittersweet as well. There is a lot of history imbued into that site, and a lot of magic that lives in its walls. I feel a great attachment to many of the physical spaces themselves, especially the Bakery stage area where I spent my first 5 years at Fest, Mac’s Pub, and The Estate (Terp’s green room area). I will truly miss the actual, physical space when the Festival moves.

But, as many have said, it is really we who make the Festival– the performers and participants and patrons who love the Festival, who created the magic that has seeped into the Festival grounds and structures. We will create new magic and memories at the new site. And the new site brings opportunity, as well– better parking and traffic arrangements, up-to-code buildings, flush toilets (maybe), ample camping (maybe), electricity (maybe) and less dust. I will miss the current site, but I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of building and baptizing the new one.

I also look forward to bringing my son out with me more regularly next year, when I think he’ll be old enough to mind and stay near me while I perform. I often envy those who were raised at Fest (and those whose spouses are Festies, too), and I look forward to giving my son the experience of being raised in the Fest family, with the help of, literally, a village.

 

Are Introversion and Activism Compatible? (Or, The Armchair Activist)

I’m thinking today about activism. I don’t really consider myself an activist. I do my civic duty: I educate myself, I vote, I sign petitions, I donate to causes that are important to me. And I speak up, in my own way, about certain causes that speak to me. But by “speak up,” I mean write, share things on Facebook, occasionally engage in private conversations with acquaintances in the hopes of stimulating them to think critically about issues at hand, and also learning from their point of view. But I don’t really do anything, and in light of recent events (Ferguson, McKinney, Charleston…), I feel like I need to do more. Fewer words, more action. But what can I do that will be more effective than my armchair, Facebook activism? Pass out leaflets? Attend protests?

I care deeply about these issues, but I’m an introvert. And I also have a toddler. Going to protests just doesn’t seem feasible a lot of the time. Take this Saturday. I’d like to take my kid to an event (not a protest, but a community-building event), but it’s right during the time of day where if he isn’t napping, he’s not going to be in the right frame of mind to engage with anything. So that’s probably out. But when he gets a little older, that will change, and I will be able to take him to things like that, and it will be a step in the right direction.

But I’ll still have to contend with my introversion. I hate saying it like that, because it makes it sound like a mental health problem. And it’s not. I have one of those, too, and it’s not the same thing at all. So I don’t like to treat it like one. But, sometimes the reality, as much as I hate to admit it, is that introversion is something I have to “overcome.” So this thing on Saturday, even if it weren’t during naptime, I’d have to, like, talk to people there. Volunteer work usually involves a lot of personal interaction. At protests or demonstrations, I’d have to be surrounded by a bunch of strangers. I don’t know if I can do it.

I struggle with the conflicting ideas that I should put myself out of my comfort zone to support initiatives to fight racism, homophobia, etc. That, as a white, straight, cis woman, the least I can do is be a little uncomfortable around strangers for a little while. And I can do that. I do, every now and then. But it’s not a sustainable way, for me, to engage with the issue.

So I’m back to square one. I’m back to writing stuff, holding private conversations, and sharing facts or stories or words of wisdom from others, usually from behind the screen of social media. I’m not a coward—I’ve never been afraid to say that awkward thing that no one else wants to say—but in-person interaction is just so exhausting. And I do feel like writing things, talking to people, and sharing information and facts and stories are important. Of course it’s important. But is it enough? I don’t know. Probably not.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people in my social sphere who (I believe) could use to think critically about some of their beliefs, so why do I need to go out and engage with strangers to try to convince them to think differently, when I can encourage people I actually know to examine their beliefs and biases? When I can do so with a message of, “You are my friend/family member/acquaintance, and I don’t think you’re a bad person. But let’s talk about this. Or here’s something you might not have considered.” When these people know me, maybe even respect me, and maybe think it’s worth listening to what I have to say, even if they still may not agree. That seems like a better starting point than making a big speech to a bunch of people who don’t know me from Adam, or holding up a clever, quippy sign. Not to disparage those efforts, but are they the only way? Or even the best? Who decided that? I wouldn’t be writing this post if someone (an extrovert, probably) somewhere a long time ago hadn’t decided that the “right” way to effect social change is loudly: by demonstrating, protesting, making speeches, and arguing.

I don’t like to think of introverts as being “oppressed” or “disadvantaged” in the same way that some groups are oppressed or disadvantaged, but it’s also true that the world, or at least the US, caters toward extroverts. There is such a thing as extrovert privilege. I don’t like to frame it in those terms, because it in no way compares to white privilege or straight privilege or cis privilege or male privilege. But it’s there.

Extroverts have the privilege of not having people assume they are boring, dull, stupid, or uninterested because they listen more than talk in a conversation. Extroverts have the privilege of not having people assume they are stuck up or aloof because they are not good at small talk. They have the privilege of “class participation”—in other words, talking—coming naturally to them, when active listening, which comes naturally to many introverts, is just as important a part of learning as speaking up in class, and indeed perhaps even more of a rarity, but seems to be much less valued in our educational system. They have the privilege of finding energy in networking or social gatherings, whereas introverts have to push themselves to participate in these activities which often make or break hugely important parts of life, like one’s career or finding a suitable romantic partner (thank goodness for internet dating!).

I don’t mean to make this blog post a cry against extrovert privilege. There is a time and a place for that (maybe), but it’s not here. This post is about what I, as an introvert, can do to use my other privilege (white, cis, straight) to help bring down a system in which that privilege exists. What I can do that is true to myself, but also recognizes and honors the struggle others go through every day that is so much greater than my own.

I believe that education is the most important tool for social change. By profession and by nature, I’m an educator. I educate students every day about cultural difference, about respect, about examining their own biases and going into a new culture with an open mind. I do my best to educate my son about racism, privilege, and human rights (as much as one can educate a 15-month old about such things). I do my best to educate myself. I share my thoughts, knowledge, and opinions with friends and acquaintances, with the aim of encouraging thought, and growth, and introspection, and exploration.

I also believe that we’re approaching a place where more physical, radical action may be required. I know I won’t be the person to lead that. I may not even be a person who participates. I don’t even harbor the illusion that I will inspire someone to be the leader of such a movement. But maybe my contribution is that I can help prepare even just a few minds to be receptive to this movement when and if it comes to fruition.

Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it’s a cop out. But it comes from a place of knowing myself and recognizing my own limitations, and knowing that the world is complex, that these issues are complex, and that there are no easy answers. It comes from a place of not knowing all the answers and knowing I will make mistakes, but doing the best I can do be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. And that, I believe, is that place at which all conversations—and action—around such complex issues must begin.

Social Life

I have been quite the social butterfly this weekend. Last night, I went to karaoke with Karlie, Amy, and hostess Jaime. It’s always a fun time, though I felt especially off my game last night because of globus, PLUS there were lots of singers there, and most of them were really good, so I felt even worse in comparison. 😀 But that’s fine, it is always fun! Sleep-wise, it was nice that it was on a Friday night– usually Jaime hosts karaoke on Thursdays– but actually I think I prefer the Thursday nights. Fewer people, higher ratio of people I know to strangers, and generally more mediocre singers like myself than stellar voices like on Friday. 🙂

Today I had plans to go to a Geeks Who Drink themed pub quiz, and the theme was… Star Trek!!! Awesome! It was a great time. My awesome sister-in-law came to babysit (since the quiz started before the spouse got home from work), I put on my red shirt and communicator badge (my Jadzia Dax uniform, I discovered, doesn’t fit as well post-baby), and headed out to the Chatterbox Pub in St Paul, which also just happens to be one of my favorite watering holes, in my very own St Paul. Good times! There I met up with my friend Natasha and our other teammates, whom I didn’t know before (except one by sight from Fest), but who were all very nice people. My brother and sister-in-law were playing as well in Vegas. Wish we could have all played together, but alas. My team did rock, though. We called our team the “Spock Stars.” There were some hard questions. Some of them I knew, some I did not but others did, and some, none of us did. After the first 3 rounds, we had only got 2 wrong and were in 3rd place, but by the end we ended up in 6th place (out of 14 teams). But, as one person put it, we won, because we were hanging out together having fun! And it was a very fun time indeed.

Tonight I was invited to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show with some Festies, but decided to decline because the show doesn’t start until 11, and sine the spouse is on day shift, I have to be up when the baby wakes up (usually between 6-7am). But it would have been a good time I’m sure!

Tomorrow I have plans to meet my BFF Kelly and her son (my godson), who is about 6 months older than my son. We’re gonna let the boys have a little play date and catch up.

So many social activities for this introvert! It helps that Friday I worked from home, so I had some good, solid alone time while the kiddo was at daycare. Yes, I was working, but I was still alone, and that is very refreshing. There were even a good couple hours of complete silence around me, except the sound of my work on the computer, while the dogs were napping. Lovely!

Also, as it turns out, I realized that recently I’ve been hanging out with Festies outside of Fest. Like socially, not just at Fest-related things like band or Terp practice. This is the first time I can really say that, and it’s kind of cool.