2016 Year in Books

6 Jan

Welcome to 2017! After taking a couple weeks off for holidays and travel, I’m ready to get back to it, which means the weekly blogs are back.

For me, 2016 was a weird year all the way around, and my reading list really reflects that this year. In 2015 I really didn’t read very many books (especially for being a writer), so I’d signed up for a Goodreads Reading Challenge, and decided to go light with just 20 books. That goal was more than I’d read in 2015, and what I thought would be a decent stepping stone into making reading books more of a priority. Totally achievable, right? I could really crush that goal and go way over it! Actually, I just barely made it happen, and finished my 20th book on Christmas Eve.

Number of books isn’t the only thing I’ve been tracking for the past few years. After reading some of Ann Morgan’s “A Year of Reading the World” blog, I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and see just where my influences were coming from. Instead of taking on the world, I thought I’d take on the United States and see if I could read authors from every state (tracked by where they’re born)–perhaps not a task I’d accomplish in a year, but eventually would be nice.

The other wrinkle is that I want to read the books I own. I have a problem with tsundoku, or buying books and not reading them. While I continue to buy books, I’m also working on reading what I own. I don’t have any particular order for reading things (no FIFO or anything like that), but it also means that there’s a constant inner struggle to spend less time buying and more time reading (also less time buying, and more time at the library, but that’s a topic for another day).

Anyway, I did meet my reading goal of 20 books for 2016, so I’m pretty proud of that. I was surprised, however, how much of a slog some of these books were. I had some chick lit and young adult lit that should’ve been a breeze but weren’t. While I have a personal rule that I’m allowed to stop reading after 50 pages or so (there’s not enough time to waste it reading bad books), I think I only used that exception once this year, and that was for Gone Girl. I hated all of its characters and had no interest in reading about what they did, so I put it down. I won’t even keep space in my brain to remember the 50 pages I did read, so I couldn’t tell you much of what it was about.

I didn’t do that for Accidental It Girl, which maybe I should have. This was about a paparazzi (who had shelved a dream of being an art photographer) who accidentally got linked with a big star and became the object of the paparazzi. Turnabout is fair play–though it was also a dull book. The character (whose name I can’t even remember) really had no goal other than to not be photographed all the time, and she didn’t drive the action–most of the action happened to her, making it difficult to root for her. It was also full of a lot of stock characters–the wacky mom who got in the way and didn’t really get her; the helpful roommate; the movie star who was a nice, genuine guy. The only thing that kept me reading was a MacGuffin of a package that the main character’s mom sent that sat in the corner of her bedroom for most of the book, was mentioned all the time, and when finally opened, revealed a reminder that the main character that her true passion was in art photography, and shouldn’t she do that instead of paparazzi-ing?

Needless to say, although I wouldn’t recommend it, it was a good example of what not to do when writing, so at least I got something out of it.

I covered nine states and four non-US countries this year. I seem to really like Ohio (four books) and the UK (five books). Still, I’m making progress on my map coverage–I’m up to 19 states and 10 countries in three years. Not bad. Could be better, but I’m happy enough for the moment.

For the moment, I’ve added just one book to my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge total. Maybe I can do better than that, but my first read of the year, The Games: A Global History of the Olympics is turning out to be a really slow one. A really good and interesting read, but it’s a little slow-going right now. It might be a book I read alongside some others, just to make progress.

Speaking of progress, if you want to follow along, feel free to check out my book reading tracking doc. Suggestions to fill in my missing geography are welcome!

 

The Ma Jaracz Cookie Train Comes to Town

9 Dec

I’ve got the song “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” in my head and not because it looks like Christmas outside. It doesn’t. Where it’s beginning to look like Christmas is my belly, thanks in part to Ma Jaracz.

Every year my mother sends out a big package of Christmas cookies. She gets her Martha Stewart on the day after Thanksgiving and makes probably 15 different kinds of cookies. Me? I make a mean chocolate chip, and every once in a while I forget what a pain it can be to make cut-out cookies, so I’ll try a batch of those. I like baking, but I’ve never gotten into the same Christmas cookie-making habit.

This week the annual package came. It’s meant for sharing among who’s ever in the household (depending on who’s visiting for the holidays), but due to dietary preferences, no one else does. So it’s me. And the box. Of large samples of 15 different kinds of cookies, packed matryoshka-style, with each batch in their own individual zipper bag, and then those zipper bags are packed in larger zipper bags. I’m sure if Hefty made a super-jumbo zipper bag, she’d pack the jumbo bags in it too.

When the box came this week, the Boy said, “Oh, that’s nice,” and then properly ignored the enthusiasm with which I dug into the bags of butter-laden treats that would wreck havoc on his digestive system. Which means that the embodiment of my Christmas childhood is all mine. Two jumbo zipper bags of mine.

I’ve been carrying them around the house like a security blanket, digging into toffee bars, Special K cookies (this year without the weird red and green jellies! Yes!), a bunch of variations on sugar cookies with colored sugar and more, whenever I can. I’ll look at the Boy with a mouthful of cookies and think, “You poor sap. You don’t know what you’re missing! THIS IS CHRISTMAS!!” And if my brain accidentally talks to my mouth during this thought process, I spray crumbs all over the place. The Jaracz Christmas is known for its classiness.

And while you might think, Well, Jill, it’s kind of obvious that you might have some Christmas belly going on because you’re eating a ton of cookies every day, let me qualify that. If you’re familiar with Ma Jaracz’ cookies, you’d know that eating a ton of her cookies was par for the course.

See, my mother used to be the master of the miniature cookie. If you made a regular-sized cookie–and for argument’s sake, let’s call “regular size” a Chips Ahoy–the Ma Jaracz version would be about a quarter of the size. I’m not fooling. I think in her mind she made teeny cookies for a couple of reasons: She used to give away tons of plates of cookies every year, so small cookies stretched the batch a lot longer; and smaller cookies meant you could try more of them and not stuff yourself (well, you might still stuff yourself).

However, Ma Jaracz has gotten older, which means her vision’s going a little bit. Now she’s making the large print version of her cookies. The jelly in a jelly thumbprint cookie is actually the size of a thumbprint and no longer the size of a pencil eraser. A toffee bar is four bites instead of one. A melting moment melts in your hand because you have to take so many bites that your body heat starts disintegrating it before you can pop it all into your mouth.

After a few days of eating cookies, my stomach is protesting, but I’m having a problem being reasonable and putting some in the freezer for later. I want my security blanket of Christmastime, and I want it now. I’ll deal with the weight gain sooner (preferred) or later, of course, and once they’re gone I’ll definitely cut back on the–Wait. Is that a snickerdoodle? Score!

I, Influencer (or, How Did I Get on this List?)

2 Dec

Yesterday started out with a round a questioning from the Boy:

“Where are you going again tonight?”

“I’m going to CambridgeSide to an Influencers’ holiday party.”

“How are you an ‘Influencer’ again?”

How am I an Influencer?! What kind of question is that? Is this not the face of an Influencer?

International woman of awesomeness!

This person makes you want certain stuff and things.

 

 

 

 

No? Well, how about this?

Yeah! This girl is on. Point!

Want to be me, or else!

 

 

 

 

 

Still no? One more try:

No, seriously, I'm looking at something so amazing. You should want that something.

There are no words for this level of influence.

 

Needless to say, the folks at CambridgeSide thought I was an Influencer, bless them, and put me on the list for this holiday shindig. Since there’s a party involved, I’m going, and I’m going to roll with the ambiguity of why I’m actually invited or who even found me. This time, I’m going to do it right. Admittedly, last time I didn’t do it completely wrong, but I certainly knew that I could’ve worked it a lot better.

See, the last time I found myself invited to a place I know I didn’t belong, was several years ago when I lived in Chicago and Chicago was bidding to host the 2016 Olympics. One of the big Chicago business councils–the kind where all of the bigwigs get together and promote business within the city–held a luncheon with Mayor Daley and then-International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge. A bunch of former Olympic stars came out to support the event, and it was a big deal, particularly since a lot of companies had a big interest in helping the Olympics come to Chicago.

A bunch of higher ups in my office decided to go, and since I love the Olympics, I jumped at the chance. The Boy also decided to come along and check out the scene. We left work kind of late so that we’d hit the end of the mingling portion and be there for the lunch part. But that turned out to be a mistake.

When we checked in at the registration table, they found the Boy’s name, they found my co-workers’ names, but they couldn’t find mine. We slid down a few people to a different registration list, where the check-in lady found my name and said, “You’re supposed to be down in the VIP room.”

Wait, what?! VIP list? How did I…?

But there was no time for questions because another person was whisking me away to a downstairs room where some of the city’s heavy hitters were hanging out and waiting to say a little private hello to Jacques. And then there was me.

Thankfully I had ironed my cheap chinos and button-down shirt that morning. And maybe my makeup hadn’t worn off. The sad thing is that I knew I didn’t fit in, and I let that thought take center stage in my brain. I latched onto some wine and talked to a couple of people–one of whom was one of the more influential priests in the city and took pity on me enough to sit next to me at lunch, as VIPs also got prominent seating in the middle of the room.

I learned a few things that day:

  • Being a VIP means you’re likely turning down dessert in order to maintain your VIP figure.
  • If the mayor repeatedly mispronounces the guest of honor’s name, it might not bode well on your future chances of winning the Olympics.
  • If you find yourself in a place where you have no idea how you got put on “the list,” say yes to it and fake belonging as best you can, because maybe you actually do belong there and you owe yourself the courtesy of actually believing in yourself for a change.

But back to my being an Influencer. Yes, that’s right. Me. Jill. Influencer. With a party to attend.

I got to the mall way before the party started, so I walked around every level to kill time…and kill a little more of my Christmas shopping list. I played the “one for you, one for me” game, buying a gift for someone and then a glittery polka dot sweater for me, since I realized I have to go to a fun party this weekend and had nothing appropriate to wear. TJMaxx to the rescue–I found it, tried it on and was out the door in 10 minutes or less!

The party itself was a nice way to start December–we got to see holiday fashions, test MAC lipstick if we wanted, have snacks courtesy of some of the mall’s restaurants, get a swag bag and participate in a Yankee swap grab bag. And we got to take pictures with this guy:

I *have* been good this year, Santa!

Big Influencer hero, Mr. S. Claus.

Which isn’t really even a fancy Influencer-type perk, since the mall’s giving away pictures with Santa this year.

So did I belong there? Sure!

I think.

I was a first-timer, so I had that insecurity that you have whenever you’re someplace for the first time and don’t know people like everyone else seems to know people. I don’t vlog, so I wasn’t one of those who were instantly Snapchatting or whatever it was that they were doing with video.

But I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong, so that’s something. And that’s at least influential to me.

Read Friday

25 Nov

This week I finished reading a book, which, in the age of tracking everything, means that I needed to log it in my Goodreads account and see how I was doing on my 2016 Reading Challenge.

Not good.

At the beginning of the year, I was really hopeful about reading more books (especially since I have a tsundoku problem and want to rectify it a bit), so I signed up for Goodreads’ annual reading challenge with the optimistic hope of clearing up the piles a little bit…..though really I should have done some sort of “here’s all the books I didn‘t buy” challenge as well, just to make it seem like I made some sort of actual progress.

Anyway, my Goodreads account had said I’d read 14 of 20 books in my challenge.

Gulp.

Quickly log book.

We’re at 15 now!

Realize that I hadn’t logged a couple of books I’d read this year.

Furiously log them.

Remember why I hadn’t logged them: Mostly embarrassing chick lit books that took weeks to read because they were poorly written (is good learning tool!).

Doesn’t matter! Have to hit goal!

Now I stand at 17 books down, three to read within the next month and change.

That’s three books I’ve challenged myself to read during a very busy month–except that there will probably be a few days at the end of the year where there’s nothing to do but read books, and maybe I will also be smart and pick books that I can’t put down, which technically means getting them done quickly.

I can dream.

Or I can put away the computer and pick up the book I’m currently reading and make some progress that I’ll be proud of at the end of the year.

In related news, I also keep track of my reading in this spreadsheet, as I’m also trying to see how geographically diverse my tastes are. Here I track author by birthplace. I have no real set focus for how I choose what I’ll read next–the goal is mainly to read the books I currently own. If I manage to ever do that, than perhaps I’ll put myself on one of those interesting journeys to read books from authors in every country of the world. For now though, I just like seeing where the authors I read come from and wondering whether and/or how birthplace has an impact on writing.

But Jill, why double up on the tracking?

Honestly, the Goodreads challenge puts a little impetus on reading as a goal. It’s my accountability buddy (and if you think an app as a buddy is a sad thing, the app doesn’t mind waiting for weeks while I read a few pages a night. A real buddy might get tired of tapping their foot and rolling their eyes at me). The spreadsheet is just a nice view of the overall picture of where the challenge has taken me, and I like to see it laid out over the years in nice, neat columns. It seems like real progress over time, no matter what my annual reading challenge goal is.

Speaking of which, that challenge is going to take me back to the couch to have a nice read for a couple of hours.

Postcard from Portland

18 Nov

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If you’re flying to Portland, get the window seat that faces the mountains because if you’ve got decent weather, you’ll spend your descent looking at mountain majesty. In terms of going to Champs, it’s a pretty good way to start a weekend that’s all about majestic performances.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I’d be leading a non-skating officiating crew at WFTDA Champs, my third time in this role at the top tournament in the roller derby calendar. One of the fun things about being a crew head is that each crew you lead is completely different, and in my experience, the tone of the crew has been completely perfect for that particular tournament.

In 2013 I had a “yes, and” crew, which was fantastic for the pre-tourney exercises I wanted my guinea pigs them to do. I’d been reading up on coaching and talent development and wanted to to prepare more than I ever had as a Champs official. They did me proud all month leading up to the tourney–mention a concept, and within two hours of group messages, you suddenly have a mascot and a t-shirt and a crew head who wonders what the hell is this awesomeness that is happening before her eyes.

Last year, my initial reaction to my crew list was “Champs! Champs! Awesome! Awesome!” which  played out all weekend. Getting to Champs takes work. Staying alive in Champs takes work. Being the Champ takes work. We experienced all of that over the weekend. After Day One, the crew needed focus, and it took one very long shower to figure out a potential fix: hot potato. Luckily, I had packed way more pairs of socks than I needed, and those became our hot potatoes for pre-game warmups. But when the crew found their focus, they insisted on continuing hot potato play before every game.

This year, with an all-female crew, our crew circle felt very nuturing, very welcoming and very caring. We wanted crew time together and were lucky enough to have assignments that gave us the opportunity to do that. Side note: Should you find yourself in Portland, have breakfast at Cheryl’s on 12th. Two words: complimentary beignets.

This crew was amazingly talented and came together nicely, which is impressive, considering we came from Europe and all points of the US. The teamwork we had was inspiring. We brought their best every game and then performed even better, which made me proud and a little bit wistful. This was a last tournament of sorts because change is coming: New rules and standard practices are around the corner, so this may have been the last weekend I officiated this way. There’s always a little sadness on closing the door on a rule set–another chapter in the history of roller derby is closing, and even though the coming changes are exciting, this moment of change as they all are, needs its moment of acknowledgement.

Rules may not be the only change. I recently started reffing, which is a whole different skill set that’s put me at the bottom of the reffing mountain in the range of officiating. Depending on the path I choose to take–and there are many officiating paths, so I need to map them out and find my optimal route–this could have been my last Champs for a while. Hopefully not forever though. The top of the mountain does have a nice view.

Two Women I Want to Be

11 Nov

On Election Day, I work the polls because I love being a part of the process, and I love watching people exercise their right to vote. [this year my polling place had a voter who came straight from his naturalization ceremony. Talk about a tearjerker!]

This year, I worked in Newton, MA, which is a pretty wealthy and liberal town and was a warden at a polling place in a community center. The warden is the manager in charge of the precinct, makes sure things go smoothly and takes care of all of the unusual situations, such as provisional and inactive voters.

An aside: Hey, guess what! If you don’t fill out your city census, the city doesn’t know that you still live there and will list you as an inactive voter, which means you’re flagged for being taken off of the rolls soon. Don’t complain about your lack of carelessness in forgetting to return the city census; don’t assume they’re going to take the time and taxpayer money to knock on your door and make sure you still live there; just fill out this little confusing form that makes you repeat your address and city a few times, and it’s gonna be all good!

Anyway, during the day, I got to interact with a couple of women who are the type of woman I want to be when I grow up: Ageless.

The first came in to vote, and she’s friends with the clerk (the #2 at the precinct). Dressed super-nattily*, glistening white hair. I look on as they chat:

Clerk: Are you going to aqua zumba?

Heroine #1: Not today. I’ve got cancer, so I’ve got to go to a treatment. [shrugs]

Shrugs!

They make a little more small talk, and after H1 leaves, the clerk turns to me and says, “Guess how old she is.”

“I don’t know…..70s?”

“She’s 90.”

Ninety. Looks in her 70s only because her hair is so white. Otherwise, I would’ve said 60s. Still driving, still doing her thing. Oh, and the cancer? Second time she’s had it, and her attitude is basically that you get the treatments, you get through it and move on.

But wait! There’s more!

One of the inspectors in my crew is a true gem. She’s been doing elections for decades (since the polling place was over at the Jewish school, but when they went kosher, they didn’t want the precinct to be there anymore because they didn’t want the food contamination–see, the history you learn, even if no one remembers when exactly that was), and was sometimes quick to remind me that she’s been doing this a long time.

Patriotic spirit? Whoa! Heroine #2 dresses for every election–this time it was navy pants, white blouse, navy sweater vest. Red necklace and earrings, American flag scarf, navy beret. Boy, I was envious of how she was able to pull off that beret!

Stamina? Most of the people I work with (old or young) start flagging at the end of the day. Not H2! She was still sharp and feisty at 9:00 — maybe a little crankier, but then so was I.

Age? Ninety-four. Also still drives. Sure, in the middle of the day, she put her cane–which she needs mostly for stairs–on the top of the car and drove off, losing it, but who hasn’t done something like that? I seriously think that if I went into this precinct in a decade, she’d still be sitting at the check-in table, checking people in with lightning speed.

These two ladies gave me some hope on Tuesday, and right now, that’s some hope in times where it seems that hopelessness might take over for a while.

*Note: Super-natty dressing might be a hard thing for someone who wears a lot of jeans and t-shirts, but I can learn. Thank goodness I started that subscription to Vogue.

Champion of the Other Side

4 Nov

Today I’m in Portland, Oregon, to officiate at the 2016 WFTDA International Roller Derby Championships. It’s my seventh go-around at Champs in eight years, which is a pretty nice streak. This year I’m leading a crew of non-skating officials (NSOs)–the third time I’ve had that position, and the second year in a row.

With the Cubs winning the World Series, you think of how exciting it is for the players to achieve total victory–to make it to the World Series or whatever championship trophy you’re playing for–but it’s also exciting for the officials involved as well. They’ve gotten to the top of their game too, and it’s pretty special to be selected to work the biggest events in your sports’ season.

My crew this year is phenomenal (though I say that about all of the Champs crews I’ve been on, since every year it’s been true), and to top it off, we’re the first all-female crew at Championships. That’s also pretty special.

When I prepare for Champs, I like to think of officiating goals I want to have for the weekend. Sometimes they’re positional-based, sometimes they’re bigger picture. For this weekend, one of my big goals is to have fun. The pressure of Champs can really get to you, and sometimes it’s easy to be awestruck by the teams or the level of gameplay, and that can cause you to lose focus and make mistakes. I want to keep it fun–to have that fun mentality the entire weekend, even if my crew does make mistakes or needs some help in gelling together.

My other goal is to be in control of my part of the game–and to help my crew be in control of their parts of the game, to put all of those pieces together and create a beautiful officiating jigsaw puzzle.

Last year, my crew was selected to officiate the championship game. And in roller derby officiating, crew assignments aren’t really based on the NSOs, the referees are the ones looked at and scrutinized a lot more. But NSOs can make a ref crew look better–or they can really bring them down. This crew had some of both. Our first day was a little rough, but we all worked on improving and finding our focus and teaming with each other. By the end of day two, we’d found that championship groove. Getting the last game–which was historic in that the team who’d won the Hydra trophy more often than any other was defeated in an epic match.

During that game, I stepped back twice and had two observations about the game at hand–and I’d never really done that before, especially not during gameplay. One was that the crowd was crazy and loud and that I was a part of this historic moment. The second was that our crew of refs and NSOs was in control of the game. That was a magical moment for me–feeling the flow that came as a result of everyone being on top of their own game and working together seamlessly. Doing our jobs, not walking all over each other, but if needed, helping each other out. It was a beautiful thing to be in that much harmony, and it’s something I hope to experience this weekend as well.

If you happen to be in Portland, Oregon, this weekend, come on down to Veterans Memorial Coliseum to watch some of the best roller derby in the world. On Friday, I’ll be working the 4:00 and 8:00 games. They’re going to be excellent, and I can’t wait to be a part of them.

 

[EXTRA] This Is Next Year

3 Nov

I discovered baseball when I was in the third grade–the joys of watching professional baseball, that is. My team? The Chicago Cubs. Pa Jaracz was a Cubs fan, and sports was our way of bonding–Cubs, Bears, golf, Indy car racing. It was what we watched together.

He took me to my first game in 1982–Baseball Card Day (I still have the set). I got to go to an Opening Day (rained out, naturally), and a few others with him.

Of course, little did I know that choosing to become a Cubs fan would be an exercise in futility. When the Cubs lost, they lost big. When the Cubs won, they figured out how to lose it all. 1984, 1989, 2003…all years that were bright spots of heartbreak among the dismal years of failure.

But they were still my Cubbies.

I lived in Chicago for 15 years and would usually catch at least one game a year. It didn’t matter where I sat or stood–it was just magical to escape from the city and be within this little sanctuary where time moved slowly. Where you could have a hot dog and a beer and keep score (if you’re single and interested in meeting someone who also has a passion for baseball, I highly recommend learning how to keep score. It can be a total turn on).

For the last five years, the Boy and I lived within the Wrigleyville neighbor zone. Close enough to be annoyed by all of the traffic the games caused, but far away enough to not deal with the public urination of idiotic attendees who didn’t really watch the game; they basically walked around with stacks of empty plastic beer cups. If the wind was right, you could hear the crowd cheer and know it was time to check in on the game.

One year we won the Wrigley Field neighbor lottery and got to spend an a few hours at the park, playing catch on the field (I PLAYED CATCH ON WRIGLEY FIELD!) and eating hot dogs. To this day, it’s one of my favorite memories of living in Chicago.

The Boy really isn’t into baseball, so regular season viewing tends to be what I catch in bars and am tracking on my phone, but during these Playoffs, we started watching the games religiously. During the series against the Dodgers where the Cubs lost 1-0, the old heartbreak started looming in my chest. I still hoped, but I knew we were losing that game–and that it spelled trouble.

But this year’s Cubs didn’t let that get to them. The next day they completely turned it around and crushed them. That might be the point where I really knew it would happen, because I decided to make a W flag, and after every win, I made the Boy get the stepladder and hang it from our porch. Even though some losses made me a little ambivalent, I never again got that feeling of despair that I had with that Dodgers game.

This weekend I’m leading a crew of officials for the WFTDA International Roller Derby Championships. While the Cubs were heading back to Cleveland to close out the series, I reminded my crew that some of us would be watching Game 6 and Game 7, and remember to get some sleep (the games ended brutally late on the East Coast). The one other Cubs fan on my crew loved that I knew we’d be going seven games. The rest of them indulged me.

You couldn’t ask for a better, crazier way to get that final win–this year’s Cubbies knew how to hold it together on defense; they knew how to create offense; they made it happen. It’s inspirational, really–a great lesson at keeping your head in the game, believing in yourself and your talents and making things happen.

Between the joy and the cheering of the generations of Cubs fans who witnessed history, there are tears for the all of the die-hard Cubs fans who didn’t get to live to see this moment.

What makes me love the Cubbies even more is the fact that they honor those fans. They won it for them, of course, but they won it for us too, and the organization understood that they also won it for the greats who weren’t able to win it. They won it for the broadcasters who helped create some of the most beloved traditions in baseball (want to see the 7th inning stretch on national TV? Be at Wrigley. Want a fountain of tears? Announce Eddie Vedder as leading “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and have him introduce Harry Caray singing via Jumbotron).

A day later, and it’s still a little surreal. I’m so used to not winning that it’s hard to believe that it happened. But it did–we no longer have to say, “Wait ’till next year.” Though with a team that’s this good, I can’t wait until next year to see what they can do.

What’s the First Rule of Politics?

28 Oct

Because I’m working the polls on Election Day, I voted early this week. It should’ve been an exciting experience–this is the first time Massachusetts is doing early voting, and it’s a historical Presidential election–but instead, it made me so angry.

The only contested election on my ballot was the Presidential election.

That’s messed up.

What happened to the choice? I live in a democracy! We’re supposed to be about being able to decide who should be running the main offices in our government at all levels. Where’s the Green Party or the Libertarians who are making such a stink at the Presidential level? Why aren’t they running for state office or sheriff?

I truly don’t understand how alternative candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have deluded themselves into thinking that the American public would really pick one of them when they don’t bother to let the voters get to know their party on the local level. They have no chance, and even if they did, federal government would have serious issues because the legislature likely wouldn’t allow them to get anything done.

In my area, the Republicans just gave up (they gave up in the primary too). Why didn’t they throw some names on the ballot? They have to hold meetings. They couldn’t stand around in a circle and say, “OK. We have to have some people running. Larry, you good with running for sheriff? Great! DeShawn, how about you run for state representative in your district? All right, that’s two races accounted for. Let’s get some more candidates, people!”

Even if your party doesn’t put you up, you can go as an Independent. It’s not like you can’t get on the ballot. I had to look longingly at the other ballot in my city because they had a choice in one race, and that was between a Democrat and an Independent. I even decided to do a legit write-in candidate because I wanted to have options and didn’t like the one choice I had.

Maybe your part of the country is different. Maybe you do have choices in other races. But if you don’t, then let’s agree that we’re going to do something about it next election cycle. Let’s stop all the lip service. Let’s stop all of the focus on one race. Let’s give the talking heads something to really talk about and analyze besides the minute-by-minute movements of two people. Let’s choose to give our voters real choices.

Heck, you don’t even have to put a ton of money into those races if you don’t want to. Treat it like a hobby–spend a small amount of money and some time and see how you do. Even if you don’t win, get involved and make a difference at the local level, because that’s where the real races are. That’s where you’re really affecting people’s daily lives. Are there really only one-size-fits-all candidates? Surely not. So let’s have some real choices–at all levels of government.

 

 

 

Postcard from Winnipeg

21 Oct

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You know those cities that just make you feel happy and delighted whenever you think about them? Winnipeg filled one of those slots in my heart this year.

I was in the unofficial Gateway to Churchill this August to teach at a WFTDA Officiating Clinic (more on officiating in a future Friday diversion). Churchill’s the Polar Bear Capital of Canada, and to get there (from the US at least), you’re likely flying through Winnipeg. But Winnipeg isn’t just a fly-through or flyover city, even though that’s the mantle it seems to wear.

I learned this from the minute I walked over the Hug Rug at the airport and met the clinic hosts, who took me on a driving tour of the city. Along the way, they apologized for the state it was in. “The city doesn’t spend much money,” said one. “Our roads are just horrible.”

I peered out the window. “You’ve never been to Boston, have you?” I said, noting the pretty dreamy condition of the roads we were currently driving on. I honestly never really saw what they were talking about the entire weekend. Sure, the roads weren’t brand-spanking-new, but they weren’t chock full of potholes either.

Perhaps it was their modesty–and it turned out to be the modesty of the city–that I found so charming, but after exploring for a little while, I wanted to scream, “Listen to that message on the garbage cans, Winnipeg! This place is great!”

Why? Perhaps it’s the idea that it’s this sizeable city smack dab in the middle of of the prairie, rising up out of the flat earth. Perhaps it’s the bustling Forks area by the rivers–and the really nice riverfront path. Maybe it’s the beautiful Legislative Building. Or the French Quarter with that chocolate shop that sells delicious Manitobars. Or the amazing collection of native statuary at the WAG. Or the delicious meal at Peasant Cookery that put the cap on a lovely weekend.

I had a day of exploration before the clinic, and during it I made the mistake of going to the tourist office and getting some brochures. This made me a little depressed about all of the places I couldn’t fit in on this trip (new polar bear exhibit at the zoo! The Exchange District! Baseball game!), but the bright side is that Winnipeg will just go higher up on my list of places to revisit.

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