It’s probably a bad sign when a household ant infestation feels like a metaphor for your life.
A few times a year since we moved into our house, tiny sugar ants appear. They swarm on crumbs and march in lines along room perimeters. After a while—and usually more rigorous housecleaning—they go back to whatever outside home they have.
This time is different. I keep fighting the ants, and, predictably, more show up. And they are spreading. They have found the bathroom, a room they’ve never infiltrated before. And I just can’t keep up.
Perhaps it’s not shocking that this particularly bad ant infestation mirrors a time in my life that also feels like every time I turn around, I have more to-do items that tickle me, nagging thoughts that won’t get lost and worries that swarm my distracted mind.
One thing being a mother of two kids teaches me—repeatedly—is that just because they’re both mine doesn’t mean they’re the same. Or even similar. For example, Peeper could paint, glue, color and craft forever. Kiwi, on the other hand, will eat paint for a moment then splatter it everywhere before getting down from her chair, leaving a trail of purple and orange in her wake.
So the other day during Kiwi’s nap, I suggested Peeper and I do a craft together. We opted for something new and different—after all, when you have so few uninterrupted opportunities to do a kids craft project, you want to make it count! So we brought all our upcycled supplies onto the deck and made egg carton faces in the rare Oregon springtime sun.
Misery may love company, but activism adores it! And the thing is, the more I practice everyday acts of kindness and political action, the more optimistic I feel. In February, I (mostly) succeeded in my resolution to do good every day, and I came away with this as my main takeaway: We can do even more good, develop relationships that build community and get out of our Facebook bubble when taking action with others.
A post was recently circulating on Facebook that said, basically—and I’m summarizing here—that President Trump really is making America great again. After all, community involvement and participation is the highest I’ve ever seen, citizens are educated and vocal about our government, and nonprofits are receiving record support. What’s more, it’s not only grown-ups standing up for justice. Family activism seems to be growing, too.
My girls are definitely accompanying me on my journey becoming a more active and outspoken citizen. So it felt natural to make protest signs with my kids.
With House and Senate Republicans are trying to push through a repeal and replace bill to cut the Affordable Care Act, and with so much shaming going on around people who need any help from the government, I feel compelled to share my own story. You see, before Obamacare went into effect, I was denied insurance at a new job because I had a preexisting condition—I was pregnant. Public assistance saved my family.
Government assistance was the reason why we are not still saddled with thousands of dollars of medical bills. It helped me feed myself and my infant. A series of safety nets caught me and my family. Even with the help of the government, we relied on family members and strangers to stay fed, healthy and warm.
By sharing my story, I knowingly open up my own personal experience to judgment. But I do so because it’s easy to shame a stranger, but a lot harder to assume the worst about someone you know.
When I was a freshman in college, I learned how to knit from another gal in my dorm. A whole bunch of us would pile onto one of our teeny-tiny beds in the University of Oregon’s notoriously dungeon-like dorm rooms, and together we’d knit one, purl one for hours—instead of studying (or binge drinking!). I gave the resulting scarf to my sister for Christmas. I was so excited for her to open it. When she did, she oohed, held it up—and burst into laughter. The thing was enormous, more of a shawl than a scarf, and hilariously wonky.
I’ve gotten much better at knitting since then, though these days most of my yarn projects are of the arts and crafts kind, not the follow-an-intricate-sweater-pattern variety. That’s ok, though! Yarn is good for more than just cable-knit caps. These 10 easy yarn projects for kids are super fun anytime, no matter if it’s sunny or sweater weather.
As the high school gym filled with people, the room got noisier and noisier: people chatting, the squeak of metal as folks shifted in folding chairs, iPhone alerts, a kid laughing as she climbed the bleachers. Then another sound rose above the rest: People singing. From all over the gym, others joined in. Within moments, the nearly 2,000 people who had gathered for this town hall meeting were singing “This Land is Your Land.”
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me
I have no idea who started singing—it wasn’t a staffer from Senator Ron Wyden‘s office, I’m pretty sure. Rather, the inspiration seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. I hadn’t thought of this song since I was a kid, and I’m actually surprised I remembered the words.
But maybe I remember them because deep down, this song represents something fundamental about America. The country is made up of diversity—both in its land and geography as well as its people. And as this Woody Guthrie classic makes clear, America includes us all.