Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Proud of My Community

Last night’s City Council election was poignant and hopeful.

In 2012 I ran against Charles Macheers for the KS Legislature and lost. He had previously defeated a bright and talented moderate Republican during the primary and the tone around the district was one of unabashed conservatism.

Fast forward to the spring of 2014, when Representative Macheers introduced House Bill 2453 to the Kansas Legislature. As described in one of the many articles written about this awful bill: “Businesses could tell gay couples to get lost if an employee or owner believes homosexuality to be a religious sin. Government employees could also refuse service to gay couples. Employers could deny benefits to gay couples or get rid of the employees altogether without recrimination. And if a person so discriminated against filed a lawsuit against the discriminating entity and then lost the case, that person could get stuck not only with their own attorney's bill but also with that of the person or company sued. The measure is an added insult to gays in Kansas, who in 2005 suffered the indignity of a statewide vote to force a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage - something that was already against the law at the time.”

My friend Stacey, who is gay and has been married to the love of her life for several decades, accompanied me to the Capital during this time and we met with Representative Macheers. Stacey wanted him to see the face of one of his constituents; the face of someone who would be harmed by the bill. It was an emotional visit for both of us but one that was necessary.

HB 2453 was scuttled in committee after embarrassing national attention and blowback, but by then Stacey and her wife had decided that Kansas posed a threat to the security of their family and they moved to Colorado as a result.

Charles was defeated during the 2016 Republican primary. He lost his legislative seat to former educator Shelee Brim, a beloved community member with a pragmatic and moderate view of her role as a State Representative. Shelee worked closely with other female legislators last spring to craft a budget to reverse Governor Brownback’s disastrous tax monstrosity. These strong and devoted women came from both Republican and Democratic parties but none were extremists, none were ideologues. They simply believed that in their roles as stewards of our state they needed to work together to salvage our valuable services and to find a way to increase vital revenue that had been eliminated by the Governor and the far right.

Fast forward to last night, when I volunteered as a Poll Watcher for Shawnee City Council candidate Justin Adrian. Justin is gay. While this does not singularly define him, it is important to the story. Justin ran a clean and appropriate campaign, focusing on growth for the City of Shawnee. The race is completely non-partisan and candidates don’t announce their political parties. It is designed this way for a reason, so that City Councilman will work in a spirit of cooperation when elected. His opponent, Dave Myres, utilized multiple ugly mailers taken straight out of the extremist’s playbook. The final mailer was designed to highlight the fact that Justin is a gay married man.

Charles Macheers sat next to me while I was poll watching. He was there representing Dave Myres as a poll watcher as well. We briefly visited (Charles is a mild, unassuming man and quite pleasant to chat with) but when the voting machine counts were tallied Justin had soundly bested Myres, at least at our polling location. The irony was not lost on me.

I headed to Justin’s watch party and after walking in noticed him talking to a petite, spunky blond woman. I recognized her immediately as our Republican State Representative, Shelee Brim.

There is indescribable pressure the western Shawnee far right branch of the Republican Party exerts on moderate Republicans. Shelee’s public support of a gay man (who is a registered Democrat) took courage, particularly when Justin’s opponent proudly boasted of his conservatism. She can most certainly expect to face an extreme right primary opponent next year as punishment.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what happened last night, but I know one thing for certain. I have a renewed faith in my community. I know that there are politicians out there with the moral courage to do the right thing, even if it costs them later. Shelee proved that and I will be supporting her if she runs for the legislature again, regardless of the letter next to her name on the ballot.

Stacey, I hope you are reading this. You were in my thoughts last night as the final votes were announced and we realized Justin had won.

Much love,

Marlys

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What is YOUR worst driving behavior?

Honestly, the worst part about working full time is the drive.

If you see a crazy almost middle-aged woman, wild eyed with her mouth open (you aren't really middle age until 50, right?), veering in and out of traffic on EITHER Shawnee Mission Parkway, I-70 or 71 Highway between the hours of 8:00-9:15 am Monday through Friday in a black Audi it might, just might, be moi. And I'm sorry, but you people are killing me.

Just killing me.

Hey, line of eight semi's convoying around the I-435 exit onto I-70, can you FREAKING SEPARATE? You are adding at least five minutes to my commute. FIVE MINUTES. And how in God's name do you manage to fuse all of your wide asses BACK TOGETHER at the most inopportune time - the one lane squeeze through downtown? Do you know how hard it is to veer over to the 71 Highway exit within that 1/4 mile window while stuck behind a chorus line of mammoth semi's chuggging, panting, and playing coy like they MIGHT want to move along but just can't decide?

And those of you merging onto 71 on my right, do you understand the laws of highway driving? Do you KNOW what a throttle is? Or what it can do? Oh, I promise, it can be fun. Try it. Please God, try it. Hell, do you understand speed? Or the meaning of the words "rush hour?" It means rush, and not the band (although from the speed of your driving I can only assume you're more of the Susan Boyle type of fan than Rush, sacame de mi miseria).

And while the driving on a Kansas or Missouri highway during rush hour can be frustrating, nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to the horrific nightmare that is Shawnee Mission Parkway.

I broke my own rule on Thursday. Based upon mileage and route, Shawnee Mission Parkway SHOULD be a solid 15 minute faster drive to my office. Notice I say "should". Now, I live almost to the Colorado border from my office, true story, and I try to take the quickest route there when possible. Traffic tends to clear up a bit by 8:45 so I figured what the hell, I'll try it today since I'm running a bit late.

WRONG. Why do I do these things to myself? I need one of those oil change stickers in the corner of my windshield that says, bold and in all caps, "DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ATTEMPT TO TAKE SHAWNEE MISSION PARKWAY TO WORK DUMB ASS!!!!"

Sure enough, within five minutes of the drive THAT car was there. Sometimes it's a Subaru. Sometimes a beat up van. But remember, the vans can be like Jekyll and Hyde, mind you. Some are driving slow, swerving a little, but others can be aggressive as hell with drivers who look somewhat similar to me, shudder. THOSE drivers aren't afraid to use their middle fingers. And they usually have bumper stickers with fish or stupid stick figures and advertisements for pedophiles to figure out exactly what school their kids go to, how many pets and what kind they have, which sports their kids play and which marketing tier the mom sells from home. Yeah, "come and lure me" it screams.

I digress.

THOSE cars, like the Subaru or Toyota Camry's (why do old women always drive Camry's) perpetually end up in the left lane. You know, the FREAKING PASSING LANE, going 1/4 of a mile faster than the people in the right lane. You know, the lane for the rule followers. I'm not a rule follower, I'm running late, I need to get to work, I hate Shawnee Mission Parkway and I HATE YOU BECAUSE YOU WON'T GET THE HELL OVER AND LET ME PASS!!

Whew, that felt better. Usually, when I scream this while driving, a bit of spittle flies out of my mouth. It's a situation.

There is always the usual speed up and slow down driver, the "dur, can I get over yet?" dufus who can't seem to understand that when I'm gracious and pause long enough to let you merge in during construction it means you merge NOW AND NOT IN A MILE! There is the guy who decides a yellow light means stop, not speed through the intersection so I can draft you and ALSO get through. I'm headed to a fire, yes, now get the f-over!

And did I mention wanting to hurt the people who decided that starting construction ANYWHERE on Shawnee Mission Parkway was a good idea? Just pass out toothpicks in a booth so we can all jab them under our fingernails during the drive. It'll relieve that pain of the agonizing wait.

For the record, I'm not really this crazy. I'm actually a courteous driver. But holy hell, if I spoke out loud in public the things that go through my mind during that daily commute...let's just say, it wouldn't be flattering. And I can accept that. It's why I call my friends and leave desperate messages saying "I'm bored, please pick up" (bluetooth, promise). It's ACTUALLY an SOS call and I'm using you to save me from myself. When I'm talking to you I'm not focusing on killing the driver in front of or next to me.

You are doing a public service when you answer my call.

Thanks for letting me confess. This has been bothering me. But please don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds, promise. I won't hurt anyone and, at times, the same spittle spewing, raging and wild eyed suburban freak hustling to get down to Troost might just begin cackling and laughing out loud. The things I call my fellow drivers can be that funny.

If you pick up my call, I can share those names with you.

You've been put on notice.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Democrat, Independent, and Republican walked into a bar....

Wednesday night the unthinkable happened. A Democrat and an Independent hosted a meet and greet for a City Council Candidate. He's a registered Democrat. We also invited another City Council Candidate from the neighboring ward. He's a registered Republican. The race is non-partisan and these two candidates have approached their races with this in mind.

It was fun. We talked about city issues. We laughed. We listened to each other. We got along. And we actually agreed on most things while also carrying on civil dialogue, even taking into consideration we were all members of different parties. In fact, the issues we were discussing were not particularly contentious or about national issues. They simply focused on our own small community.

It can be done. Far from being difficult, it was refreshing.

Roughly 100 people were invited. Less than 10% came by to visit with the candidate. Unfortunately, this is reflective of our Democracy. Americans turn out for local elections at rates lower than 20%. I recently read that in our area, that number has been as low as 8%.

We all have hobbies. We all have interests. We all have priorities. I try to never judge people on those things because these differences are what make each of us so unique and special. Being part of a Democracy, though, requires a small bit of effort. We wax poetic about "those who fought for our freedoms and our right to vote" and then we quietly look the other way when the one responsibility that supports the entire system of government rolls around every year or two.

Do your part. It requires a small bit of effort that will be a blip in the radar of your busy and active life. First, find out just a little bit about the candidates. It's easy. Google them, ask your friends or neighbors if they know them, call them, email them or attend an event where they are meeting people. Then vote.

Those two things are all this great nation asks of you.

I took heart on Wednesday night, though. Two of the guests brought their very young children. That is the third part of our responsibility. Teach the next generation to step up and be engaged citizens.

Even if the majority of the community fails to do so.

Friday, July 21, 2017

How to Clean a House in Just a Few Easy Steps

Preface, this is a First World Problem, so if you are going to get all righteous, just walk away. Now.

Moving on.

Grandmother Mary Jean would be proud of what I'm about to write.

I've had my house cleaned by a number of different cleaning crews in the past. Only at various times, like when I was in a cast for ten weeks. Four different times, by four different agencies (I'll call them agencies...every cleaning "crew" is different). It never felt right when I did it. It still doesn't. But I'm running out of hours in the week and my house is getting pretty scary, so it's time to get serious about finding a permanent house cleaner.

And here's the thing.

NOBODY FREAKING KNOWS HOW TO CLEAN A DAMN HOUSE!!!

Whew, I feel better.

Maybe it's because I learned at the knee of my Grandma Mary Jean. She was notorious for vacuuming and dusting every day. Every other week she would deep clean the cabinet doors.

She was downright military-like when it came to teaching me to clean a house.

And I've slacked over the years. Oh, my, how I've slacked.

I'm ashamed at the level of slacking.

Kids...work....volunteer work....friends...exercise....maturity (which has taught me that a clean house should come last on the list when compared with spending time with my kids or my friends....all of these have intruded on my "used to be" clean house).

I simply don't have the time or the desire anymore and most of my friends use someone.

But it never works because the basic tenets of house cleaning, which were damn near biblical to my Grandmother, are being neglected. Unless I can find someone who understands and appreciates how you clean a house I'd rather it stay dirty and I'll get to it when I can.

Here are the basics:

1) When dusting, remove every item from the wooden surface you are dusting and dust underneath said items.

2) When dusting, remove every item from the wooden surface you are dusting and dust underneath said items.

3) One more time, in case you didn't fully understand numbers 1 & 2: When dusting, remove every item from the wooden surface you are dusting and dust underneath said items.

4) Dust the items you removed, even if it's just a quick swish. And dust the sides of the cabinet...and the front of the cabinet...and the doors of the cabinet. What's that? Yes, all the way to the bottom. Yes, I know, it's laborious. But it's important.

5) Wipe the dust cloth across the tops of frames. Every frame. It doesn't take long, I swear. Just do it when you walk by them. But do it.

6) If it has a glass surface (like the two huge doors on my antique cabinet in a, oh, I'd say fairly prominent position on my landing) then clean it. With glass cleaner. Please.

7) If it's a toilet, get on your hands and knees and clean the floor around the base of the toilet. Yes, all the way up to the wall and the baseboards. I know, I know...it's kind of gross. But it's part of CLEANING THE FREAKING TOILET.

8) While you are at it, wipe down the entire bowl and the base and back of the base. IT'S PART OF CLEANING THE FREAKING TOILET. And not just for one toilet. For ALL of the toilets.

9) When mopping a wooden floor, vacuum under pieces of furniture. Then mop the same area. You know, it's very obvious when someone is on the floor playing with their pets if a massive pile of dust and pet hair is growing under a buffet or a cabinet as if in a petri dish. It is fully expected that these surfaces get the same love and attention as the rest of the hard wood floors.

10) Look for cobwebs and destroy them. Sometimes, they are easy to spot. Like on the wall, eye level. You can use your vacuum to suck them up or the dusting cloth you just used to wipe of the top of the frames I mentioned. Just don't ignore them. Please.

It's bad enough that we live in a world where we no longer mop the kitchen floor on our hands and knees. My Grandmother is screaming from heaven and disturbing the angels because of this, I'm certain of it.

I fear that, along with the sewing/quilting, the printed newspaper, actual paper books, in person human interaction and phone calls, the art of housecleaning has disappeared.

My children are in for a looooong weekend. House cleaning boot camp is about to commence.

Oh, and if you happen to know any cleaning services that are run by a Depression Era, World War II Grandma? Send me the info. I'll pay anything.

p.s. Photos are from AFTER my house was recently cleaned...by a crew of three. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, give me strength.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Do We Survive This?

Been awhile folks and I haven't felt the "blog" bug in some time.

The state of the union is just that...the state. Nothing I type will change our current reality. Trump is President.

In the meantime, I've focused on the things that matter, like my family, my job, my friends (and the 2018 mid-terms, eh hum).

I've been tested lately, though. And I think all of us need to step back and look at each other.

Two people who I have held deep respect for over many years, both with advanced graduate degrees (lest you make assumptions; remember about assumptions, right?), voted for Donald Trump and have literally said to me within the past few weeks "yeah, but don't you think Trump has done some good things for the people?"

I still respect these two. They are still special friends to me.

I didn't argue with them. I didn't attack or call them names. I didn't repeat the monsoon of concerns roiling in my brain. What's the point, after all?

And honestly, they didn't want me to argue with them. They didn't want to hear my response. And I didn't have the energy to discuss "it" or "him".

What I was left feeling, to be honest, was a deep sense of concern regarding how ALL of us interpret information and how all of us treat each other.

Something profound has happened in this nation when people with the same values, the same love of family and friends, the same family structure and from a similar socioeconomic level and with even a similar sense of humor have such insanely opposing opinions of the President of the United States.

It hurts my head.

What we can't do is let it hurt US. We can't let it hurt our relationships with each other. We are bigger and better than the office of the President, whether you love him or hate him.

What I DO know is that my two friends are good men and that I enjoy having them in my world. They BRING something to this nation, their professions, their families and their friends. They are very special and unique (I'm a bit picky when it comes to those I adore, after all).

I know that I trust them and I trust their ethics and values. And I believe that there IS a red line for them and for other good, decent and honorable Americans.

We have painful days ahead of us still but I trust that even in the current political environment in this nation enough good people like my friends would step up, speak out and put a stop to actions that would destroy this Democracy or cause the death of innocent people.

If I didn't believe that, what would be the point of continuing to live here?

I accept that there hasn't been a single moment where I can rationalize or understand their support of Donald Trump and his behavior. I accept that I disagree with their political opinions on an almost visceral level for some issues. I accept that they view certain policies differently than I do, particularly policies that I believe will severely harm segments of our population. I accept that they have come to their beliefs based upon their upbringing and life experiences, as have I. And I accept that they are still amazing men that I'm honored to call friends.

Take a good look at the people around you and remember, most of them are decent. Most of them are no different than you. We simply interpret information differently. And trust that when push comes to shove, in extreme circumstances, they will do the honorable thing. We just aren't there yet, even though it feels like it to many of us.

It's the only way we are going to survive this. Believing this is the only way I am going to survive this (and working towards the mid-terms, of course...I mean, I'm not going to STOP fighting for what I believe and don't expect you to either).

Monday, April 24, 2017

13 Reasons and my 12 Year Old

So it has come to this America.

I don’t know how…or when…or if it is just “me” being “old”.

I just know I’m deeply sad and torn and angry.

It seems I’m going to have to consider watching “13 Reasons” with our twelve year old son Brody.

My sweet boy, the one who still gets a kick out of farting in my direction because he knows it drives me crazy.

This amazing young spirit who still enjoys playing with his Legos and building things and who gets dorky and giggly when chasing his buddies around the house shooting Nerf guns at each other.

Brody is the kid who will bust out dancing with no provocation, roll his eyes, wiggle his hips and bask in the laughter of adults and kids around him. He knows he’s funny and goofy and he doesn’t care. He’s just being himself.

But now “13 Reasons” is THE show his friends are watching. It’s the show the parents are all saying “Oh my God, we have to watch this with our middle school kids because they need to know these things and understand these things.”

We watched the first episode with him and both my husband and I, without consulting Facebook or a therapist or a school official or another parent, looked at each other and said “hell no, this isn’t appropriate.” I watched the second episode and felt even more confident in this response.

We went to bed feeling good about our decision because we didn’t give it a second thought.

Fast forward two days and it sounds like it’s the magical time when we need to let our son watch teenagers smoking weed out of a bong, ramming their hand between the legs of an unwilling female victim and, if what is coming down the road in this series is all that I’ve read, it’s time for him to witness violent rape and a drawn out, bloody suicide.

Because this is the reality of the world we live in.

Here is my question: is it necessary to watch this with him in order to discuss bullying, being there for your friends, and knowing that he can come talk to his parents or another trusted adult if he’s struggling or sees someone else struggling?

I spend every day of my life thinking about how to be a better parent; reaching out to my kids, even though it drives them crazy…paying attention to who they are hanging out with, learning who the parents of those kids are and asking them about their devices…peeking at their devices…monitoring their grades…sneaking talks with other moms to compare what they are hearing…emailing teachers if I have a question. Even with all that, it’s necessary to sit and watch rape, drug use and bloody suicide before he even finishes his FIRST YEAR OF MIDDLE SCHOOL?

I need some time. This one is really bothering me.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My New Kitchen Toy!

I have all the gadgets.

I've got the food processor.

The blender.

The Kitchen Aid.

Two crockpots.

A rice steamer.

A waffle maker.

We use the waffle maker on birthdays. I use the Kitchen Aid during holidays. The blender? During the summer on those rare occasions when I make fun cocktails (otherwise it's the old standby's: wine, beer and vodka tonics). The rice steamer gets used pretty regularly and, if you like rice, is something I highly recommend.

The problem with all of these gadgets is storing the damn things.

To store them, I have to put them out of sight. And in my house? That's the kiss of death.

I have two gadgets, though, that I've decided I cannot live without and I'm so jazzed about the newest one that I have to share. I like them so much that I don't forget about them. I'm pretty sure I caught the Kitchen Aid whispering "I hate you" tonight when I passed her by to pull them off the shelves again.

Let me tell you about the first one that I've had for a little over a year. It is so awesome that I will literally plan a day to just use it.

It's the food saver. And Oh. My. God. Has it saved me.

This thing will shrink wrap anything, liquid or solid. I used it when we went on a 16 day trip through Yellowstone, etc, in our fifth wheel and, no joke, I prepared ahead of time enough meals and/or ingredients that we only ate dinner out three times. And it fit in our fifth wheel freezer!

I freeze the usual left over meals, like chili and stew, but also gravy to use in later recipes. I'll make a lasagne and freeze individual pieces so that Brian can grab one on the way out the door for work and by lunchtime it has thawed out enough to reheat. I will chop four or five onions at a time and freeze individual bags of one chopped onion each for later recipes. If I find a smoking deal on ground beef I will stock up and break it out into individual bags of a pound each. Honestly, I don't think there is anything I've found yet that I won't freeze using the food saver.

My only advice? Buy the actual Food Saver brand and then search for bags on Amazon that have high ratings. The off brand bags are cheaper. I got my Food Saver at Costco on sale for $139. It has easily saved me more than that.

Now, drum roll, about my new toy.

The Instantpot pressure cooker is the BOMB (shout out to Marcia, who I work with, for hooking me up)!

All I can say is that the meat in our house will never taste the same again. I'm getting rid of the crockpots too. This thing will BE a crockpot if that's what you want. The problem with the crockpots is that I've never been able to get the absolute most out of a piece of meat when using them. The Instantpot? Holy cow. The meat tastes like it came from a restaurant.

Most of the meat I've cooked so far has taken less than 30 minutes. Tonight I cooked an entire chicken, which was still partly frozen in the middle, and the actual pressure cooking time was 20 minutes flat.

The pot has a feature that allows you to saute in it; it heats up almost immediately, meaning the gravy I made when the chicken was completed was boiling in half the time it takes on the stove.

I made Kalua Pig last night - using a 5 lb bone in pork shoulder roast - and damn near had an orgasm it was so good.

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. It was tender and succulent and the flavor was out of this world. This one took 90 minutes but the preparation was so simple that it just meant I needed to make sure I planned ahead, which I did.

The Instantpot will allow you to release the pressure immediately when an item is finished cooking or, as with the Kalua Pig, it will release the pressure itself slowly. I wasn't going to be home when it finished due to kid taxi duty so I didn't have to worry about it overcooking.

I knew after the first use that I was in love. After not getting home from work until 7:45, and walking into a room with three people staring at me blindly asking "what's for dinner", I grabbed what I had one hand. That included three frozen chicken breasts. What can I say, we were overdue for a visit to the grocery store. I almost made them eat cereal, but instead tossed the breasts into the Instantpot along with some salsa, chili powder and salt. Voila! Fifteen minutes later we had shredded chicken tacos (it took five minutes for the cooker to pressurize and ten minutes to cook the chicken).

The first day I had off following that first success I searched a website referred by Marcia called Nom Nom Paleo and started printing recipes (the Kalua Pork photo is from her site but mine looked just the same, promise). I chose ones that I thought might be fairly easy, then hit the grocery store, and now I've got three meals cooked and frozen (hence my deepening love for the Food Saver) and tomorrow night we are eating Indian Curry Spareribs. It won't be until later in the evening but everything is ready and this one will take 35 minutes - 20 to cook and 15 to depressurize naturally.

If it is as good as what I've made so far you will hear the moaning across town.

If anyone else reading this has an Instantpot and wants to share recipes then I'm your girl. Please. I'm begging you.

Between the speed, efficiency and brilliant ability to leave meat moist and tender coupled with the option of freezing meals and not having to worry about what to make for dinner I'm sure my life will be a little more simple now. It seems like every night either I work late, the kids have activities, or both.

Now I don't have to feel guilty anymore for picking up carry out three or four nights a week.

And I'll have more time for wine and catching up with the kids about their day (not necessarily in that order, promise).

Get an Instantpot and a Food Saver. You won't regret it.