Climate Movement Monday: in support of Puerto Rico, Western Alaska, + other frontline communities

Welcome back to Climate Movement Monday in which I highlight frontline communities in need of support. The climate crisis is on full display this week with hurricanes and typhoon-related storms causing mass destruction. I’m listing local organizations that accept donations. Every bit helps, no amount too small.

WESTERN ALASKA was hit on Friday and Saturday by the remnants of Typhoon Merbock with hurricane-force winds that put coastal villages and towns underwater.

A massive storm battering Western Alaska brought floodwaters to the steps of the local school in Golovin on Saturday. (Courtesy Josephine Daniels)

PUERTO RICO which still hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria (exactly five years ago) is now flooded after Hurricane Fiona caused mudslides that knocked out the power grid. Much of the island has no power (it was privatized one year after Maria) and people are in desperate need of drinking water.

Puerto Rico. Stephanie Rojas/Associated Press

Note: Hurricane Fiona is now causing further devastation in the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.

Also? PAKISTAN continues to suffer from flooding after torrential monsoon rains. The people are bearing the brunt of climate change and must receive climate reparations. “Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country, accounts for less than 1% of global carbon emissions but ranks as the eighth most vulnerable to climate change, according to the “Global Climate Risk Index 2021,” published by the nongovernmental organization Germanwatch.”

  • Aghosh USA is the org I donated through right after the flooding began.
    Donate here

Okay, if you’ve read this far, I thank you! If you can donate a few dollars, I thank you again. As you can see, the climate crisis is here and certain vulnerable communities will suffer more than others. We need a just energy transition to an equitable world, and that means fossil fuels MUST remain in the ground.

Solidarity! ✊🏽

Never have I ever: orchid edition

Our neighbors gifted us yesterday with these beautiful orchids and a note of condolence about my mother-in-law‘s death last month. Such a lovely and thoughtful gesture.

September 18, 2022

I can’t stop gazing at these flowers’ intricate beauty. I am a bit nervous, however, because I’ve never had an orchid before and know absolutely nothing about their care and maintenance. I’ll be consulting the google for help but if anyone out there has tips, I would welcome them. And if you know what type of orchid this is, I’d also love that information.

My mother-in-law was no stereotype

Monday evening, my mother-in-law died.

Bouquet from yard in vase made by young Wildebeest, given to Alice on day before her death.

Contrary to what books and movies would have us believe, not all mothers-in-law are control freaks who believe no one is good enough for their sons. Some are kind, loving, and supportive.

It didn’t feel that way at the start. The first time I met Alice was when Zippy brought me to his parents’ home in Colorado for Christmas in 1988. At the time, he and I had a long-distance relationship between our two California cities. When it was bedtime, Alice showed me where I’d sleep, which wasn’t where Zippy was sleeping. I remember the depths of loneliness I felt lying in that room in an unfamiliar house filled with people I didn’t know. Loneliness plus resentment for the uptight mother of my boyfriend.

That’s the first and last thing she ever did to upset me. No exaggeration. And after I got to know Alice, I realized her decision to put me in that bedroom by myself wasn’t a comment on me or my relationship with her son, but because she didn’t want to make assumptions.

Alice welcomed me with open arms and later extended her endless love to Wildebeest and Zebu. If Alice was a stereotype, it was as a devoted grandmother. She genuinely loved spending time with her grandchildren. Wildebeest told me a story yesterday about the time Alice and Stu took care of Zebu and him for a weekend while Zippy and I went out-of-state for my high school reunion. He’s foggy on the details — maybe he and his brother were fighting over a toy or complaining of boredom — but he remembers it was the only time Grandma got mad at them.

I believe it. Alice was the queen of easy-going. She loved family and friends, and was always the first to laugh at herself. She’d do something — such as accidentally sitting on her camera in the church pew at her other son’s wedding — then let out her trademark “woooo,” followed by a giggle. One time, she agreed to help me make curtains for the boys’ bedroom. After many, many laughter-filled minutes trying to figure out how to thread the sewing machine needle and bobbin, we gave up and called her capable seamstress neighbor who set things right while Alice and I laughed some more.

Once, Alice agreed to accompany me to a doctor’s appointment where she stayed out in the car with the boys. Toddler Zebu was still very attached to me and didn’t handle separation well. When he began crying, Alice struggled to get him out of the car seat, growing more confused as his wailing reached epic proportions. In later years, Alice told the story of how Wildebeest leaned in at that moment to say, “Read the directions, Grandma.” She then read the instructions on the car seat and was able to release Zebu and calm him. But in her telling, all credit went to Wildebeest.

Alice was generous to a fault. She feared and disliked cats, yet cut out cat pictures for the birthday cards she’d make me. When she flew to Alaska to help out after Zebu was born, she told me to let her know if any of her behavior bothered me. She said this knowing that the recent visit from my own mother had caused more problems than it alleviated. Once, after Stu and I had a spirited conversation about our differing political views, in which he was literally hopping mad and called me a communist, Alice forced him to phone me the next day to apologize. Honestly, I thought it was pretty funny seeing my father-in-law so wound up, but Alice didn’t want to risk hurt feelings. Family mattered.

Alice was nineteen when she had Zippy (Stu was twenty-one). Alice had four children by the time she was thirty, a mind-boggling realization when I had my first child at 30 years and barely considered myself mature enough to be a parent. Over the years, Alice and Stu apologized to their kids for supposed mistakes they’d made and opportunities they hadn’t provided. But from my perspective, that young and very poor couple accomplished a miracle: they raised four well-adjusted children who not only loved their parents very much, but also love and support each other.

Over the three weeks following Alice’s heart surgery at the end of July, those four children worked together to help their ailing mother. They coordinated efforts so Alice, who was deaf and suffering dementia, would never be alone in an unfamiliar place. Under increasingly scary and difficult circumstances, those four hung together in their shared goal to ease their mother’s discomfort.

And now Alice’s smile and laughter are only memories. Our hearts are shattered, but I’m deeply grateful for the years I had with my mother-in-law. My wish for her now, wherever she is, is that there are buffets rather than menus. Because for her many fine qualities, Alice struggled to make decisions. Eating out with her was a study in patience. But maybe there are menus and waitstaff. In which case, as Alice was fond of saying, “I hope it all works out.”

Honoring Bob

This past weekend, a whole lot of people gathered to honor and celebrate my brother-in-law‘s life.

I’ve known for decades that Bob was a stellar human being (one of the very best on the planet), but it was still incredible to hear that sentiment expressed over and over again. Every single speaker mentioned the very things that made me love Bob so much: his kindness and lack of judgment, the way he listened so that you felt heard and valued. His generosity and tenacity in his lifelong fight for tenants’ rights and consumer protection. How he used his sense of humor and intellect to punch up, never down. His passion for life and love for his family. His enormous heart.

I laughed and cried throughout the program.

Many comments resonated throughout, but one theme in particular spoke to me: Bob never turned cynical or stopped hoping and believing in a better world.

I felt called-out because this country’s collapse and slide into fascism while the so-called “better party” is in power has made me hugely cynical. I’ve been tempted to give up. But Bob never gave up on justice. He continued fighting for society’s vulnerable and voiceless, up until the very end of his life. If I’m to truly honor Bob’s life,  I must do the same.

I love and miss you so much, Bobaloo. Rest in power, brother.

I receive these gifts

This morning, I ran on the trails for the first time in a while and my heart soared. A Red-winged Blackbird sang its song as I chugged up the first hill, but from then on out it was a magpie-rich experience. They raucously called from trees and flew overhead. One perched on a bush next to the trail and I watched it as I ran closer, regretting that my approach would startle it away. The regal corvid remained there until I was nearly within arm’s reach before flying across the ravine.

Black-billed Magpie out my window.  September 1, 2019

Just up the trail and around the corner on the approach to what we call the Bunny Run (because, you know, bunnies frequently seen there), two more magpies perched on either side of the trail, silhouetted against the sky. That sight prompted me to open my arms wide and proclaim out loud, “I receive this. Thank you!” And as I did, another gift appeared.

Photo by Jim Kennedy (Metzger Farm Open Space)

A coyote about 50 feet away, loping through the brush behind one of the magpies. The dark-faced coyote* stopped to watch me. I stopped and watched it, speaking in a low voice. Reassuring it that I came in peace. Then it took off again and I resumed running. When I reached the top of the Bunny Run, I stopped to look back. The coyote had also stopped to watch me. I waved, shouting my thanks and good wishes, and resumed the run with a smile and a little more pep in my step.

Farther up the trail, I saw two people. As I got closer, I realized one was sitting. In a chair? And then I noticed a hawk circling overhead. I watched the hawk as I ran, wondering at the flash of white underneath the wings. And just as it hit me that it wasn’t a hawk, I heard the loud buzzing sound. That non-hawk was a drone. Ugh. No more bird sounds. No more solitude. No more smile on my face.

But after grumpily running past the people and their drone, I reminded myself of all I’d already been gifted. So I less-grumpily continued up to the turnaround point at the top of The Slog (because, you know, never-ending uphill) and did my stretching. Then I raced down toward the people who sent up an even larger and louder drone right as I passed, and focused on the joy of movement. The only thing that mattered was being out on the trails again. Moving. Alive.

Thank you, universe. I receive these gifts.

* my search for images of dark-faced coyotes was unsuccessful

Rest in power, brother

Late Wednesday night, my brother-in-law died peacefully after a six-year battle with illness. Bob has been in my life since I was 12 or 13 years old — the vast majority of my time on the planet — and I’m struggling to adjust to a world without him.  I last saw him in person in March 2020 right before the pandemic hit hard and while I don’t remember specifics of any conversations, I’m positive there was much laughter. Bob and I always laughed.

Well, not always. Back when I was still a kid, my younger brother and I took the train from Wisconsin to Minneapolis where Bob and my sister were living at the time. Within minutes of our arrival, I managed to knock the tea kettle off the stove and make a big mess. When Bob pretended to be mad, I took his gruffness seriously and withdrew into myself. It took a while for him to convince me he’d been joking and throughout the rest of our lives, he’d tease me about our Teapot Dome Scandal.

I found ways to get back at him, though. During one of the many trips he and my sister and sons made to Colorado, I snuck a random item in Bob’s luggage right before he left. Ha, joke was on him! Except the next time he visited, he returned with that random item and locked it to the rod in our coat closet. Eventually, he gave in and provided the combination.

Another trip, he caught a later flight to Denver than the rest of his family and while someone distracted Bob at the baggage claim area, I grabbed his duffel bag off the carousel, removed his contents, and replaced them. When Bob unzipped his “oddly light” bag, he discovered a plastic pig mask staring up at him from a bed of popcorn. (Full disclosure: Bob wasn’t quite as enthused by this prank as the rest of us.)

While our relationship was laughter-based, it was deeper than that. Bob was my safe refuge. Our interactions were stress-free because Bob accepted me for who and what I was, without judgment. (With the exceptions of giving me shit about wearing socks with my Tevas and never ironing my clothes). I gravitated toward him whenever we were in a group setting. Bob was friendly and easy to be around.

He could also be intense, as in his commitment to health and strength. We frequently ran together (Bob easily transitioned from sea level to exercise at Colorado elevation) but that wasn’t enough for him, not even on vacation. He’d also lift weights, do yoga, push-ups and sit-ups, and climb 14ers. Bob was lean and mean his entire life.

Bob mid-yoga pose in August 2007.

Bob was devoted to his family. Here he is with my sister and their sons in 1994. They came to Alaska to visit during the summer, but didn’t think to pack for winter.  🙂  (My sister and nephew are each wearing one of my hats, the other nephew is wearing Zippy’s hat, and I think that’s my oversized jean jacket on Bob — but note that he’s bare-headed and impervious to cold!) Two vivid non-Bob-specific memories from that visit: the younger nephew, who was only six, carried his own pack the entire steep hike up to the Harding Ice Field AND that hike included my only black bear sighting of the six years I lived in Alaska.

A chilly tour of Kenai Fjords

Bob loved kids — his own and everyone else’s. Here he is conversing with Zebu.

And patiently enduring the construction of a stuffed animal tower on top of his head.

Bob was also a fierce advocate for people he’d never met. He was a lawyer who used his powers for good. Even while undergoing treatment, he led tenant meetings and fought for housing justice. In myriad ways, Bob worked to make this world a better place. I admired him greatly. And loved him even more. A quick search didn’t turn up any photos of the two of us and I’m too raw right now to dig deeper. But that’s okay because his smile and voice are imprinted on my heart.

Rest in power, Bobaloo.

Martin Luther King, Jr: all life is interrelated

Here’s yet another prescient reminder from MLK, this from his  1965 Oberlin Commencement address (“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”):

“All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what I ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.” 

Every single issue you can think of — global pandemic, ecological collapse, mass incarceration, wealth inequality, etc. — is addressed in that statement. ALL life is interrelated. And yet, here we are, still madly dancing to capitalism-a-go-go.

Love is a rose

My most recent post was about the cat card I made for my neighbor’s birthday over the weekend. Turns out, she received yellow roses from her sister. And then an identical delivery of yellow roses due to florist error. Instead of keeping all that glory for herself, my generous neighbor offered me one of the bouquets. I just collected it from her and decided I wanted to document it on this ol’ blog, so set it on the floor in a patch of natural light.

Marcel immediately came to investigate.

October 12, 2021

“The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.” – Kahlil Gibran

And Marcel? Well, he sees the rose and its thorns, then proceeds to snack on the surrounding foliage.

Need good thoughts

Right now, Zippy’s driving an hour to the Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with an injured magpie. It’s the closest facility that can hopefully help this poor bird that got caught in a neighbor’s mouse glue trap. (I didn’t even know those horrible things existed.) Zippy was out in our backyard when he heard a whole lot of magpies making noise on the other side of the fence. They were gathered around the stuck bird.

Zippy put on gloves to rescue the injured bird. When he put it in a shoebox, the glove was stuck to the magpie. Zippy got glue on his arm and unsuccessfully tried getting it off before leaving. He thinks he’ll need to use gasoline later.

August 15, 2020

Please, if you can spare some good thoughts, send them to the poor magpie. May its feathers be cleansed so that it soars again.

UPDATE: Sad news. They were unable to help the magpie because there was too much glue. They would have had to remove many, many feathers which would mean it couldn’t be released back into the wild. They were, however able to put that beautiful bird out of its misery.

Triple the fun

Hey! Win some free books! Check it out!

Alchemy Pie

I’m celebrating summer by giving away a set of all three RA THE MIGHTY mysteries to a US reader! As you can see, this cat thinks they’re terrific.

If you need more encouragement, Booklist says they’re “perfect for young gumshoes,” Kirkus calls them “hilarious,” and the Junior Library Guild says they’re Gold Standard Selections. It’s a paperback set, ideal for kids 7 to 10 and cat lovers of all ages. Just add a comment here to enter. (Or you can find this post on Twitter or FB or IG, & enter there.) But hurry! I’ll close the giveaway on Saturday 7 Aug at 11pm PT.

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Please don’t be dead

My laptop is trying hard to die on me. There’s something wrong with its innards.

Image by Xandra_Iryna from Pixabay

All I know for sure is that the problem is not zombie-related. Time to take the laptop into the shop. *sob* The thought of handing it over to a stranger makes me feel really uncomfortable and weird. Not zombie-weird, just weird.

Thankful Thursday: in which we divest

Wildebeest and Zebu are both home for a visit. We haven’t seen Zebu since he moved to Seattle last August and it’s been five months since we last saw Wildebeest. I’m grateful to spend time with them, laugh at old jokes, and create new memories.

I’m also grateful they cooperated with my plan to get rid of some things. We carved out time yesterday to go through the enormous double closet in the basement that was filled with games, toys, LEGOS, dress-up clothes, etc., etc., etc. It was definitely a trip down memory lane to sort through everything. There was much laughter. We ended up keeping most of our board games, but it was an easy unanimous decision to say goodbye to TWISTER. Zebu commented that he’s always thought it was a really weird and uncomfortable game.

All these things will be loaded in the car and donated to ARC. More items are ready to go, but I’m going to check with the local elementary school to see if they can use them in the preschool and other classrooms. There’s also an electric guitar and bass plus an amp. Maybe the high school band would like them? Either way, we’ll find a home for those, too.

Hooray for letting go of possessions! I’m thankful for the many hours of enjoyment they brought us and wish them well in their new homes.

Emma Jean Snow Queen

I spent most of the day reading in bed as my response to the second vaccine dose. The electrolytes and ibuprofen worked wonders and I rallied late afternoon to walk in the sunshine with Zippy and Emma. In shady parts of the neighborhood, there were still piles of snow left from the plows and our exuberant doggo took every opportunity to “submarine” in those piles, roll around on her back, or perform a combination of both. It never failed to bring a smile and I regret not getting pics.

April 16, 2021

This shot from earlier in the week will have to suffice. Take this backyard energy and crank it up about five notches to get an idea of Emma’s happiness level today.

I’ll huff and I’ll puff

. . . and I’ll blow your fence down.

Did the Big Bad Wolf pay us a visit last night? No. But we did have wind gusts strong enough to repeatedly slam a tree branch against the side of the house, causing our doggo much anxiety and me much grumpiness. I put a pillow over my head and eventually fell asleep.

December 23, 2020. Photo by Wildebeest

I was the last one awake and upright this morning. However, I was the first to notice something was not-right. Zippy and Wildebeest somehow both failed to see the fence was down. When I pointed it out to him, Zippy replied, “Oh, that’s probably why it took Emma so long to come back inside this morning. Guess she was out exploring.”

Fence companies are VERY busy right now. Zippy erected a temporary fence across the thirty-foot gap while we wait. It may be months. Prediction: Emma has several more adventures in her near future.

Good Day Sunshine

We woke to 8-9 inches of snow this morning after a high of 58 degrees yesterday. I should be used to Colorado’s swiftly-changing weather patterns and yet was still surprised to see that beautiful white blanket outside. We’re in desperate need of moisture so  it was with happy hearts that Wildebeest and I shoveled all that heavy snow (although he might define the experience differently).

Zippy and I just walked Emma through the slushy streets of our neighborhood.

It was a bit chilly in the shade but nice in the sun. And those dry patches of pavement were especially welcome. This low-quality photo taken with my phone doesn’t do justice to how good it felt to be outside in the sunshine, breathing clean, crisp air.

ETA: Zippy sent me these photos right after I’d posted.

             

Lucky me!

Life’s a particularly hard row to hoe these days. BUT. Today is a very good day because I just finished making congratulatory phone calls to the applicants who’ve been accepted into the Michelle Begley Mentor Program. There’s much joy that comes from being the program coordinator, and a big piece of that joy is getting to be the bearer of good news. Woot! I do love spreading happiness.

 

And now I think I’ll take the doggo out for a walk in the sunshine.

Lucky, lucky me.

Happy Halloween!

Marcel rehearsing his scary face. January 25, 2020.

Boo!

People in the neighborhood are being creative with their candy offerings. One house has a long tube running from an upstairs window to the driveway. I think the trick or treaters are supposed to shout in the tube to make candy come down. Another house has a catapult. We’re setting out candy on a table in the driveway which isn’t nearly as creative, but it’s still a fine chocolate-delivery system.

Who’s a good girl?

Emma. September 14, 2020

Here’s my happy doggo to perk up anyone in need of perking (not to be confused with twerking, although, if twerking makes you feel better, by all means do that!)  The photographic quality is low and Emma’s smile is slightly blurred, but the emotions shine through.

As Charles M. Schulz famously wrote, happiness is a warm puppy.

Workers Unite

Thinking about all the workers out there struggling to pay rent, buy food, keep their lives going. Thinking about one of my sons who is struggling to find a job in this economy and who may very well be moving back home in the near future.  He’s grateful he has a place to land if it comes to that, but it shouldn’t come to that. Not for him and not for other young people facing a bleak future. They should be able to live their lives on their own terms.

This is a disgrace and we must do better. Much better.