Why Be a Jerk?

So my sister posted a thing on Facebook. It’s likely you’ve seen it before now, but in case you haven’t, here it is:

There’s some controversy around this meme, including reports that the image was plagiarized. But even before I learned that much, someone posted on my sister’s page to complain that “Kamala Harris is no Rosa Parks and by the way Rosa Parks was inspired by Claudette Colvin; where’s her recognition?” Or words to that effect.

The conversation (or diatribe) went downhill from there. The objecting (and objectionable) poster went on to launch a stream of hateful rhetoric that made me wonder how she ended up Facebook friends with Sis in the first place. Nobody changed anyone’s mind, and nothing was done to advance civilization. Complaining because this popular composite image didn’t honor every last person who’s helped advance people who have unfairly been held back misses the point of the graphic entirely.

If we’re going to pick on every possible omission we see from someone with whom we disagree, we will never find any way to heal this country. It was imperfect before Trump’s election; it will continue to worsen until he leaves office. Biden/Harris are inheriting this mess. Based on their past records (imperfect, but showing some human growth) I trust them to try their best for every American–and not just for themselves, their family, and wealthy friends.

Even with our best efforts, democracy is a work in progress. And as long as we see it as a zero-sum game (where the winner gloats and humiliates the loser), we can’t make any progress. The only way anybody moves forward from conflict is by assuming some basic humanity in the people they’re dealing with. By treating them with respect. I’m saddened by how little of that I see on social media among people who list one another as “friends.”

Personally, I don’t have time for people who are more interested in scoring points than making the world a better place. Unless you’re willing to accept that the person you’re talking to is a human being with feelings, and to converse in a respectful way, please leave them alone. As my late mother would put it: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

That’s not just making nice or being politically correct. It’s simple civility–also known as not being a jerk.

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Early Voting Report – 2020

In DuPage County Illinois, the first early voting site for the 2020 General Election opened on September 24th. I originally intended to vote the first day I possibly could, but there’s an important family birthday that day (Hi, Duchess!), and we needed to celebrate. 2020 being the dumpster fire that it is, we celebrate everything we possibly can.

It’s probably good I waited. On the 24th, the lines to get into the DuPage polls were newsworthy: as in, they appeared on national news broadcasts. I know people who waited three hours to vote. The rush died down a bit, and I went in about a week later.

The DuPage County fairgrounds site opened at 8 a.m. I arrived at 7:57 and parked where the guy with the traffic control wands directed. A faint drizzle had just ended. It was 49 degrees out. I couldn’t see the whole line, but I’d estimate somewhere between 30 and 40 people were ahead of me. Maybe 25 metal folding chairs were set out for people who couldn’t stand indefinitely, but when I arrived, I didn’t see anyone using them. Voters were good about maintaining at least a 6-foot distance, even without pavement markings.

Everyone was masked. Even if they were anti-maskers, they wouldn’t be allowed inside without one. I’m going out on a limb, though, and guess that anyone willing to stand outside for an unknown length of time in almost-rain to vote is probably okay wearing a mask.

Inside, the floor was marked, most of the workers were behind plexiglass barriers, and the voting booths were well-spaced.

Once I verified my voting status with a poll worker, I listened carefully to everything they told me. I’d heard enough about ways to get your ballot rejected that I wanted to make sure mine was accepted. That’s why I voted in person in the middle of a pandemic. I figured talking to a human would help me avoid making any mistakes.

There are people for whom it isn’t safe to vote in person, and here’s the main advice I’ve heard for them:

  • Register to vote (or verify your voter registration) ASAP; some voter rolls have been purged
  • Request your mail-in/absentee ballot as soon as it’s permitted
  • Carefully follow the directions included with your ballot, and
  • Mail in your completed ballot as early as you can

I was told to put my completed paper ballot into an envelope labeled “absentee ballot,” but the poll worker explained that I was filling out a normal ballot. The envelope was provided for security. There were glue sticks in the voting booths which allowed me to seal the envelope without having to lick it.

The rest of my experience was unremarkable. Both voters and poll workers were businesslike but pleasant and courteous. I dropped my ballot in the ballot box and the special pen in a labeled basket, picked up my “I Voted” sticker. Then I slathered on some of the hand sanitizer they provided, and headed out to take on the rest of the day.

26 minutes, in and out.

Voting feels awesome. Do It !!!

More Links:
Making sure you’re registered
Election protection
Voter assistance
More on voter purges
Become a poll worker

Read this: The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin

Re: The City We Became

When I say “read,” I mean listen to the audiobook. I like audiobooks–some more than others. This one left every other audiobook I’ve ever heard sitting on the side of the road wondering wtf happened.

The story itself is great, no question. Jemisin kind of bitch-slaps Lovecraft (only in the most entertaining way). But for me the audiobook took it to the next level. I was able to borrow it through my library, which I always appreciate. I’m not always able to get the audiobooks I want at the library.

While the production values were great and the director’s choices and special effects were apt and very enjoyable, it still wouldn’t have been as wonderful without Robin Miles’s narration. She channeled the myriad voices of Jemisin’s novel brilliantly, but my favorite touch had to be the way she recycled Pat Carroll’s Ursula (of Disney’s 1989 Little Mermaid).

I have more book recommendations in store, but I just finished this one (and was left sitting by the side of the road wondering wtf happened), so that’s my tip for today.

Bike MS 2020 – COVID-19-Style

Summitt is ready to go!

This has been such a strange year that my usual summer highlight—riding to raise funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society—was completely up in the air for months. Because of COVID-19, it wasn’t clear that the Illinois ride—Tour de Farms—was even going to happen.

Eventually, we learned that the ride was still on. It’s just not happening in St. Charles, Illinois with herds of people riding together. This year the ride is virtual. Everyone is participating however they’re able to do it safely.

Our team (once known as the Power Pedallers) recently rechristened ourselves in honor of our inspiration (and my husband) Bart. With a terrific name like “Bart’s Posse” how could we not ride?

Bart’s Posse: Tiger, me, and Captain Cookie

Captain Cookie, Tiger, and I will ride about 24 miles and we’ll document the feat with photos and maybe even video—or at least, the best we can while maintaining social distance.

June 27-28 is a big weekend for Bike MS rides all over the country. I don’t know how well the MS Society is labeling posts about local rides but if they do, the one we’re participating in is called Tour de Farms. Here’s the Bike MS Facebook Event Page (where they’ll be going live on June 27, 2020): https://www.facebook.com/National.BikeMS/

The virtual event starts at 9 am CDT. I believe it goes until Monday, June 29 at 1 pm, but I’m particularly excited about the 3-4 pm CDT on Saturday, June 27. There’s a big fundraising push during that hour, so if you were planning to donate to the MS Society via my fundraising page, I’d love if you did it then.*

The money we raise goes toward researching treatments and cures. It also supports and educates those who are dealing with the disease. MS hasn’t gone away or taken a vacation, even with everything else that’s going on. That’s why I’m still raising funds and why I hope you can contribute if you’re in a position to do so.

We’re in challenging times. Most of us have been under emotional and/or financial strain. There are many good causes that deserve support, and you might already have donated to some of them. But if you’re able, we’d really appreciate your support of our cause this year. We ride for Bart, for Madolyn, for Janet, for other friends and family who are fighting MS, and in memory of others.

Here’s the link to my fundraising page.

Thank you** in advance and take care of yourselves!

* But if you’d like to donate, and that time’s not convenient, please don’t let that stop you!

** Many, many thanks to those who have donated already! You’ve been so generous, George A, Elizabeth J,  Irwin G, Thomas M & Family, John M, Dr. Mickey S, Emmi M, Katherine L, Madolyn L, Steve and Lorie R, Ann L, Mary S, Robyn T, Sara G, Beth N, Tim Y, Randy B, Cecelia M, and Lori K.

Naperville, June 2020

A hotel in Phoenix, Arizona welcomes guests
with their commitment to human rights.
(Wikimedia – Creative Commons License)

Monday, June 1

After peaceful protests in downtown Naperville, some opportunistic thugs started vandalizing and looting businesses. Many windows were smashed and a lot of merchandise and supplies were taken.

Tuesday, June 2

Community volunteers came out to help with the cleanup. A few young teenage girls taped paper hearts on some of the plywood that had been put up in place of broken windows. Some of the hearts had the letters “BLM” (standing for Black Lives Matter) written on them. As they worked, an old white man got out of his car to shake his finger and yell, “This is a good city and you want to ruin it.” 

(With small paper hearts? Seriously?)

While he was busy frothing at the mouth, several white women went up to the plywood, tore the paper hearts down, and contributed their own verbal abuse.

Those young girls were speaking out against injustice in a peaceful way that harmed no one.

Their harassers were nothing more than hate-filled bullies. But something good emerged from their bile. Numerous people from Naperville posted their support for the girls and their condemnation of the privileged middle-aged and old white people who felt threatened by young people speaking up for justice and love. Not too threatened, though. At least they felt comfortable tormenting children.

Wednesday, June 3

In reaction to this event, many more people gathered in Naperville on June 3rd to post more paper hearts. Several Naperville businesses have joined in by inviting people to post hearts at their locations. My heart is full—both for the young people’s resilience and courage and for the adults who support them and their cause. 

If you want to show your support and your circumstances will allow it in the time of COVID-19, consider visiting some of these businesses:

  • Apple Store
  • Anderson’s Books
  • Starbucks Reserve
  • Mongolian Grill
  • Potbelly’s
  • Empire
  • Jimmy Johns
  • Ikkai Sushi
  • Coldstone Creamery
  • Kilwins Creamery
  • Jackson Ave Pub
  • Smoothie King
  • Red Mango
  • (or any others where you see these message hearts posted)

Of course, spending money at retail establishments and restaurants is pretty easy to do when you’re in a comfortable position. There’s some real work ahead of all of us. Not everyone can do everything, but we all must do what we can. As Desmond Tutu advised:

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

And realize, as Tutu also said:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

This information comes from the Facebook page, 365 Things to Do in Naperville, Illinois. A video link to Wednesday’s activities is here: https://www.facebook.com/Naperville365/videos/257602402233749 

Pandemic Journal – Entry Two

A boy was having his 4th birthday. Because he didn’t want anyone to get sick, his friends and family gave him a special party.

They all decorated their cars.

The fire department came and used the siren on their big engine.

The parade began!

Everyone drove past and waved to the birthday boy.

The police came by and wished him a happy birthday. 

Everyone sang. It was LOUD!!! But it was fun!

Pandemic Journal – Entry One

My actual journal is too jumbled and dystopic to share as is, but as a start, here’s a Nebula reading list, courtesy of Locus. I’m hard at work on getting through it before the March 31 voting deadline.

Among the Nebula nominees is one I’ve already I’ve already touted in this blog: Sarah Pinsker’s amazing debut novel, A Song for a New Day. Whoever expected her predictions to come true so soon?

If you’re as discombobulated as I am, you might enjoy some of the sidewalk chalk art I’ve encountered in recent walks. So here you go:

This one says” Be brave and fight the virouse” (sic)

And as an encouraging reminder-

I found a couple more, probably done by older chalk artists

I’ll save the doom and gloom for another day.

Take care of yourselves, precious humans.

A Song For A New Day

I’ve been writing very slowly lately. 

The excuse for my sluggardly pace? I’m trying to get better at it, rather than just churning out substandard prose that will make me cringe later. 

One of the ways I’m working on improving is by reading more. I’ve read a few enjoyable novels lately—I’m finally reading some Cherie Priest, which I’ve been meaning to get around to for ages. I’ll never actually get around to everything I want to read, but I’m working on it.

Cover image from Penguin Random House website

One novel I’m excited to recommend is A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker. Maybe this isn’t a book for everyone, but I’m not the only one who thinks it’s terrific. A bit of praise:

A back cover blurb by Charlie Jane Anders reads, “You’d better keep a copy with you at all times, because this book will help you survive the future.”

The starred Kirkus review calls it: “a gorgeous novel that celebrates what can happen when one person raises her voice.”

For my part, I love the plausible, unsettling near-future feel of the world Sarah Pinsker has created. It feels like it could happen about ten years in the future, or maybe even sooner. I love how the novel eventually feels upbeat. I love its implied call to action.

But will you like this book? You might if:

  • You love music, especially live music
  • You enjoyed her 2016 Nebula Award winning novelette, “Our Lady of the Open Road”
  • You want to know even a few of the 173 ways to wreck a hotel room
  • You like thinking up terrible names for bands
  • You feel hopeless
  • You feel hopeful
  • You crave a feeling of connection
  • You want to change the world

It’s Been a Year

EilBethCB_Pre_Bikes2As usual, Cookie, Tiger, and I did the Bike MS Tour de Farms ride – June 22, 2019

And I’m still fundraising, but we’ll get to that later.

The fact that it’s taken me this long to blog about the ride this year is a testament to how wacky the last few months have been. There were times I wasn’t completely sure I was going to ride. We had some health issues in the family starting around February, so training was a greater challenge than it sometimes is. And then there was…


Okay, that’s been going on for a while no matter what the Big Oil Companies want to you to believe. I refer you to Bill McKibben’s scary book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

I know there are people in way worse shape than our family, but here’s how it hit us: This past May was the wettest in Chicago’s recorded history.

So there wasn’t much decent riding weather, which interfered with our training regimens.

The weather also meant that our yard (where the drainage has never been terrific) has pretty much been a wetland all spring and summer.

There’s been a lovely moat all around the deck

So in addition to trying to finish the novel I started in 2016, and dealing with the aforementioned health issues, we also had to find a solution to the standing water before the disease-bearing mosquitoes decided to make our yard their refuge.

(Talk to me later if you want to hear the horror stories about the neighbor who decided that somehow we caused the drainage issues and was threatening to sue us.)

Anyhoo. Just when I thought events could hardly increase my tension level, my beloved bicycle—the one I was planning to ride at the event—fell off the back of a bike trailer as we were on our way to a training ride. Poor Skippy.

R.I.P. Skippy

She was mortally injured and now has become an organ parts donor at Working Bikes Cooperative

I was inconsolable, but BK dragged me out immediately after the incident and bought me a new bike. And in more good news, it looks like insurance will cover the loss.

I’m calling her Summit after the late legendary University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach, Pat Summitt.


Summitt is also an aspirational name. I’m hoping that it will encourage me to do better on ascents.

Summit did me proud on the ride. We went 35 miles! Not as good as a couple of years ago, when we were riding 50, but Cookie, Tiger, and I all had stuff going on this spring, so we opted to do 35.

Tiger and Cookie raised funds like champs, but I’m afraid I fell down on the job this year. 2019 is the first time in several years that I might not achieve Gold Spokes status.

So if my tale of woe has awakened pity in your breast and you’re wondering how to allot your charitable giving this year, I could sure use the boost. I’m still eligible to join the Gold Spokes until about August 20. Here’s a link to my fundraising page 

If that doesn’t work for some reason, please let me know.

Thanks again to Cookie, Tiger, BK, Rocky, the Raupp family, my cousins Steve, Cecelia & Brian, Mickey, Kevin, Ann, Emmi, Kurt, Randy, the White family, Katherine L, and the Musto family. Your generosity is so much appreciated!

In case you’re interested, here are a few more pictures from the ride:

Beth_Pre EileenPre CB_Pre2

EileenBeth_Post BethCB_Post2

BethEileenAfter NoPixPls