Running out of the box

You’ve heard the saying, thinking out of the box? Last week, I was thinking about “running out of the box.” I will explain that in a minute.

When we say, “thinking out of the box,” we are generally referring to going beyond the traditional, being creative, being unconventional, allowing ourselves to imagine new ways of doing things. It conjures thoughts of not being constricted to how something was done before. Interestingly enough, that was part of the attraction to voters to the current occupant of the oval office. His voters thought he could shake things up by not being confined to how things had always been done. What they misunderstood or at least didn’t appreciate is that there is some benefit to knowing how things have been done in order to form a baseline for how to move forward so that you can be successful. Never underestimate the value of preparation, that doesn’t negate thinking out of the box. Failing to prepare could mean preparing to fail. Ask the Republicans about the AHCA not having the votes.

Gratefully, the lack of preparation met up with a really awful health plan and it caused the failure. For now, that failure results in millions of people keeping much needed health care. I see that as a success not a failure.

So, now what is “running out of the box?” As I have been doing my daily exercise routine in my neighborhood, I have tried to improve my pace. Sometimes I start out slow … having low energy or motivation to get going. I noticed that when I start out slow, that not only are my minutes per mile high but then getting my pace down throughout the whole routine is a lot harder. But, when I start out with a faster pace, actually start running out of the box, my pace is quicker throughout and even if I slow down a little bit later, it is not as hard to maintain a better pace. Starting slower keeps it slower and makes it harder to get the pace down. But if I run out of the box, start with a quick pace, I can be faster throughout that day’s exercise.

It is sort of an analogy for other life situations.

This reminded me of advice that my husband and I gave to our kids when they started high school and college. We said to start out strong because the grade point averages (GPA) of their freshman and sophomore years in high school would be the foundation for the GPA that eventually would be on their transcript when they applied to college. We stated it would be much harder to make up low grades made in the first two years. Essentially, they needed to be running out of the box. It is a lot harder when you start out slow and then have to make up for mistakes, it takes longer and you have to work harder to pull up the numbers.

March Madness is another example of running out of the box. The teams that ran out of the box were far more likely to be on the winning end when the game was over than those who started out slow. If a team was slow out of the gate, having a huge deficit to make up was just a big hill to climb in the second half of the game. The sweet sixteen and elite games were generally very competitive and fun to watch. But I noticed that those teams who were running out of the box kept running at a pace that maintained a focus on making every basket count. They had to. There was no second chance. It was win or go home. Those players were moving on to the Final Four or going home to decide if they were still college students or making the leap to the NBA. Their season record no longer had any relevance. Running out of the box was going to get them to the Final Four.

So here’s my thought for the week. With the many things that are going on, with the frenzy of the politics, the unusual weather (doesn’t matter if you think climate change is a hoax or not), with the temporary reprieve on health care … we have to be thinking about running out of the box. This is not the time to sit and wait to see what happens. The past weekend was just about all the time we could spare to breathe. It’s a new week … time to run out of the box again.

Choose your area to focus on. We don’t have to try to boil the ocean and we don’t each have to exhaust ourselves with trying to stay up on every issue. But, we need coverage on the broad reach of topics important to our communities. Talk to your huddle, your friends and divide up the list of areas to focus on. And, once you have those three or four areas that you are going to focus on, you have to be running out of the box. It will take too long to catch up otherwise.

Our pace will be slow if we aren’t starting out at the top of the game. The Republicans will sabotage the Affordable Care Act now that they failed to pass their own health care plan so we need to do things to shore it up in the states or take action to make it better. Resistance has its effectiveness but some of what we will need to do is offense. Read up on what is going on locally and within your state, that is how the Republicans cleaned our clock in state legislatures during the period of 2010-2016. There are Indivisible Groups in every state and every Congressional District and a quick internet search (https://www.indivisibleguide.com/groups-nav).

This Republican Administration is also running out of the box. Bannon is wasting no time in deconstructing Democracy and the US government. Much of what he is doing, he is doing without fanfare and spotlights. Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC often remind us to watch what politicians do not what they say. This is a real lesson for the administration of the 45th President. Bannon and Kushner are the instruments of a major deconstruction running out of the box. The task forces, the executive orders, the SWAT teams, the planted agents / spies at each Federal agency who are reporting back to the Executive Branch … they are all in place to be the eyes and ears of Bannon so he can do things without Congress or the American people knowing about it until it’s already done. These guys are running out of the box. The pace is fast and we will be behind if we don’t follow every day. There is a new scandal every day, but there is also a new action by them every day.

What can we do? Get to running. Choose your battles, but run. Get your facts, but run. You don’t have to do it all but what you choose to do, do it fully. Go at it with all you can. Rest for a weekend when you need to but that rest period will be okay because your pace was strong enough to keep your overall pace strong. When you start running out of the box, you have a strong finish for the second half of the game.

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“I know how it feels to be free” … because of the Arts, Meals on Wheels, & PBS

The devastation proposed in the budget of the current occupant of the oval office is vast and cruel. It proposes cuts to basic life (meals) for the elderly and disabled, cuts for children to learn from Sesame Street programming on PBS, cuts for balanced NPR news shows broadcast on radio and television, cuts to arts & humanities in small towns and big cities and cuts to music programs that could produce the next Nina Simone. Ms. Simone wrote the song from which I took the title of my blog for this week, “I know how it feels to be free.”

The Arts speak to our souls, they make us feel, actually feel. Arts in all of its forms – literary, visual, performing – give us expression but they also give us courage to be our authentic selves. There have been other Presidents and other budgets that threatened to reduce or diminish the priorities of the Arts & Humanities but none that proposed complete elimination of whole programs like this one.

This Republican Administration budget went further than even the most conservative estimates. It proposed not just reduced funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities but their complete elimination.  Not just reduced funding but elimination of PBS, the vehicle for our children to learn through Sesame Street for more than five decades. PBS, the vehicle for news shows where Gwen Ifill broadcast pure journalism in an art form.

When independent journalism is silenced, we need only look to Russia to see what a country becomes. In the face of the effort already underway by the Republican Administration to stifle the freedom of the press and free speech, The Washington Post has taken to promoting a tagline in its digital edition: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” What this Republican wants is to silence our freedom, our free expression, our art … in its many forms.

In these times, let’s remind the rest of the voters that the basics are important. Meals on Wheels are basic. How dare the White House Director of the Office of Management & Budget go on national television at Sean Spicer’s press conference and imply it’s okay for a single mother of two in Detroit to pay for six golf trips to MaraLago, security at the ivory tower in NYC but there is no priority for elderly and disabled to receive food through the Meals on Wheels program. What a backwards display of what is basic. And he had no shame in saying and felt no remorse in repeating it on the Sunday news programs a few days later.

PBS programs are basic. The Arts are basic. Humanities are basic. They are not simply froufrou. For some reason this country seems to struggle with this while other countries see the value of it. Our artists …singers, visual artists, dance performers … have sometimes gone to Europe to find success that alluded them in the U.S. In doing some research for this blog, I found an article in an Arts Council website for the UK (http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/). They have actually created a tool kit for the community to be engaged in knowing arts and culture make a difference in education, health, well-being, the economy and their society in general. Here’s an excerpt:

The holistic case for art and culture | Arts Council England

Art and culture enhance every part of our lives. They bring us joy, and help us to make sense of our own experiences and to empathise with others. This is what we cherish.

Art and culture also give us other benefits. They benefit us economically, socially, and educationally – from the future prospects of our children, to the vibrancy of our cities, to the contribution made to economic growth.If we want people to support art and culture, we need them to understand why art and culture is so essential to them, to their communities and to their nation.

Collectively, everyone working in the sector can tell a powerful story about this. We can prove that art and culture really do make a difference.

We believe every child, not just the privileged, should have the chance to enjoy the arts as part of growing up. That means making, seeing and doing, both within school and in our galleries, museums and theatres.

Participation in culture is strongly associated with good health and high life satisfaction. Alongside this positive impact on general well-being, there is growing evidence on the benefit that art and culture can have on specific conditions.

  • As pressure increases on the NHS, healthcare providers are increasingly making use of art-based projects. Reduced demand for GP and mental health services as a result could already be saving the NHS £500 million a year.
  • participation in the arts can contribute to community cohesion, reduce social exclusion and isolation, and make communities feel safer and stronger

    • seventy-six per cent of older people say art and culture is important in making them feel happy; 57 per cent say art and culture is important in helping them meet other people; and 60 per cent say it is important in encouraging them to get out and about
    • high school students who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer than those who don’t engage in the arts
    • high school students who engage in the arts are also 20 per cent more likely to vote as young adults
    • students who study art subjects are more employable and more likely to stay in employment
    • culture and sport volunteers are more likely to be involved and influential in their local communities

     

    So, back to Nina Simone and feeling free. This past Sunday, my local newspaper, The News&Observer, published a story, For the love of Nina … Artists unite to save Simone’s Tryon birthplace. (http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article139384078.html) The article talks about how several artists have been inspired to put their money together to purchase the home that Ms. Simone was born in and preserve it. Part of their inspiration came from them looking for a way to channel their frustration after the 2016 Presidential election. Part of their inspiration was the realization that the childhood homes had been destroyed of Malcolm X and W.E.B. DuBois and others like them. Four prominent African-American artists pooled their money and saw the transaction as “an act of art but also of politics, a gratifying chance to respond to what they see as a deepening racial divide in America…”

    Nina Simone’s song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” is mentioned in the News&Observer article as being featured in an ad / commercial during this year’s Super Bowl, a sign of the RESISTANCE times we are in. President Barack Obama also said that song was in his summer 2016 playlist.

    I love the photo of Nina Simone that was selected by the newspaper to accompany the article. It is a bold statement for confronting this Republican Administration’s proposed budget. It is a bold statement for confronting the defense of The Arts, PBS, Meals on Wheels and a free press. It is also a bold statement for the start of spring, which begins this week. With this Nina Simone photo, her childhood home being preserved, the lyrics to her song, and the start of spring, I say: Oh, I know how it feels to be free, yea, yea! Oh, I know how it feels.

Now we can begin …

It’s Women History Month. For this week’s blog, I am touching on two topics. The first is to spotlight one woman who may not have received much attention during history discussions: Crystal Eastman. How many of you have heard of her? If you have heard of the ACLU, you can thank Crystal Eastman. The title of this week’s blog is because of an essay she wrote in 1920.

The second topic for this week is a result of me reading O magazine’s March issue, particularly an article of Oprah sitting down two months after the Presidential election with women who voted for both Trump and Hillary. This article helped me to realize that my time is best not spent on trying to change the minds of Trump voters. I will present my thoughts to you on why.

First, a  woman figure in this Women’s History Month that I am just learning about. Crystal Eastman was active during the Women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s and authored an essay “Now We Can Begin” in 1920 after the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was finally done. I discovered her essay recently and it could have been written in 2017 because the words and messages actually are still appropriate. I am amazed at the timeliness of her words nearly 100 years later. Ms. Eastman received a Bachelor degree from Vassar College in 1903, Master degree from Columbia University in 1904 and a doctorate from NYU law school in 1907. She was a proponent for workers compensation and because of her work, in 1910 New York was the first state to adopt workers compensation programs. She was one of the founders of the Woman’s Peace Party in 1914. The Civil Liberties Bureau that she helped to co-found within the American Union Against Militarism eventually evolved into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

You can read more about Crystal Eastman at these sources:

I want to share some excerpts from her essay, Now We Can Begin:

Freedom is a large word.

Many feminists are socialists, many are communists, not a few are active leaders in these movements. But the true feminist, no matter how far to the left she may be in the revolutionary movement, sees the woman’s battle as distinct in its objects and different in its methods from the workers’ battle for industrial freedom. She knows, of course, that the vast majority of women as well as men are without property, and are of necessity bread and butter slaves under a system of society which allows the very sources of life to be privately owned by a few, and she counts herself a loyal soldier in the working-class army that is marching to overthrow that system. But as a feminist she also knows that the whole of woman’s slavery is not summed up in the profit system, nor her complete emancipation assured by the downfall of capitalism.

Woman’s freedom, in the feminist sense, can be fought for and conceivably won before the gates open into industrial democracy. … All feminists are familiar with the revolutionary leader who “can’t see” the woman’s movement. “What’s the matter with the women? My wife’s all right,” he says. And his wife, one usually finds, is raising his children in a Bronx flat or a dreary suburb, to which he returns occasionally for food and sleep when all possible excitement and stimulus have been wrung from the fight. If we should graduate into communism tomorrow this man’s attitude to his wife would not be changed. The proletarian dictatorship may or may not free women. We must begin now to enlighten the future dictators.

What, then, is “the matter with women”? What is the problem of women’s freedom? It seems to me to be this: how to arrange the world so that women can be human beings, with a chance to exercise their infinitely varied gifts in infinitely varied ways, instead of being destined by the accident of their sex to one field of activity -housework and child-raising. And second, if and when they choose housework and child-raising, to have that occupation recognized by the world as work, requiring a definite economic reward and not merely entitling the performer to be dependent on some man.

This is not the whole of feminism, of course, but it is enough to begin with. “Oh, don’t begin with economics,” my friends often protest, “Woman does not live by bread alone. What she needs first of all is a free soul.” And I can agree that women will never be great until they achieve a certain emotional freedom, a strong healthy egotism, and some un-personal sources of joy — that in this inner sense we cannot make woman free by changing her economic status. What we can do, however, is to create conditions of outward freedom in which a free woman’s soul can be born and grow. It is these outward conditions with which an organized feminist movement must concern itself.

Freedom of choice in occupation and individual economic independence for women: How shall we approach this next feminist objective? First, by breaking down all remaining barriers, actual as well as legal, which make it difficult for women to enter or succeed in the various professions, to go into and get on in business, to learn trades and practice them, to join trades unions. Chief among these remaining barriers is inequality in pay.

Second, we must institute a revolution in the early training and education of both boys and girls. It must be womanly as well as manly to earn your own living, to stand on your own feet. And it must be manly as well as womanly to know how to cook and sew and clean and take care of yourself in the ordinary exigencies of life. I need not add that the second part of this revolution will be more passionately resisted than the first. Men will not give up their privilege of helplessness without a struggle. The average man has a carefully cultivated ignorance about household matters — from what to do with the crumbs to the grocer’s telephone number — a sort of cheerful inefficiency which protects him better than the reputation for having a violent temper. It was his mother’s fault in the beginning, but even as a boy he was quick to see how a general reputation for being “no good around the house” would serve him throughout life, and half-consciously he began to cultivate that helplessness until today it is the despair of feminist wives. But fundamentally it is a problem of education, of early training — we must bring up feminist sons. Freedom of any kind for women is hardly worth considering unless it is assumed that they will know how to control the size of their families. “Birth control” is just as elementary an essential in our propaganda as “equal pay.”

Ms. Eastman wrote the above in 1920. Yes, 1920. It could have been written in 2017 for it surely applies today. It is ranked #83 in  American Rhetoric’s Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century. Here is a  link to the full essay: https://inspirationalspeakers.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/crystal-eastman-now-we-can-begin/

My second topic comes from reading the March issue of O, Oprah’s magazine. Included in this issue is an article from Oprah sitting down with a group of women voters, some voted for Secretary Hillary Clinton and some for Donald Trump. After reading it, I have surely concluded that I shall not spend my energy trying to convince those who voted for the current occupant of the oval office that they made a mistake. I read their words of why they voted for him, how they rationalized their vote, how they still think he will do something beneficial for the country. I wish I could say it surprised me. It doesn’t. What it does is confirm that they are not seeing reality and there are many more like them. To say that they are delusional might be harsh but it would not be inaccurate necessarily. They have their own perspective based on what they want to believe. Here is some of what these women said:

  • Patty: I voted for him. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was the right one. I wanted decisiveness. Personally, I feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. And most people I know feel the same. How can we not be optimistic? We’ll see forward movement, particularly on the economy. And if not, in four years, we can vote for someone else.
  • Sarina: He was always telling people exactly what he was going to do. If you went on his website, he explained each position. …Hillary was out of touch with reality. Her foreign policy, along with Obama’s, destabilized the world. He doesn’t care what your sex is. He doesn’t care what your color is. He doesn’t care about anything other than “Can you do the job?” That’s the American dream, and he’s given it to so many people. Yes, I’m a Trump supporter supporter, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid about him.
  • Dawn: I am a military brat, then married a Marine. I’m dedicated to veterans. Her emails bothered me. (When asked by Oprah, she said the word to her that best describes Trump: fearless) I’m hopeful. I’ve heard Trump and his people talk about helping the urban communities, helping fight crime there and giving people opportunities they didn’t have.

I see little reality of the world I live in. And in a small group with other women who voted for Hillary but who look like them as they talked about their fears of this President, giving real examples of what he has said that is illogical and wreaks of lying yet didn’t convince them to see things differently. Oprah, a very intelligent woman with the capacity to present facts and logic was not able to change even one of their minds. They left that small group discussion still with their convictions that they were satisfied with their votes.

So, for me,  I can best serve as a community voice, an activist for the Resistance to help keep issues at the forefront for the damage he is causing, to organize and help to let Congress know that the rest of us know and will not be silent. I will do my part to register more people to vote. I will not wait for the next Presidential election, I will help organize now and keep up the protests. I will help keep the pressure on for investigations into the wrongdoing regarding the Russia collusion and his conflicts of interests. I will do what I can to help others be familiar with the issues and proposed legislation and nominees. I am blessed to have some time to do this right now.

Reading about Crystal Eastman and having the confirmation from the women who voted in the 2016 election, I am reminded of the phrase that has become the label for us women in 2017. “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” My response is: Now we can begin.

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