Words when there are none

You probably noticed it’s been quiet around here. I wrote my last post two days before the inauguration, anxious to see what that and the weekend would bring. It did not disappoint — in the best and the worst of ways — and I think we can all agree it’s been quite a ride since then. (I imagine it as that awful spinning tea cups ride at Disneyland; the one in which I usually want to exit within 30 seconds of it starting and it inevitably makes me barf).

Given past posts — and said tea cups — it shouldn’t come as a shock that I don’t support and am alarmed by the vast majority of the new administration’s actions. I’ve been struggling with how to talk about it here in a way that could really encapsulate the myriad problems and nuances in a way that was informative, exhaustive, and meaningful. But it almost feels like so much is happening each day that it’s a Sisyphean task. So instead, I thought I’d talk about what I’ve been doing in downtime the last couple of weeks, both to keep up with the madness and try to stay sane at the same time. If you find yourself in the same boat, maybe some of the below will prove useful, illuminating, or just plain make you feel better. And even if you are on the other side of the aisle…well, first I extend a hand to you, because frankly we’re never going to move forward as a country if we keep turning our backs on (or screaming over) each other. And second, I hope these resources will be helpful for you too. These are scary, uncertain times for everybody. In the spirit of providing a place for community, I’m also including a few questions with each item, because I’d like to hear from you and hear how you’re doing, and my hope is the comments could perhaps inspire each of us who are reading in turn.

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I’m staying informed

As exhausting as it is, and as often as I end up gobsmacked with the next headline, I’m still reading the paper first thing in the morning, as well as each evening. I like to subscribe to the New York Times (their mobile site is great!), but recently, I’ve also been checking in on the Washington Post. In between, I inevitably end up reading thought pieces that are posted to Facebook (this one I read yesterday from Medium is well cited and very interesting, albeit upsetting; this one is for when you have more time and is the counterpart to the video I linked to at the beginning of this post). And I have actually found myself looking at more conservative sites like Fox News, and The National Review. I think it’s important to understand what conservative news is leading with, and note the differences in tone and perspectives. I largely don’t agree with either, but I still like knowing. And occasionally, it’s refreshing to see both liberal and conservative voices aligning. Let’s discuss. What are you doing to stay informed?  Where do you like to get your news from? Has it been overwhelming you?

I’m staying mindful

There comes a point when I just can’t read anymore, or whatever news network we’ve turned on is recycling the same damn talking points over and over. It does nothing for anyone, except to ratchet up anxiety (wait, just me?). So once I realize I’ve seen the same talking heads espousing the same viewpoints for at least the second time; or the Times has not, in fact, updated their home page with any late breaking news in the last 5 minutes, I am remembering to get the hell up off the couch, go take a shower, turn on some music, pick up a book, or yes, even indulge with something we’ve DVRed (I highly recommend the new Masterpiece series Victoria; it’s like Downton Abbey meets The Crown). Going out for a walk is always a breath of fresh air too — literally and figuratively. Let’s discuss. How are you staying sane, with the constant inundation of news stories, change, and the general climate of the country right now?

I’m using my voice where I can

The first time I ever contacted a congressperson was when I was a freshman in college. At that point, I was still registered to vote in the state of Texas, and sent a letter to my representative opposing a bill that was in the state legislature that would prevent gays and lesbians from adopting children (oh my god, I know). I received a letter back, and its language at the time for some reason felt dismissive (I can’t remember the exact circumstances, with all the years in between). As a wise, old 18 year old, I felt very discouraged. So I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that the second time I contacted an elected official was only last week. And it took me a while to get through! Hearteningly, I phoned district offices for our California senators located all over the state trying to reach someone, and nearly every single one said “mailbox full,” or that the lines were busy and there was no one to take the call. The only place I got through was at an office in San Diego! You’ve probably heard over and over again that getting in touch with your representatives matters. I’m hoping it does, so I’m calling.

I was talking to my mom last night and lamenting that with what money we are able to donate, it just doesn’t “do it” for me. “I feel like I’m trying absolve myself of something by giving money, but I still feel really helpless,” I told her. In her spare time, my mom has been a volunteer for much of her life, and her passion for giving back to her community is one of the things I admire most about her. She’s retired now, but she told me, “I’m basically back to working 3 days a week.” (But it’s actually 5, because in addition to volunteering 3 days per week, nearly full time, at a local grassroots organization working on state-level issues in Texas, for well over ten years, she has volunteered another 2 days per week at a milk bank that distributes breast milk to preemmies in central Texas.) Hot damn, y’all — if my 60-something year old mother can get out there and give so much of her time, so can I. After the election, I reached out to my local Planned Parenthood organization about volunteering, but never heard back. I think activism is popular here in the Bay Area, and as funny as it sounds, it’s harder to find volunteer jobs at larger organizations right now. But she encouraged me to keep looking and calling around, maybe even looking for organizations that are trying to affect change in other parts of the state. With that said, if you are a Californian and know of any organizations looking for volunteers, please let me know. I’m on the hunt.

Let’s discuss. Have you called any of your congresspeople yet? How did it go? Have you also recently become more active in corresponding with your elected representatives? Any causes you have become involved with? How else are you using your voice?

I’m noting resources that can impact

Here are a few interesting resources and tips I’ve recently come across:

Countable — an app that lets you see what Congress is voting on, and gives you an easy way to contact your elected representatives.

Attend local Town Halls — This former congressman says that letters and calls help a little, but what impacts congressmen and women the most is when you interact with them in person. This current congressman from Virginia would appear to agree.

Amazon Smile — I almost forgot about this until recently! Did you know if you shop from smile.amazon.com, you can designate a charity to receive a percentage of your sale? The ACLU has many local chapters listed…just saying. But regardless, there are SO many charities involved, and it’s an easy way to give back while stocking up on toothpaste or whatever. Here’s more info about how Amazon Smile works.

Let’s discuss. What other resources are you digging right now? Could be resources that help you stay informed, provide ways to give back, get involved, etc. Please share!

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That’s all for now. If you made it this far, thanks for reading and for checking in. I hope to hear from you down below in the comments — and please, it should go without saying as it is always the rule here, but let’s keep things kind and civil.

P.S. – Neil DeGrasse Tyson still wins!

Image Credits:

Matt Jones; Greg Rakozy; Den Heslop, all via Unsplash. I chose to crop and rotate these images and present them in a series I dubbed (mentally) as “sideways,” because that’s how things feel right about now. Also, don’t they looked neat that way?

Leave a Comment

29 Comments

  1. 1.31.17
    Catherine said:

    Hi Victoria! I’ve been volunteering with Refugee Transitions here in the bay area for about a year. The organization pairs volunteers with a refugee or recent immigrant to act as an English teacher and mentor. It’s a pretty substantial time commitment as they require you to meet weekly for at least 6 months, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The student I work with is a junior in high school and it’s been incredible to see the strides she’s made- she just recently received a college scholarship!

    I just checked their site and it looks like they’ve received so many volunteer applications that they’re going to hold off on onboarding new volunteers. Still wanted to put it on your radar!

    http://www.reftrans.org

    • 1.31.17
      Catherine said:

      One more resource I should have mentioned! My friends at Stanford Business School recently started a company called Data Does Good. It allows you to (anonymously) donate your Amazon shopping history and Data Does Good will donate $15 to a charity of your choice. It’s an easy, no-cost way to give back. I actually selected Refugee Transitions for my donation!

      More info here: https://www.datadoesgood.com/?section=howitworks

      • 2.6.17

        Refugee Transitions sounds awesome. Well done for getting involved! I’m going to keep an eye on volunteer jobs there (and please feel free to email me if you hear about anything new). Also checked out Data Does Good — what a cool concept! Bookmarking that as well and am going to share it on the blog more widely soon :) Thank you, Catherine!!

  2. 1.31.17
    Emily said:

    I’ve run into the same problem with my Planned Parenthood…I’ve been trying to volunteer for years but they always say they don’t need anything, or the search for volunteer positions comes up empty. My suggestion would be to find another reproductive health clinic that’s not a PP and see if they could use some help. There actually is a non PP reproductive health clinic in my city that needed a TON of help, so I was able to get my foot in the door there. I can’t offer much on the CA scene, since I live in PA…but I’m sure there are non PP clinics out your way that would appreciate your support :)

    • 2.6.17

      Thanks, Emily! After I read your comment I was like “Oh, duh!” I’m sure there are similar organizations here in SF. I need to set aside some time to do more research soon!

  3. 1.31.17
    Shannon said:

    I just subscribed to this — http://www.getpolarnews.com — Polar News sends a daily email with the news, 2 articles for each big event – one liberal and one conservative. Great way to see what the coverage looks like.

    • 2.1.17

      This looks like a great resource – thank you for sharing, Shannon! One of my greatest takeaways from this election is how important it is to dig ourselves out of our echo chambers – we can’t truly inform ourselves w/o hearing all sides, whether it’s a) just to see what “we” are up against or b) to educate ourselves and learn something new w/ valid, insightful opposing viewpoints.

    • 2.6.17

      This is awesome!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • 2.9.17

      Thanks for helping us spread the word, Shannon! We’re so happy you’re enjoying our daily newsletter :)

  4. 2.1.17
    Sonya said:

    Thank you for all of this Victoria.

  5. 2.1.17

    Great post, Victoria. I’ve been in a very similar mental state as you and I’m sure as many others in this country. Many of your points resonated heavily with me (I’ve always felt a bit connected with your background – I grew up in Texas and have lived in SF/the Bay Area for the last five, almost six years) & I’m finding the resources and questions you’re offering to be really insightful and valuable! Please let me know if you find any worthy, local causes to support or who are in need of volunteers (or if maybe you’d even like to start a local group or something – just throwin’ that out there ;)).

    I came across this interesting project by the Washington Post the other day, not sure if you’ve seen it. Side-by-side comparisons of example blue vs red Facebook feeds – truly compelling!

    • 2.1.17

      Oops, might help if I actually included the link ha: http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/

      • 2.6.17

        Hey Caroline! YES, I saw this right after the election. The differences are crazy, huh? And to think that’s where some people get all their news…when I checked after the election, the “Red” side of the feed presented to me was all sites like Info Wars and religious sites. Yikes.

        Hit me up with ideas for a local group! I feel like I have all these friends who would want to get involved…but I’m not sure how to harness the collective power and where to direct it!

  6. 2.1.17
    Lala said:

    Love this article. And had to speak up about one weird thing I do: CHECK THE CASH.

    Sadly, cash is king, and while I hate that aspect, I have found that it can be a really good indicator of what’s to come. For example, the ALS group that prompted the Ice Bucket Challenge? They released a document letting the public know where those dollars went. All nonprofits by the way have to release certain tax forms.

    Also, specifically about Planned Parenthood, have you looked into a fundraising group for your local chapter? I serve on the board for Planned Parenthood Young Professionals, which is a group helping out the local Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. It is an annual donation of $100 (which can be paid monthly, quarterly or annually), and the group is focused on a lot of different events to serve Planned Parenthood.

    Sometimes it’s similar work to the advocacy and clinic volunteer groups — so we’re going door to door to talk about the local clinic; doing sex ed classes; or taking a quick bus trip to Nevada (to get out the vote) or Sacramento (to rally) — but we also help with events to raise money for PPLA. Which include Food Fare (giant food festival) and Bingo for Choice (drag queen bingo). Just different ways of helping!

    • 2.6.17

      Hi Lala! Thanks for your comment. SO true about following the money. I did reach out to the local SF PP chapter; that’s the one i didn’t hear back from! I think they just got inundated after the election. I was a bit bummed because I actually did anonymous HIV testing and sex education for my university’s health clinic while in college, and was hoping to reprise some of those skills. I’ll keep at it though — let me know if you ever hear of any new programs up in the Bay Area!

  7. 2.1.17
    JT said:

    Thank you for this. I am so glad you spoke out. I came from Texas and then moved to Minnesota and even getting on Facebook these days is a challenge because I feel like I get unreasonably angry. As an immigrant though so much of this feels so personal.

  8. 2.1.17
    Jill said:

    Thanks for this post. I can absolutely relate. I’m the wake of the election I decided to stop reading CNN and watching cable news. Instead I read the New York Times and just subscribed to the New Yorker. I’ve been limiting my time on facebook and skipping over most political posts. I think I’ve finally realized that no one is changing any minds on facebook! I have also contacted both my senators about several issues in the past two weeks. I’m embarrassed to admit it’s the first time I’ve EVER done that. Overall I’m just trying to channel my anxiety into actions, even if they’re small!

    • 2.6.17

      YES to no minds being changed on Facebook. Even the best comment threads I see — however right each side is — never changes anyone’s mind. Thanks so much for your comment, Jill!

  9. 2.2.17
    Sara said:

    Victoria, keep at it. I am a Canadian living in New Zealand who spent a few years living in California (including San Francisco). I am ashamed to say that in my 30s is when I started paying attention and stopped thinking I had no place in politics. I absolutely think no matter what side you are on, you should stay informed. Read. Research. Fact check. Research. Double check. Ask questions. Raise the alarm. Vote. Have an informed opinion. What I have learned in all this, is how many people have an uninformed opinion. Do everything you can to drown out those uninformed opinions and stay informed. Both sides. Learn. I love that you are being honest and putting yourself out there. I am shocked and appalled at a lot of things right now. But what worries me most are people who say they have tune out right now. I have to respect that. Though I get really worried when the very people who have an informed opinion tune out, the uphill battle gets harder. I worry people are getting exhausted. (And it’s only the beginning).

    I admire your mom’s volunteer actions. I have been wanting to do more, and while sitting on the sidelines donating, I know I can act on it. Homelessness and mental health have been close to my heart this past year, and again, I can’t believe I’m in my 30s and only just realising how much of an issue this is not only in our communities, but among our family and friends.

    I am getting news in any way I can, but trying to be mindful on who’s perspective I’m reading. Is the article I’m reading trying to push an agenda or an opinion? Why is that? What else can I read? I will look at Fox News and The National Review as I don’t see much from these sites and will give them a go. I also engage in meaningful dialogue and sometimes pure frustration WTF texts with friends who I know get me. It helps me feel not alone. I also listen to the other side as much as I can. And admittedly, sometimes I can see a point from the other side, and sometimes I realise maybe there is more there to learn about. So I remain open and listen. Even if I don’t like it.

    If anything, I am realising just how much my actions matter, even if on the bigger scale no one is watching or notices, my actions truly matter. And I am in charge of those actions.

    • 2.6.17

      Thanks for your comment, Sara! You summed up how I feel perfectly. For the first time ever, I recently engaged with a family member who feels differently from me. In the past I’d just let things go and chalk it up to us having different beliefs…but I’m learning, as you said, that actions can matter. And maybe if I can provide that person more (true) information, it could change how they think, or at least give them more empathy. We’re all in charge of how we approach these scary times, whether in big ways or small!

  10. 2.3.17
    Maggie said:

    Thank you for this post. I don’t have anything unique to contribute, but want to show support for bloggers who are addressing the situation in a meaningful way.

  11. 2.4.17
    Jessica said:

    Long time reader, first time posting. THANK YOU! Thank you for writing a thoughtful post that sums up what I’m feeling too. I’m in a very purple state in the South and have been calling up my senators’ offices every day about something every day for the last two weeks. I have been writing post cards and even faxing too (Oh so fun to send a message to my senators using faxzero DOT com and all the rest.) Not sure if you’ve ever heard of it, but a fun app that all the pet lovers out there should look up is ResQWalk and it is so easy. If you’re going out on a walk, it uses Google Maps to track how far you’ve gone and the top charities get money. Easy stuff. Anyway, keep on keeping on and doing good!

    • 2.6.17

      Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for your comment, and good on you for giving so much of your time to call your representatives and get your voice heard in a purple state! :) And I love the idea of ResQWalk. Obviously I’m walking Lucy regularly so that’s such an easy way to give back. Thank you for sharing!!!

  12. 2.12.17
    Rose Mayo said:

    I tried to sign up to volunteer at PP in NYC this past fall, and they actually have too MANY volunteers so it’s very hard to actually do anything with them! I did a little volunteering with the one in the midwest years ago, and actually used their services for many years, too.

  13. 2.12.17
    Rebecca said:

    Hi Victoria,

    It’s good to read your thoughts. I relate with so much of this. I feel overwhelmed by what I’m reading and what’s happening in the news. I also found Hitha’s recent post about this sort of thing and how to contact your representatives helpful. I’ve included the link below in case you haven’t seen it. I had actually never contacted a congress person prior to recent events, which is probably embarrassing but better late than never. I am trying to look at the silver lining as so many more people are getting involved.

    Anyways, I just wanted to say I’m glad to hear your voice and send you a big hug.

    xo
    Becca

    http://www.hithaonthego.com/contact-elected-officials-2017/

  14. 2.15.17
    Donna said:

    Hi Victoria! I really, really, really enjoyed this post! Like you, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the news media these days. But I am still staying informed. I cancelled my cable years ago so I don’t watch TV news at all.

    Funny you should mention the New York Times mobile app as I just downloaded it yesterday and absolutely love it! When I just can’t bring myself to read another news story, I pick up a book. I’ve been on a roll since the year started.

    I shared what I read in January if you’re interested in recommendations:

    https://donzwebb.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/what-i-read-in-january/

    Out of the six books I read, You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris is the one that I can’t stop thinking about and keep recommending. It moved me to tears. It’s translated from French.

    I am currently reading Columbine by Dave Cullen. A difficult, but important read. Also, reading Tracy K. Smith’s memoir, Ordinary Light.

    On the TV front, I am really loving The OA. I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do, but it’s just so addictive! And I can’t wait for Big Little Lies which premieres on HBO this Sunday.:)

    Thanks again for sharing!

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