Happy Siblings Day

That youngest one has always been a little different.

If you grew up, as I did, with a smart, capable and beautiful older sister–and you were supposed to be a boy–there were times in life when you felt like an afterthought, an extra, unnecessary piece of the puzzle.

Worse yet, we looked so much alike once we were teenagers that people often thought we were twins, which only solidified my sneaking impression that I was simply the backup daughter, the understudy to the star of the show. Our Uncle Elmer used to try to guess our names whenever he saw us, but the family joke was that he always got it wrong.

Your older sister does everything first: gets a driver’s license, buys a car, gets a serious boyfriend. She has cuter clothes and does cooler stuff. In my case, she also moved out first, got married first, and had a baby first. In her 20s, she got busy building a career and a family, and I got busy building a career and getting a Ph.D in partying.

In those days, we were at such different stages in life that we were disconnected from each other. My sister often jokes that if I had never had a baby she would never have had a sister. Because after I had my son, I finally GOT it.

My sister and I connected as mothers and finally had something in common besides our childhoods to talk about. We became friends. Like Toni Morrison said, a sister is someone like yourself, and yet very much not like yourself: a special kind of double.

My sister is the keeper of my past. She is the only person on this earth who understands our family’s unique and crazy history.

Who knows all my secrets, flaws and weaknesses, calls me on my bullshit, and loves me anyway. Who always tells the truth. Who probably should have been a prosecuting attorney because she is like a dog with a bone when something seems off and who drives me crazy with questions and observations. And who is almost always infuriatingly, irritatingly RIGHT.

It was my sister who first realized that the guy I was dating in college was a pathological liar and either crazy or evil, and who ultimately convinced my dad to pull me out of school. To this day I am convinced that she saved me from becoming just another Dateline episode of a college girl gone missing.

Yet another unsolved mystery: why is my hair blowing and hers is not?

My sister taught me it was more important to be respected than to be liked. To be strong and to figure it out. To stand up for myself, to trust my gut, to take action when necessary, and not to worry whether other people like it or not because it JUST DOESN’T MATTER.

Case in point: I don’t remember his name, so let’s call him Bourbon Bob (BB), since I’m pretty darn sure he’s seen the bottom of more than a few bottles. We were on vacation in Sedona, and BB the crazy trail guide was hell-bent on making us jog up and down the Arizona desert for miles on end.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So Happy Siblings Day to my sister: my mirror, my history, my teacher, my shrink, my partner in crime, my second closet, and my hero. I am convinced that when the two of us stand together there is no problem that we cannot confront and solve. And no one and nothing we cannot plot against, make fun of, laugh at, or ignore. Together. ❤

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streamlining and Simplifying in 2019

Image courtesy Bill Longshaw, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy Bill Longshaw, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Christmas is just around the corner and you know what that means: more stuff is coming to fill up your house. But it’s cold and rainy almost everywhere right now. The perfect time to come up with a plan to get rid of old, broken, stained, or just plain unwanted items that you’re tired of.

Removing clutter from last year will help you create a clean state of mind to enjoy the new year in peace. If you’re on a mission to organize for the new year, try these tips:

-Get one, toss one. For each new holiday gift you’ve received, get rid of at least one—preferably two—similar items. How many pairs of flannel pajamas do you really need? And toss the socks with the holes and the orphan socks that never seem to find their mates. Whether you pass them along to a friend, donate or sell the items, once you streamline your clothing, you often find yourself with more choices than ever—because you can see what you actually have, and you only have what you really love.

Take the holiday box challenge. Got a bunch of boxes piled up from holiday gifts ready to move in? Instead of stashing them in the corner, give yourself a goal to use every one for items you can give to Goodwill or another recycler. Fill them up with old VHSs, unwanted crafts supplies, and toys, and get them in the hands of someone who can use them.

-Stuck with a pile of unwanted books? Invite a few bookworm friends over and ask them to bring along their cast-offs, then have a swap. Or, check out online websites like Paperback Swap and Book Mooch, where you can list your unwanted titles and trade them for new material.

Set up a toy library. The idea is simple: you organize all of the old toys that still have value but are not currently being played with, and separate them into plastic containers with lids. If your child wants to play with that item, he checks IN one of his new toys and checks OUT the old.

The best candidates for this are Legos, blocks, dollhouses, and other large playsets that are temporarily being ignored but still have value. Rotating the toys keeps clutter down and gives the old toys fresh appeal. After all, every mother knows there is no better way to make a child become fascinated with a long-neglected toy than to try to sneak it into the “donate” pile.

Swap Christmas decorations. Most of us have waay too much Christmas stuff. This year, when you take down your holiday decorations, instead of dragging them all back into the attic, set aside the items that you’re tired of. Invite a few friends and neighbors on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and have a “New To You” swap and shop. Anything leftover can be donated.

-Buy duplicates. Yeah, I know, if you’re an alert reader, you’ll see that I am now contradicting what I just said in No. 1. But hear me out: for items that you use regularly and FOREVER, it makes sense to double up. For years my cheapskate side resisted the idea of buying TWO laundry detergents, TWO 20-pack rolls of toilet paper, and two giant rolls of paper towels at the same time.

But you always need them  sooner than you think, don’t you? And it saves the irritation of having to go back to the store just for toilet paper three days after you came home with $300 dollars of groceries. Buy in doubles and triples when you stock up on staples, and you won’t have to worry about running out of everyday items ever again.

Note: this does not apply to cookies, at least around my house. If I buy doubles and triples of cookies, they disappear virtually overnight. They must be hidden.

Today’s Top Headline: Be Kind.

Today’s top story: “Most people are decent.” You’ll never see that headline leading the nightly news. But maybe once in a while, it should. For a news junkie like me, the world looks downright hopeless lately. We are in chaos: embittered, frustrated and scared. People everywhere seem to be furious, close to the boiling point.

A friend just told me yesterday about how she was sitting in a restaurant recently when a man suddenly started shouting with rage at a mother with two young toddlers, telling her that bratty kids were what was ruining this country.

Really, bratty kids? I  beg to differ. Bratty kids are nothing new.

What’s new is that we now have a bratty toddler president who stomps with relish on our Constitutional rights every day and whose favorite hobby is insulting and attacking citizens, media stars and politicians alike. 

The ripple effect is unmistakable. Under the Trump administration, hate crimes are on the rise.

The news bombards us daily with the latest mass shooting, environmental disaster, bloody war, and a deadlocked Congress more interested in keeping their seats than in solving problems.

Everyone I know who is paying attention is living in a quiet state of despair and anxiety, patched together with Xanax and alcohol and awaiting the next national crisis with bated breath.

But when I look beyond the fear-based headlines, I still see quiet stars that glimmer in the darkness of these difficult days.

I see my neighbor across the street who voluntarily mowed my next-door neighbor’s lawn because she lived alone. A while back when my back gate was accidentally left open and he spotted my little white dog trotting toward the highway, he coaxed her into following him back home. When I thanked him profusely for finding my baby, he simply said, “That’s what neighbors do.”

I think about the middle-aged dad in the red Camaro who drove up beside me two minutes after I blew out a tire on Interstate 35. He didn’t ask me if I was a Republican or Democrat.  Instead, this total stranger in his perfectly pressed khaki pants crawled underneath my car in 100-plus degree heat to put on my spare, waved off my attempt to pay him and disappeared.

These kindnesses from strangers seem suspiciously like grace to me. A few years ago in Hickory Creek, a mom lost her husband unexpectedly, leaving her with no insurance and two young kids to support. Local moms Jenni Bresler and Robyn Hirneise gathered donations at a warehouse for a week, then held a garage sale, netting over $3,000 that they gave to the young widow. I remember pulling up with my SUV full of items to a line stretched around the block. It seemed everyone in the Lake Cities was there, waiting patiently to give.

From my friend Char’s cousin’s Facebook page: “Thank you to total stranger Kevin Fairfax. I ran out of gas (duh) at MLK and St. Clair. Kevin stopped to see if I needed help, then took me to his house, got a can of gas, and I was rescued. Thank you, kind stranger.”

From my 87-year-old friend, Ina: “I go to Baylor Dental for my teeth. The parking lot at the entrance charges $5 a day with no attendant. I only had a $20 bill, so I asked a young woman walking by if she had change. She said no, but she handed me a $5 bill. When I mailed her the money back, I included a note of thanks and told her that that it gave me hope to know that there are still kind people who trust each other. Her answer was, ‘It’s a sad day when we can’t help each other out in this world.’”

From my sister: “I was so distracted after my second child was born that I accidentally left my purse in the shopping cart at the grocery store. When I went back, someone had actually turned it in — along with the $400 in cash inside that was for the nanny. A couple of months later, I found a wallet on the street. My daughter and I tracked down the owner and returned it to her.”

So what do we do? I have friends who are outraged by the behavior that Trump exhibits, who say that we must fight with fire, that his bad behavior justifies worse behavior on our part. I understand their point. The dilemma is real. But I don’t think that is the solution. Because all I keep coming back to it as an end result is that old quote that says, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And it’s not a world that I want to live in, where cruelty trumps kindness, where selfishness wins over generosity.  I refuse to live in that world.

So the only answer I can come up with to resisting the Trump administration is to surround myself with the people who believe in the strength and the power of decency.  To speak up and not be silent when I see injustice, certainly. But also to be ruthlessly, relentlessly kind.

To give that tired and cranky sales clerk a sincere compliment. To ask them, “You seem like you’re really having a bad day. Are you ok?” and really listen to the answer.

To ignore that jerk who cuts you off in traffic and let it go, because you just don’t know what kind of battle they’re fighting that day.

Most of us will never be famous, or rich, or write an award-winning screenplay or invent a cure for cancer. But we can all be kind. And we can all be decent. And we can all be civil. And maybe one day, we’ll all have sense enough to demand that the people who run our country be kind and decent and civil, too.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Us – Dem Divas of TX

 

“Sometimes you have to create what you want to be part of.”

Once upon a time, back in 2009, there was a war being fought in this country: a war over healthcare. President Obama was hard at work trying fulfill the campaign promise he had made to pass healthcare reform, and the Republicans were just as determined to shoot it dead at the door.

My friends and I were furious over the lies and misinformation being spewed from the right:  that it was a government takeover, that it would force Americans off their current health coverage, that undocumented immigrants would receive full benefits, that Grandma would become part of Obama’s death panel.

Remember when you slept at night knowing he was in charge?

 

We were also exhausted from constant arguments we’d been having with conservative friends and family who weren’t nearly as jazzed as we were that the country had just elected a whip-smart, ultra-cool, African-American president.

In fact, we were still trying to wrap our heads around the new reality we had just discovered: that many of the people we loved most in the world were racist. There was simply no other explanation for the vitriol directed at our new President.

By this point I had defriended my own mother-in-law on Facebook because of the constant arguments we had over Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick for VP in the 2008 election. She loved her. I found her unbearable.

Palin was attractive, charismatic, and knew how to work a crowd into a frenzy. She was also a narcissistic know-nothing whose divisive, personality-driven populism, unapologetic ignorance, and daily word salads made me want to drive an ice pick through my skull.

We thought she was simply an aberration, a huge one-time mistake.

How were we to know she was in fact the working prototype for a new breed of proudly unqualified, dangerously uninformed politician that would send America plunging down the rabbit hole less than a decade later?

tumblr_inline_o18147AhfH1tedrp5_1280

There is no there there. They can speak, yet none of their words are either coherent or true.

In fact, let’s pause here for a moment of silence and recall what we as a nation have collectively survived in the last 10 years. Remember the good ol’ days when we naively believed that George Bush and Mitt Romney were the absolute worst thing that could happen to America? 

maxresdefault

Mitt, I apologize for calling you THE WORST CHOICE EVER. You so weren’t.

But I digress.

And so we decided we needed to show up for President Obama and fight for his healthcare plan that fall, because we believed in it–and we believed in him.

1917106_182260280123_5045042_n

1917106_182260375123_2293141_nOf course, we couldn’t help having a little fun with some Tea Partiers that we met along the way. Because bless their tiny little hearts, they ain’t that smart.

Take, for example, this handsome fellow, who cluelessly and happily posed for us  in front of the Wrong Way Sign.  “That’s it, back up just a little, you look SO HANDSOME, say cheese!”  🙂

 Some things change over the course of a decade, and some things stay the same. One thing we can always count on, though, is that being a progressive in deep-red Texas will regularly leave us:

In fact, when we first got the original group of 10 together, we were so starved for intelligent conversation with like-minded souls that we set a nine-hour record for lunch drinking, solving the world’s problems, and wearing paper tiaras.  Because, you know, DIVAS.

1917106_182260395123_58464_n

An early lunch with some of the original Divas.

AND NOW HERE WE ARE. 

The Divas were created as a crazy little lark, a way for us to discuss our liberal viewpoints with each other and not ruin the family Thanksgiving. And as a private and secret group, we never actively recruited new members. 

And yet, over the years, the group really has taken on a life of its own and become a true tribe that provides conversation, comfort, and camaraderie to many members who thought they were alone. This community means something to people. 

Over and over women kept coming to us and saying things like, “My friend in Lubbock is having a really hard time…my sister in Houston just moved to Longview and feels completely alone…I just found out my neighbor Diane is one of us…can you add her?” Now we have more than 2,800 members and are spread out not only in Texas but around the country and overseas. And real relationships are forged, even among members who never meet in person. 

As our numbers have grown, we’ve also become a force for positive change. You’ll find Divas everywhere: running for local office and supporting progressive candidates, participating in the women’s march, Pride Parade and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America activities, stepping up as precinct chairs in their neighborhoods, and more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 In fact, no matter what progressive or social justice issue you’re interested in, there’s a very good chance that there’s already a Diva involved with it who’d be happy to hook you up.

44680906_10215667376790696_4743976994033631232_n

The good news is that there are more women and minority candidates running for local and national offices than ever before, and they need our support.

Our small group has become part of a much larger national resistance that is fighting every day for the democratic freedoms and values that are constantly under attack by the current administration. There seems to be a market once again for decency as more and more Americans are demanding a return to honesty, integrity, kindness, and tolerance.

So happy 9th anniversary, Divas. We’re happy you found us. We’re thrilled we’re on this journey together in our heroines’ mission to turn Texas blue.

And don’t forget to have some fun along the way!

“Tell your story. 
Shout it. Write it. 
Whisper it if you have to. 
But tell it. 
Some won’t understand it. 
Some will outright reject it. 
But many will 
thank you for it. 
And then the most
magical thing will happen. 
One by one, voices will start 
whispering, ‘Me, too.’
And your tribe will gather. 
And you will never 
feel alone again.” 
― L.R. Knost

42796031_10100857098983591_6594552671007408128_n

An estimated crowd of 55,000 recently showed up for Beto O’Rourke’s rally in Austin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

 

Got issues? Start here.

Thanks to the national nightmare that is the Trump administration, there are dozens of critical issues now dominating our nation’s political conversation every day, which can be paralyzing. Where should you put your energy, when so much progress is being rolled back in so many areas? Pick your battles. Focus on the causes that you’re most passionate about, and concentrate your efforts there.

To help fight climate change and protect the environment from forces of pollution and corporate greed, contact the National Resources Defense Council, which has a staff of 500 lawyers devoted to protecting the environment who have pledged to lead the charge against anti-environment agendas.

Perhaps women’s issues and health care concern you most. You can donate to Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and join women’s rights organizations such as the National Organization for Women.

Concerned about ongoing attacks on the free press? Get in touch with the Committee to Protect Journalists or Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit foundation that promotes public interest journalism.

Another issue is making sure scientists remain free to research, invent, and explore. Go to the National Center for Science Education, which defends the integrity of this field.

To help protect discrimination against Muslims and advocate for immigrants, donate to the American Civil Liberties Union and report incidents of immigrant abuse to the Anti-Defamation League.

Whatever you do, please do something! No matter what the president and this current administation might tell you, this is OUR country. We, the people, are the deciders. Congress works for US.

###

Desperately Seeking Blue Unicorns

2acaf3cbad25c2cbad7e196bde3612feDo you feel like a lonely blue unicorn roaming the red Texas prairie in solitary splendor, alone in your freaky progressive viewpoints?

Outraged by cowardly Texas elected officials who refuse to schedule town halls to listen to the views of their constituents and who casually pass laws that roll back women’s rights?

Disgusted by neighbors who see no contradiction betweeen worshiping Jesus on Sunday and deporting Muslims on Monday, building a wall to keep the Mexicans out on Tuesday, and denying gay couples civil rights on Wednesday?

Flumoxed that we can’t everyone can’t at least agree that we should have clean air and water and protect the environment for the next generation?

Seriously, are you on drugs? What difference can you–‘lil ol YOU–possibly make as a progressive in Texas the buckle of the Bible Belt? Why not just stay home watching Rachel and punching yourself in the head?  It’s cheaper. And faster.

I’ll tell you why. Because if you’ve read this far, you know you have to do SOMETHING. And you know that freedom fighters don’t always win, but they’re on the right side of history.

So here’s the deal: you have two choices. You can bitch and moan and whine and share articles on Facebook that annoy your family  for the next two years, or you can crawl out from under the bed and get to work for the next 100 days. Because the  the path to change begins with fighting hard in the 2018 mid-term elections to elect new Dem representatives and show complicit, silent and corrupt Republicans the door. Though many people are frustrated with the Democratic party and improvements are needed, it remains the only real opposition to defeating the current  administration.

Here are three concrete things you can do that can make a real difference in the next four years:

  1. Sign up to be a Volunteer Deputy Registar

Volunteer deputy registrars assist with the responsibility of officially registering voters in the State of Texas. They administer voter registration applications and make sure that citizens complete the applications correctly so there is no delay in processing.  Learn more here for the entire state of Texas here, or check out

Dallas County:

Collin County (north):

Rockwall County (east):

Kaufman County (southeast):

(Call 972.932.0298 for info on upcoming classes in Kaufman County)

Ellis County (south):

Tarrant County (west):

Denton County: (northwest):

2. Consider becoming a Precinct Chair

If you want to impact political change, there’s no better first step to take than becoming a Precint Chair. Texas counties are divided into individual precincts, and a precinct is the smallest political subdivision. The Precinct Chair serves as the contact person for their respective party in their precinct, works to increase the number of voters in their neighborhood at at the grass-roots level, and represents their precinct on the County Executive Committee. Learn more here.

3. Take Action at Your Fingertips

Protest comes in many forms. It doesn’t have to just take place in the streets. And while liking pages on Facebook and retweeting messages won’t impact change–but calling your elected officials can.

Since the election, a number of  progressive websites and groups have sprung up since the election promising actionable advice. One of the best is Five Calls, which lists issues, phone numbers and scripts you can use to call your representatives regularly.

Though the site is easy to navigate, unfortunately many callers to their elected officials report that lines are often busy and voice mailboxes full. According to 5 Calls co-founder Neil O’Neill, more than 360,000 calls have already been logged through the platform. And while unfortunately many citizens who try to call their elected officials unfortunately report that lines are often busy and voice mailboxes full, calling is an excellent way to kickstart your activism–and its impact is being felt in Washington.

###

 

 

 

Books

Books by Lindsey Townsend

 

Letting Go: Surviving and Thriving Through Life’s Greatest Trials

417ljt8qogl

 

How do you overcome a heartbreak that you’re not sure you can survive?

That was the question facing Jo Ann Brumit, mother and CEO, when her life was forever changed by the unexpected death of her daughter.

Written by Lindsey Townsend, this memoir feels like a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend, offering practical, empathetic advice on how to face a wide variety of challenging life situations with hope, courage, and persistence.

Children’s Books

A portion of the proceeds from every Letting Go children’s book sold are donated to help children’s charities and children in crisis.

Cody’s Big Move

cover-art

Moving is hard—even for baby chickens.

Meet Cody, who thought he would live in his barn with his best friend forever. But one day, a big moving van pulled up, and he has to leave all of his friends to move to a new and strange place.

Will he ever make any new friends or stop being so homesick? Find out how Cody finally learns how to let go of the past.

Maxi’s New Family

51evlrfct8l-_sy498_bo1204203200_

What’s a mini teacup pig to do when her dad doesn’t come home to sleep in his favorite mud pen anymore?

When Maxi’s father moves away to a new home, she feels sad, mad and lost. What if he stops loving her?

Follow Maxi on her journey as she discovers that even when families change, some things always remain.

Gary’s Baaaad Habit

s-l400

If you see something that you really want, why shouldn’t you take it?

This wise and wonderful tale tells the story of Gary the goat, who finds himself in trouble when he makes some bad choices.

Discover why it’s never a good idea to borrow other people’s things without permission…or to eat them!

Barry Gets Bullied

51mljet8hol-_sy498_bo1204203200_

Standing up to a bully is hard, no matter how old you are.

Barry is a little brown bull with a big problem.  He gets bullied every single day by a big meanie named Bruno, and he’s sick of it.

Come along for the ride as Barry learns how to take the bull by the horns and  turn a foe into a friend.

Available on Amazon.com and the Letting Go website

Coming soon: Socks Can’t Trot!