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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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Off The Grid

Unplanned blogs that don’t fit anywhere else!

A Year of Questions

A friend of mine posted something on Facebook that caused me to reflect on 2017. This post said, “There are years that ask questions and years that give answers. Which was 2017 for you?”

I think politically speaking, I can safely speak for over half the nation when I say one of the year’s first questions was something like ‘WTF?’ After that, there is some variance. For me personally, the questions continued. ‘What’s next?‘ and ‘Now what?’ have been scattered throughout the year in relation to my writing. I’ve received plenty of ‘Whens?’ about the start of my next book. And I’ve ended the year with lots of ‘Whys?’ after my mom’s fall, i.e. ‘Why do we seem destined to live together, taking care of each other?’ and selfishly a little bit of ‘Why me?’

And since I have absolutely no answers, I can only assume that 2018 will be chock full of them. In terms of our politics, I have high hopes. I think generations of voters (myself included) needed a wake up call. A reminder to stay involved, active and informed. These things don’t just take care of themselves. Our way of life is not to be taken for granted.

I have an inkling that answer applies to my mom too. Something about change and not taking each other for granted. You see, it’s not all worked out yet. I’m in the thick of it and the ideas are still germinating.

Which brings me to the last of my questions, ‘What’s next?’ And I’ve decided I need to work out that answer unfettered by the responsibility of keeping up the same old blog. And since I like neat, wrapped up endings, I’ve also decided that the end of the year is the perfect time to close things and say goodbye. I will be writing. I think I identify too much as a writer to ever go too long without writing. But it’s time to fill the well. To write down snippets of life as they happen. To ruminate on future projects. Another book? To head back to my writers group and challenge myself. With a different style of writing maybe. Fiction? Who knows? A future me has the answers. Maybe me in 2018. Look for me. I’ll let you know what happened. Happy New Year.

Back to Balance

That’s it! I’m out!  Being outraged is exhausting. Last week’s baseless wiretapping accusation just about did me in, but this week’s clean up – Kellyanne preaching the dangers of kitchen appliances and Sean Spicer explaining the use of quotation marks – is finishing the job. Politics is becoming less must see, addicting TV and more like an episode of Jerry Springer. Pure ridiculousness.

Now I watch with the same sensation I used to experience when getting sucked into a storyline of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, that feeling that I’m wasting the day and rotting my brain. I long for the days when politics were dull and politicians were as professional as they were stuffy.  Maybe then I could go back to worrying about the routine of my day instead of the fate of everyone and everything on the planet.

But there I go, another melodramatic liberal, running around with her hair on fire. So, I want to wash my hands of it. I’m trying desperately to return to my zen, to life as I knew it before my political awakening. I want eight hours of sleep again, not late night news and Saturday Night Live. I want to focus on marketing my book, not organizing a grassroots Resistance group. And I need to get back to the gym instead of waving around signs at marches.

But here’s the thing. You can’t unring a bell. I’m like Leonardo Decaprio in Titanic, unlacing my boots. It’s too late. I’m involved now. But instead of saving Kate Winslet, I’m out to save the world. (Just kidding. I don’t really consider my involvement that important. Sort of. At least I think.) But I’m not ready to stick my head back in the sand.

So, once again I’m striving for balance. I’m trying to incorporate my new politically active and outraged self into my existing peaceful and “positive input only” self. I gave up a leadership position in my Resistance group for a membership role. I’m still involved, but not bogged down. I’m keeping my “first 100 days” commitment to be a thorn in the sides of my members of congress, but after April I’ve got my eye on a yoga class at the local YMCA. And I’m hanging on to MSNBC’s Morning Joe, but at night I’m back to vegging with The Voice See? I can admit it. I’m a work in progress. I can grow. I can change. I’m an adult. (Insert Trump dig here.)

So for those of you out there feeling worried, angry or anxious: yes, be outraged. There’s energy there that can be put to action. But don’t forget to switch off the news, too. Revel in your grandbabies, walk your dog in the park. Take a walk and just breathe. If all else fails, pop some popcorn and watch an episode of Real Housewives. Just remember not to look directly into the microwave.

 

 

Activism for Dummies

resistViva la resistance!

For those of you who don’t like loose ends, this is a follow-up to prior political posts. One was called “What To Do” and had a picture of a yo-yo. I think it’s safe to say, I’ve decided. And this picture of good ol’ Greenpeace’s stunt is self-explanatory. Resist.

Resist, not fight. For me, it’s an important distinction. Fighting implies militant violence. Resistance implies remaining peacefully on the defense. Maybe it’s a six-year-old’s argument (he started it!) but I like it. Trump’s infantile behavior seems to goad my inner child and I have to keep from chanting “liar liar, pants on fire!” When he goes low, I want to go lower.

But instead, I’m taking action beyond the recent Women’s March. Here’s how:

Dive in. I’ve started an action group with some people from my building. I’ve called the offices of congressional members and sent emails and postcards alike. I have no idea what I’m doing, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s too important. I’m making it up as I go along. It’s best not to think too far ahead, about the more daunting aspects, like what the hell I’m going to say when all these people are sitting in my living room next week. It’s the passion and motivation of it that matter. Go where the energy is. Sometimes you need to act first and think later.

Don’t be afraid. It’s scary to stand up and speak out, especially to friends or family members who might have different views. But I know you’re out there, you who’ve gone politically silent on Facebook. You know who you are. Come out. You’re not alone. I remember physically shaking as I stood by myself on a corner, a young twenty-something, handing out flyers to protest the circus. I wasn’t ready. I think my heart was in the right place, but P.E.T.A. was a little too radical a choice for trying out my activist’s voice. It was either the flyers or a bloody tiger suit. Geez. Start small instead. And find like-minded people. There’s strength in numbers.

Put on selective blinders. If you’re a sensitive soul who winds up too upset or too angry reading the opposing views on social media – well – don’t read everything. You know whose posts or tweets to avoid. The likelihood of changing anyone’s mind is very slim. As a writer, that’d be a plus, but I don’t see that as the point. But stirring people into action, people that already feel the same way as me, might be. And don’t review or count your contacts to see who has unfriended you. Who needs the heartache? Let it go.

Don’t live in a bubble. Try not to only surround yourself with people who think exactly as you do. I have some friends with whom I can still have polite, civil discourse. My cleaning person and I have an unspoken war with the television channel. When I leave the house, it’s set to MSNBC. When I come back, it’s on Fox News. One of these days, I’m going to offer to watch an hour of Fox if she’ll watch an hour of “liberal, dishonest media.” It’s good to know what the other side is saying.

Educate yourself. Understanding what’s going on has been like time traveling back to my tenth grade American Civics class. I read somewhere that I needed to call both of my senators and one house member. (Two? I have two senators? Who knew? Well yeah, I guess I remember learning that.) It’s okay if you need a refresher course. Take it from someone who’s never followed much politics. And if you remember my writing that I’d get a hold of my addiction to cable news after the Inauguration, I lied. I was wrong. I’m an adult. I can admit that. But I can’t stop watching now. I still can’t follow most arguments for or against the electoral college and I had to look up xenophobia, but for the most part, I can now hold my own in a political conversation.

So, my mom is almost giddy with pride at finally being able to pass the baton to me. In my defense, my generation and the ones adjacent to it, grew up taking a lot for granted. We’ve always had the right to vote, attend public schools and watch and let our children watch Sesame Street. We’ve lived in a time when racism was properly in the closet and gay people could come out of it. We listened to your stories of the sixties and some of us felt envious. It’s not that we were uninterested in fighting, we just never had anything to fight for. Not like this.

Critics of the march and some media wonder if the protestors can last, organize themselves into a movement. They say there are too many individual groups resisting for their own reasons. Civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration rights. We need a unifying message, a solidarity of purpose, a simple soundbite. Umm, this is just me taking a stab at it here, but a single word? How ’bout … democracy?

 

Must See TV

thStay tuned …

for a tweet from your president-elect.

Okay, despite that small dig, I’m not going to be contentious. Or I’ll try hard not to be. Instead, I’ll attempt to unite my readers with something that surely we can all agree on: this is some good entertainment.

As you may know, I never used to watch politics or the news. Even innocuous stuff like the weather. I made fun of my mother for watching it 24/7 and then wondering why she thought the sky was falling. She’d come into my apartment, raining all over my sunshine about some “Storm of the Century” and telling me we needed to head out for supplies before the lines got too bad. And, of course, barely a branch came down.

It was last week sometime before eight in the morning as I cackled in delight over Mitt Romney’s dinner of cooked crow and the possibility of Republican in-fighting when I realized I might be hooked. Women always become their mothers. To resist is futile.

Next week is the finale of The Voice and I haven’t tuned in since the debates. What’s the world coming to? My guilty pleasure doesn’t even involve guilt anymore. It’s a marathon of Real Politicians of the United States and I’m making popcorn at 1:00 in the afternoon and pressing pause when I have to go to the bathroom. I’ve even started staying up late for SNL. I get all the jokes now.

And I’m smarter, too. I don’t shy away from political conversations. I’m all too happy to show off my new found knowledge. If Mom blanks on the name of some perfectly qualified billionaire cabinet pick, (okay, second dig) I’m right there supplying the name like a smug teacher’s pet, waving her hand about wildly. (Pick me! Pick me!)

There is one person clearly loving this more than me, though. Donald Trump. As evidenced by his “I told you so tour” … a-hem … I mean, “thank you tour.” (Okay, I’ll stop counting.) But really, can anyone doubt the sheer satisfaction derived from having “never-Trumpers” doing their walk of shame past the press pool up the gleaming elevators of Trump Tower? Air Force One may have a “ridiculous” price tag, but that is priceless.

I’m still the same person, though. I believe in balance and meditating and not watching too much TV, even if it is Top World Leader instead of Top Chef. I want to accept the things I can’t control and not make myself nuts yelling at the TV like a crazy person. I strive towards Zen.

So like any good addict, I’ve given myself a deadline. The inauguration. I promise I’ll stop then. I mean, I can’t stop cold turkey! It’s my duty as a citizen to stay informed! Besides, you know the creator of Celebrity Apprentice is said to be involved in Trump’s big day. The mere thought of the next president flying in by helicopter has me giddy with excitement at the absurdity. Besides, in the words of a favorite cable news anchor, “This is not the time to stop paying attention.”

 

 

 

What To Do

yo-yo_coloring_pageDeal with it. Move on. Fight. Stand up for what you believe in. In the wake of the 2016 election, many people are wondering what to do next. It’s a conundrum. Every day I vacillate.

I’ve considered turning off the cable news that has become the background noise to all my activities. (I’ve become my mother.) But it’s pointless. The addiction has already taken hold. Last night, I watched politics instead of The Voice. What’s the world coming to?

I’ve even contemplated staying off of Facebook. Or becoming a lurker. You know, reading all, but posting nothing. It’s painful to realize that friends or family feel differently than we do. When the people with whom we shared a daily motivational quote or a funny cat video suddenly make their political beliefs known. Oh, we think. She’s one of them. People are hurt or angered by the unfriending going on. Don’t be. It’s natural for people to want to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. People are hurt and emotions are running high.

I can feel my own stress building. The distance between my ears and shoulders grows shorter every day. Never underestimate the toll stress takes on your body. Particularly, if you’re paying attention. Particularly, if you’re in the losers corner. My dad reminded me of the dangers of getting too wrapped up in things. “There’s no point in worrying about what you can’t control.” He lectured me. Wait. That’s my line! So this afternoon, I had a massage from a 19-year old handsome latino named Louis. That helped a little.

Writing helps too. Having to put things into words helps clarify my own feelings. A group of comedians were on the news the other day. They felt all artists had a duty to use their talent to shine a light on the situation, to give voice to the masses who felt as they did. Woah. A duty? I have a few writer friends who aren’t going to like that one. I think, instead, what you do – Democrat or Republican, artist or not – is up to you. It’s personal. I remember trembling all over just to hand out brochures protesting the circus. Conflict and confrontation are hard. Maybe you feel motivated. Maybe you keep your mouth shut. Maybe you need to unfriend some people just to have the strength to turn on the computer. Let’s try not to judge each other.

Personally, I’m curtailing my Facebook activity. Which is not to say I won’t be active in standing up for what I believe in. But I’m not going to be sharing any “in your face” posts. I think I’ll leave that to the people who are comfortable with the “in your face” approach. The people who can stick a flyer “in your face” without shaking.  And the world needs them. I’ll do my part by giving money to the organizations I feel are threatened by the incoming administration. That and sharing the feel-good stuff. And funny cat videos, of course.

Accepting and Protesting

solIt seems the world is falling apart. With the election of Donald J. Trump into the White House, protests have broken out across America and family and friends aren’t speaking to one another.

I’m grappling with this myself, I am. A Democrat and supporter of liberal ideals, I woke up Wednesday morning, donned all black, plastered a homemade sign on the back of my power chair with the words “not my president” and headed out to Memorial Park to walk Frankie. I saw no one. It was a quiet, drizzly morning and it’s safe to say, true to the grief process, much of the left-leaning world was still in shock and denial. I was my own one-woman protest. And I had no followers except a dog and he was more leading anyway (and not even donning a cute shirt like ‘Mutts Against Mitt’).

Then I came home and tearfully listened to Hillary’s concession speech (unfortunately the best and most authentic speech I’ve heard her give). “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that, we cherish it.” Yes, I thought. And in the spirit of that speech, and not wanting to add to the divisiveness, threw away my sign.

Then the protests started, some of them chanting the very same words I had printed out on my computer, and I felt compelled to get back in the fray again. Cher and Madonna say I need to fight! The wonderful thing about living in a democracy is being allowed the freedom to disagree – loudly even.

But here’s the thing – it’s turning violent and ugly. They are also chanting F*** Trump. I would never be comfortable chanting that no matter how much I dislike the man.

So here’s what I’ve decided today. I’m going back to what Hillary said and what rings true to my own heart. I’m focusing on the peaceful transfer of power. What I’m having a little more trouble with is owing Trump an “open mind and the chance to lead.” Really? Do I really owe him that?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m watching it unfold just like all of you. I’m emotional,  sleep-deprived and struggling with my civic responsibilities and friendships.

But I will also exercise my freedom of speech and cherish the fact that I live in a country in which I am free to object and stand up against any would be leaders. So, my presence on Facebook may be just a little more political. I have dear friends, Republicans or even Trump voters, who read my blog. I have tried (sort of) to remain publicly neutral for the sake of my writing. I guess I don’t feel I can anymore. If I lose readers, so be it. Not only is writing wonderfully cathartic, it is my peaceful protest.

Pokéman Prejudice

 

UnknownWell, it’s finally happened. A cultural phenomenon has brought me out of hiding to weigh in on it. Pokémon Go. I hate it. But I’m sure many of you could have guessed that. I am, after all, over the age of 40. I’m not big on technology. And I can barely drive my power chair in a straight line, let alone walk in one (although that clearly is not a requirement). But in the spirit of love and kindness, I’m examining my Pokémon prejudice and trying to face it with an open mind and a healthy dose of tolerance.

It’s been several weeks since my beloved Memorial Park was taken over by those masses traveling in packs looking down at their cell phones. Gone are the moments of peaceful solitude. Gone are the exchanges of pleasantries with strangers. Gone are the critters. (Yes, I’ve become the crazy squirrel lady, carrying baggies full of raw peanuts to throw the creatures from my wheelchair, like some kind of modern day, politically correct version of Cinderella.) And yes, I’ve lived here seven months now. That’s long enough to call the park mine. Heck, Frankie thought he owned it by day two.

Although, I do enjoy seeing grown adults stumble into bushes, my distaste for the pastime grew when I waited with a group at a crosswalk behind some guy on a bike absorbed in playing. When the signal changed, he played on, finally waving a couple on foot, past him. They easily went up and over the curb to get around him, just as the light changed again. I remained blocked and he remained oblivious to my existence, despite all my exasperated huffing. Luckily, his girlfriend had herself veered off to catch a Pokémon, but was paying enough attention behind me to tell him to get out of my way. Maybe it’s just me, but I think men are more susceptible to falling into this trance, or stupor if you will, much the same as with television. (Sorry men.)

My opinion further solidified when a friend read over the online guidelines in an attempt to see what all the fuss was about and if we were, in fact, missing out on something. He was reading aloud all the descriptions of the various Pokéballs, Poké-eggs, Poliwhirls and Poliwags and how the object of collecting Pokémon monsters was to battle other avatars in the Pokémon Gyms. The object of the game, he read, was to win prizes, advance levels and “become one of the most powerful trainers in the alter-universe.” He stopped reading at this point and looked up at me. “This is some bulls**t,” he declared.

But on to the love and kindness. I had long ago given up on trying to say hello to these Pokémon people and was stopped in the shade of the park’s trees, when a young man rushed over to me. “Can I help you? Let me get that.” He then proceeded to pick up Frankie’s water bowl until he realized in mid-action, it was full. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you dropped that. I wasn’t paying attention.”  He admitted it! And granted, playing Pokémon had caused him to rush to my aid unnecessarily, but what good intentions! We then proceeded to have a nice conversation (about Pokémon) in which he described its appeal and showed me the screen on his phone. Apparently, there’s the benefit of family time and exercise, though I’d hesitate to call wandering at a glacial pace, stopping dead and generally getting in everyone’s way exercise. But the point is, he was a nice guy. And once I stopped seeing everyone as either a Pokémon player or not, viewing everyone with an “us versus them” mentality, I could see that.

So in the face of this Pokémon-mania and fresh off the “love trumps hate” bus that was the Democratic National Convention this past week, I’m trying to see past my personal prejudices. The world is not black or white, nor all good or all bad. Decide for yourself. Ask questions. Talk to each other. You’ll see. All Clinton supporters are not tree-hugging lesbians. All Trump supporters are not uneducated morons. (Harder to believe, I know.) And all Pokémon players are not ridiculous. After all, they may be a bit distracted, but Pokémon players are people too.

 

Wasted Worry

th2I’m going to come clean. I’m a worrier. I always have been. My recent unfounded worries were that Frankie would get us kicked out of my new apartment for barking and that he would be exposed as an illegitimate service dog and asked to leave some store and never come back. Of course, neither has happened. In fact, Frankie proves every day just how legitimate and well-behaved a service dog he really is. Turns out, I’m the only person who needed convincing. But how well Frankie’s adjusting to urban life is the subject of another post.

In the spirit of going with the flow, I’m putting that topic on hold in the event someone out there needs to hear what I’ve decided about worry. It’s pointless. I’m fully aware that saying and understanding that is the easy part. Being able to practice that concept, on the other hand, takes, well … practice. Feel free to borrow what works for me.th4

First, credit goes out to my mom, who’s been reminding me how futile my worry is ever since I can remember. And I’ve learned, with her help, that the best antidote to worry (or troublesome, negative thinking of any kind) is gratitude. Get in the habit, as she is, of writing down what you’re thankful for at the end of each day. It changes your mindset.

th1 Staying in the present helps me when I fall into a ‘what if’ state of mind. For what is worry if not obsessive future thinking? And no one knows the future. So again, what’s the point? It’s a fine line, however, between staying in the present and not planning for the future or making goals. I like setting goals and daydreaming about how great my future’s going to be. I can usually sense when the scales begin to tip, though. Like when I’m so busy making a to-do list on my phone that I forget to look up and appreciate that Frankie and I are in the park on a beautiful sunny day. As I said, it’s a fine line.

Or you can always fall back on my last resort solution to constant worry. To stop going over and over some problem in my mind, I’ve taken to humming the tune from Frozen. You know, let it go, let it go. But in song. Hey, I said it was a last resort. But it works. It’s just silly enough to snap your brain out of it.

If nothing else works, keep this in mind. In the weeks that led up to my brain hemorrhage, I was close to depression, consumed with worry. Not about the mass in my head (which I knew about,) but as crazy as it sounds, with financial woes and silly romantic problems. Sound familiar? I mean, how ridiculous is that? Here I was, 36-years-old, on top of the world, only I didn’t know it. I couldn’t even fathom feeling grateful in my situation. But guess what? I was about to have real problems. Whatever you perceive your problems to be – they could get worse too. Or better. Maybe you’re about to win the lottery. Who knows? So why spend your time stressing over money and ruining tonight? Of course I wish I’d spent more evenings walking on the beach instead of worrying on my couch in front of the TV – heck, I can do that now! But, I don’t. Or try not to. So, take it from someone who’s gained a little perspective in life. Stop worrying, go walk the beach and buy a lottery ticket. Tomorrow could be your lucky day.cat

Out of the Zone

img_0123-2Apparently, I’m in need of some comfort. Like the big vat of macaroni and cheese kind. Everyone knows moving is stressful. I guess I just underestimated how stressful. As a friend commented, I kind of leapt off the edge of a tall cliff and just naturally expected to fly. (Well, yeah.)

As is the way, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Mom is still back at the beach until the house sells. And I’ve realized – I haven’t lived farther away than down the street from her in close to ten years. Sure, she drives me crazy, but now I miss her. And I haven’t lived away from the beach in about 23 years. That’s a long time to be a part of a community. Now I’m part of a new community. I’ve almost forgotten how to do this. Almost.

You see, I’m out of my comfort zone. And I did it to myself. Deliberately. I wanted to shake things up. Well, if you’ll pardon the grammar – they’re shook.

So, I’m taking comfort where I can and deciding I’m okay with that. Food is a big one. I didn’t realize how big until one of two friends in the building (another huge comfort) drove me to Fresh Market. I’m not a fan of the Publix right across the street. It’s small, the aisles are narrow and they don’t carry all the things I’m used to. But, Fresh Market? Hello comfort! Ready-made meals galore! Perfect for me. It wasn’t until I’d consumed an entire container of coconut macaroons and salad the size of a large pizza that I thought maybe food wasn’t the healthiest comfort.

Routine is a comfort. And Frankie makes sure I’m comfortable in that. He’s adjusting to living in an apartment. Training his bladder if you will. We go down around 7:00, 12:00, 4:00 and 9:00 and two of those are walks around Memorial Park. We’re getting to know the locals. Just the other day a woman introduced herself and said she always sees us walking. Dogs are fantastic ice breakers.

thI’ve also found comfort in unusual places. Like towels. I’ve had Mom bring the mismatched, broken-in ones from home instead of the plush new ones that actually match my bathroom but just seem to push water around instead of absorb it.

And who knew regular old body wash worked like a familiar security blanket? Trying to be more natural and green, I’d switched to one without a particularly lathering, potentially toxic ingredient. Now I sit in the shower feeling all responsible and moral while I could be luxuriating in moisturizing bubbles that smell like a fresh mountain spring.  I’m switching back. I want my bubbles. Plus, I’m pretty sure I can smell myself at the end of a day. There will be plenty of time to make the eco-friendly choice later. And make my bathroom pretty. And say no to cookies. For now, I’m flapping my arms as fast as I can.

 

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