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tattooed lady

Today, this middle-aged lady got her first tattoo! I should say also my only tattoo, as I have no plans for more. I arrived at the ripe old age of 51 without a tattoo. I was scared of needles, had no idea what I’d want on my body for the rest of my life, and even took a certain pride in the fact that I was that rare breed of Gen-X that didn’t have a tattoo. So what changed? Why now?

I have spoken already of my love of the show Gentleman Jack and how it introduced me to a new lesbian hero, Anne Lister (and Ann Walker!). The sheer joy and fun and pride it brought was a welcome reprieve from the daily dumpster fires of 2019. I bought every Anne Lister book, purchased a replica of the ring worn in GJ, bought mugs and shirts and stickers – everything I could get my hands on. I joined many online communities (shout out to Shibden After Dark) and rewatched my favorite scenes endlessly. My wife and I took a trip to Shibden Hall, which was moving and beautiful. It’s like this precious bit of lesbian history gave me (and so many others) a new sense of myself, a new determination and freedom.

I saw several women in the communities I’m a part of get AL and GJ tattoos and I became OBSESSED with the idea. Here it was! Something I know will be meaningful and deep and rich to me for the rest of my life. Honestly, it ticked every box:

  • Code: I love the secret aspect of the code and the fact that it’s in Anne’s own handwriting.
  • Gay: I am forever marked with the words of a lesbian icon. Amen.
  • Literary/font/words: If I ever were to get a tattoo, I used to say it’d be a quote, something literary. I wasn’t an English major for nothing, y’all. I am also super into fonts and this one is Anne’s very own!
  • Historical significance: This isn’t just a fandom – Anne Lister actually existed! She wrote those diaries, lived that life way back in the 1830s. AMAZING!

I got the code for “I rise above it.” I chose this quote because it was written for the series, which was my entry point into Anne’s universe. It completely captures Anne in spirit, and it’s a wonderful reminder not to concern myself with those whose opinions don’t matter. A reminder that I don’t have to take the bait. A reminder to be like Anne – confident, self-assured, and fully, authentically myself.

Here it is and I could not be happier about it ❤

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2020 roundup

Yes, 2020 has been a dumpster fire of epic proportions. That said, it did have some bright spots and bits of hope for the future. Here’s what we did, along with LONG PERIODS OF TIME spent at home and in our backyard.

January 

  • Quick trip to Seattle for job interview (didn’t get the job, but that’s okay)
  • Saw The Paranoyds at the Pinhook in Durham (last show pre-COVID)

February

  • Family attended the annual Moral March
  • Saw Sonic the Hedgehog (last movie pre-COVID)
  • Snow!
  • Mommy turned 50
  • Voted for Elizabeth Warren!
  • Feb 29: Left for England!

March

  • Mar 1-Mar 11: Amazing trip to Halifax, England, and Paris, France
    Had to cancel Rome, Italy as COVID was taking over Milan
  • Mar 11: Flew home
  • Mar 12: Missed Billie Eilish due to COVID
    This was going to be oldest son’s first concert.
  • Mar 13: The world shut down
    School and work announced indefinite shut down.
  • Mama got COVID test #1 (negative)
    Had a slight cold and since we just got back from overseas travel, I was paranoid.

April

  • Easter at home
  • Kids’ first drive in movie experience (saw Sonic – again)
  • Turned caterpillars into butterflies
  • Our youngest turned 7

May

  • Mama turned 50
  • BLM protests began, went nationwide, and then global
    It’s sad that it took so so so very long for most to finally wake up, but I’m certainly glad they did and hope to see this continue.
  • Watched the SpaceX launch

June

  • BLM protests continue, with wall to wall news coverage for many days and nights
  • BLM protesters took down Confederate statues at the capitol building in Raleigh

July

  • Hamilton premiered on Disney +
  • Rented a pontoon boat

August

  • Bought outdoor movie set up (projector, screen)
  • Started virtual school for Fall semester

September

  • Did a Democrat lit drop with my oldest
  • Got a trampoline
  • Mama got COVID test #2 (negative)
    Knew this would be negative as we were literally doing nothing, but had to do it to rule it out (stomach issues)
  • Mourned RBG
  • Created quarantine bubble with another family
  • Voted by mail for the first time for Biden/Harris

October

  • Visited Animal Edventures Sanctuary and met a camel, two kangaroos, lots of birds, a monkey, and many other cool animals with our quarantine buddies
  • Visited Spring Haven Farm and carved pumpkins with goats
    This sounds more fun than it actually is. One goat got up on our table, tried to eat my hair, lifted his leg and took a pee (on the damn table), and followed us to the next table, where he laid down and took a nap.
  • Visited Bennet Place
  • Had a COVID Halloween celebration in the backyard with our quarantine buddies

November

  • Celebrated our first Black/Asian/Female Vice President
  • Went to the beach
  • Started a new job

December

  • Visited Duke University and climbed a tree
  • Rediscovered Battleship (as in, “You sank my battleship!”)
  • Visited the Chinese lanterns in Cary
  • Attended first Festival of Lights drive-through at Dix Park
  • Our oldest turned 11
  • Had a very Mandalorian and Gentleman Jack Christmas

BONUS: January 2021

  • Youngest starts at homeschool pod
  • Welcome our new POTUS and say goodbye to the Toupee Fiasco era

We also had lots and lots of social-distanced, back patio visits with friends old and new. We discovered that we love watching movies outside and we bought a fire table, which I’ve wanted for a long time. My wife has completed lots of house projects that have been on the back burner for a while. And, most importantly, we have stayed healthy and had a steady income – we are very fortunate. All that said? GTFO 2020!

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Shibden Hall! (grounds)

In my last post, I took you through the interior of the fabulous ancestral home of Anne Lister (cue the cow moooing! lolol). I would be remiss in my recollection not to talk about the grounds! We didn’t get to do much looking around as the weather was not great (it ended up snowing later that afternoon), but what we did see was beautiful. Can’t wait to go back in better weather to see everything lush and in bloom! This was in early March.

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Here is the Lister lion, which I believe was added by Anne.

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There’s “shabby Shibden” in the background.

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The view from out in front of Shibden. Yes, that is a rainbow flag flying on the grounds of Shibden Hall. I might have gotten a lump in my throat ❤

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This is looking into the courtyard behind Shibden. On the left is the barn. Anne’s Shibden entrance is on the right.

Across the street from Shibden is more land that was owned by the Listers, on which the WALKER PIT was sunk! That’s right, Anne named the pit that she sank with Ann’s money after little Ann W.  The ventilation shaft from the pit is still there! There are also gorgeous views that may have been the backdrop of the finale kiss scene (I can’t be sure but it looked like it).

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Walker Pit ventilation shaft

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Close up of Walker Pit ventilation shaft

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Beautiful views above the Walker Pit – it’s a trek but it’s worth it!

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We decided to walk back into Halifax from Shibden Hall and I’m glad we did because check this out!listers_road

Yes, we took selfies!

It was freezing cold, but we still had a blast walking back to town. Some of the sights on the way:

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We took this trip to celebrate both of us turning 50 (her in Feb, me in May), so this was hilarious to us.

It started to snow when we got back to town and we were starving, so back to Julio’s we went since it was easy. Then we packed as we were heading out to the airport in Manchester early the next morning.

We can’t wait to visit Yorkshire again! Already planning our stay in York with some rides into Halifax to visit Shibden Hall, the Halifax Minster, and do the stuff we didn’t have time for (the Anne Lister walk and a visit to Ann Walker’s resting place being among them). I’m so happy that I got to visit Anne’s stomping grounds as she has come to mean so much to me – thank you to Sally Wainwright and Suranne Jones for bringing her so vividly to life ❤ Gentleman Jack has been a game-changer, seriously.

Next up: Paris!

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Shibden Hall!

I really don’t know why it is taking me so long to do these posts. Maybe it’s the 1.5 million photos to sort through? Anyway, let’s move on to the primary reason for our stop in Halifax: a visit to Shibden Hall!

Preface: As Shibden Hall is closed for a bit in winter, we had planned our vacation to be in Halifax for opening day. You can’t buy tickets for Shibden; you just queue up on the day you want to visit. About a week prior to our departure date, I was made aware that Shibden had announced they were pushing back their opening date. HOLY SHIT, Y’ALL! I was devastated. In one of my Gentleman.Jack groups, someone told me to contact them, because surely they’d let us in. My American self thought this would NEVER happen, but I sent off an email. The next day I received a reply, saying that they would be happy to have someone meet us and give us a tour. O.M.G. So, not only were we going to Shibden, but it was going to be a private tour! YASSSSSSSSS!

So, we got off the train at Halifax (from our visit to York) and decided that we should hop in a cab and get over to Shibden so that we weren’t late. We had very little cash on us and the cab wiped us out (didn’t accept credit cards). It was maybe a 10 minute ride and we pulled up to FREAKING SHIBDEN HALL!!!!!!!

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Our guide met us in the parking lot and led us into the courtyard where we immediately lose our minds upon seeing where Suranne Jones as Anne Lister gayrushed into Shibden every week!!!!

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Our guide then led us inside. OMG!int_entrance

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The Lister lion!!!!!!!

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A is for Anne!

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L is for Lister!

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Living room

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Living room window with family crests

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Crests closeup

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Crests closeup

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Portrait of Aunt Anne

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Portrait of Anne Lister – Our tour guide said there are many portraits that are not on display as they have no idea who is pictured. She posited that they quite possibly have one of Ann Walker but they have no way of knowing

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Dining room where the Lister sisters sniped gloriously at each other

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Kitchen, though the tour guide said that they staged some of the kitchen somewhere else in the Hall

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View from the kitchen, through the back entrance, living room, and to the other end of the house, where the dining room and study are located

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Study, where Anne received her guests and rang her bell when she was done with them

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I believe this was a downstairs bedroom

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Let’s head upstairs, shall we?

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Upstairs catwalk – living room is to the right in this pic.

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View from other side of hallway

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Living room view from upstairs

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Study in turret that was constructed by Anne Lister

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Upstairs bedroom

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Upstairs bedroom 2

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This room was connected to Anne’s bedroom (through the door to the left).

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Porch chamber and library corridor

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Anne’s funeral hatchment

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Anne Lister’s bedroom!!!!! Our guide told us that it was too small to film in, so they recreated it on a set. She speculated that Anne wanted this bedroom even though it wasn’t the biggest, because it was light, bright, and had an excellent view.

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The view from Anne’s room – keep in mind that this was early March. In summer, it would be flower-filled and gorgeous.

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Shibden freaking Hall

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Barn behind Shibden (directly across courtyard from the back entrance of Shibden Hall)

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The Lister Chaise!!!!!!!!

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Shibden Hall is such a special place. You truly do feel a connection to Anne and the many other occupants of Shibden over the years. I can’t wait to visit again (and again and again)! I’ll cover the grounds and the Walker Pit (!!!!!!) in my next post.

 

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Day 3: York

While eating dinner the night before we went to York, we discovered that the church where the Ann(e)s were wed would be closed the day we’d be there. Poor planning there, right? We decided it was still worth going to see the grounds and check out York. We had to be at Shibden Hall (!!!!!!) that day at 2, so it was going to be a tight schedule.

We woke up early to get to York as quickly as possible. We discovered that it was close to an hour by train each way, which left us with 1 hour in York. Figured it was fine since we just wanted to go to the church, really. So we purchased our train tickets and headed out of Halifax. The train ride was interesting as we got to see different parts of the country (Leeds looked like a cool city). We got to York and OMG it was absolutely stunning! And there we were with only an hour to spend! Doh!IMG_2388IMG_2390IMG_2392IMG_2430IMG_2427IMG_2419

We mapped to Holy Trinity Church, and discovered it was only a 7 minute walk from the station. You guys, it was so hard to walk past all of these beautiful buildings and landmarks and have to keep on going. So gorgeous!

We got to the church to find that the grounds were not accessible – they had a gate to shut it off. Damn. We took pictures through the gate and it was still pretty great.IMG_2396IMG_2400IMG_2399IMG_2398

We saw that York Minster was right behind it and it was super impressive, so we walked over and took a look around. Holy Trinity was off of a very busy street, so I knew they can’t have used it for the post-wedding shots on Gentleman Jack. I remembered seeing the Minster in the shot and noticed an alley that I’m now sure was where the scenes were filmed. Amazing.IMG_2402IMG_2405IMG_2406

We had to make our way back to catch the train in order to make our 2PM appointment at Shibden. We had noticed on way to the church an entrance/exit to the amazing looking Roman city wall and so we went up and walked back on the wall. I’m so glad we got to do something in York in the short time we were there. The wall was incredibly cool and it gave a gorgeous vantage point of the city and some homes nearby.

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So, yes, we are already planning a return trip in the future. We will stay in York and explore it all and include a day trip to Halifax to pay our respects to the Ann(e)s. Next up: SHIBDEN HALL!!!!!!!!

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Halifax/Paris trip: Day 1-2

Hi, friends! I guess it took a pandemic and ensuing quarantine to get me back to blogging, but here we are! I may be a regular here again, and I may not, but I wanted to do a series of a posts on the fabulous England/France trip DW and I took in early March. I find that I’m forgetting a lot about it and I don’t want to forget a THING so, here is post 1, which covers Feb 29 – Mar 1. I’m including our travel day because 1) It was eventful and 2) I want to let y’all know what a pain in the ass it is to get to Halifax, England. I mean, it’s worth it, but OMG.

A friend dropped us off at the airport and we had lunch and a celebratory cocktail (our usual travel beverage, a spicy Bloody Mary). We flew into Atlanta and discovered that our flight was delayed by hours. HOURS. I wasn’t that sad about it because I knew we’d spend it day drinking at the airport with no kids – pretty much heaven. We parked ourselves at a bar in the international terminal (which was quite empty, thank you very much Ms. Rona). By the time we got on our flight HOURS later, we were tired and just ready to be on our way.

We took some Tylenol.PM for the red eye and waited to conk out. I fell asleep maybe an hour in, but poor DW had some trouble. I’d wake up occasionally and see her watching a movie or reading and think, “Oh no.” Then back to sleep for me.

We landed in Manchester, England, at around 8:30AM (which was 2:30AM by our body clock). It wasn’t as rough as you might think as we were so excited to be there and get to the hometown of our Lord and Savior, Ms. Anne “220 pounds, 17 shillings, and 6 pence” Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, England. (If you didn’t get that reference, then 1) you are not a lesbian and/or 2) you haven’t watched the greatest show in history, Gentleman Jack. Get on that. NOW.)

Ahem. We picked up our bags and made our way to the train station to begin the LONG ASS HAUL to Halifax. Since it was a Sunday, the train from the airport to Manchester Picadilly station wasn’t running, so we queued up to take a bus there. When we arrived at the station, DW went to get our bags from under the bus when the DOOR STARTED TO CLOSE, TRAPPING HER BY THE SHOULDER! It took me a second to realize what was happening and I went to yell out to a woman standing nearby, “HELP HER!” But it came out as a garbled “L****!!!!” To which she replied, “I KNOW!” And then the door started to lift up again. We were so tired and it was so strange that we were LOLing even though it could have been really bad!

So, we haul our big ass bags into the train station and figure out how to get tickets to the next station (Huddersfield) and then on to Halifax. Got on the train, which was pretty crowded, and DW tried to fit our giant duffle bags in the overhead bin – they were way too big. A guy ended up putting them in a seat next to him. We get to Huddersfield, pull our bags out, and start hunting for the next train to Halifax. We get on and this train is far less crowded and had a large area for baggage. Then we arrive at Halifax station!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me recap: To get to Halifax, we flew into Manchester, took a bus, and then took two trains. It was almost 24 hours of travel in all.

Halifax station is tiny and cute. We pull our bags out and map to our hotel (The White Swan). It’s a 10 minute walk, so we decide to walk it instead of getting a cab. It was COLD. We looked a mess, I’m sure, dragging all of our crap through the cobblestone streets to the hotel. We did enjoy seeing all of the historic buildings and the charm of Halifax, though to be honest, it was a little depressing as well. Very small and a lot of unoccupied businesses.

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We make it to our hotel and check in. Drop our bags in our room and drop ourselves on the bed for maybe 20 minutes. We are starving and noticed a restaurant attached to the hotel (an Italian restaurant called Julio’s [not “Hoo-lio’s” but “Joo-lios,” which was hysterical to us after a full day of travel). We go down and they are not opened yet, though the door was unlocked. We walked in to staff eating and looking at us like we had 2 heads. After telling them we were there for lunch or dinner (it was around 3), they informed us they opened at 4:30. Sigh.

I wanted to check out The Piece Hall and saw that there were restaurants there, so we walked over. What a cool place!

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The Piece Hall, which was quite empty thanks to the coronavirus.

The restaurants weren’t really our type of thing, so we decided to just walk around a bit. Went into an adorable Christmas shop and purchased a few ornaments. (That’s a thing we always do – buy ornaments on trips so we remember them when we decorate our tree. I love it! These are just cute ornaments that we like, not touristy labeled ornaments as again, not our thing.) While checking out, I mention Anne Lister and the shop keeper (an older woman) lights up and starts talking about how much Halifax has been impacted by the popularity of Gentleman Jack and how great it is. Then she launches into a story about her friend who started studying the diaries years back and I’m thinking, “Is she talking about Helena Whitbread???” Why yes, YES SHE WAS! It was so freaking amazing to be in Halifax, talking Anne Lister with a Halifax resident.

We then went into a bookstore as I wanted to buy the Anne Lister walking tour map. I got that and another AL book and the woman who checked us out asked if we’d been to the Halifax Minster yet. She told us it was a 2 minute walk away so we headed over! Never underestimate the power of Anne Lister to fortify two hungry lesbians enough to forgo a much-needed meal in order to see the church where Anne Lister was baptized and buried!

Halifax Minster was just incredible. A woman gave us a brief talk about the church and the Listers before setting us loose to look around. W.O.W. The church dates back to the 1400s! We saw the baptismal font where Anne Lister was baptized, as well as the area of the church where she and her family are interred. (Poor Ann Walker is buried in Lightcliffe with her family. We had planned to visit her grave and leave flowers, but our time was so limited, we didn’t end up being able to. I’m sorry, Ann! You have a special place in my heart!)

Exterior of Halifax Minster

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Interior of Halifax Minster

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Looking from rear of church to front (behind the baptismal font)

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Anne was all over this church. They even had a little shop filled with Anne Lister merch! It was so incredible to see a lesbian celebrated like this in a church.

 

 

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Facing the area of the church where Anne and the other Listers are interred. You can see an enlarged image of Anne if you look closely on the right.

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I can’t explain how it felt to be in this church, celebrating Anne Lister. Life-affirming, our own LGBTQ connection to history all because Anne Lister wrote those diaries. It still blows my mind, y’all.

We trekked back to the hotel and ate at Julio’s, which was another strange experience. “Do you have a reservation?” Us: Look around at a mostly empty restaurant, “No….” To be fair, I’m sure we looked a fright, but still – our money spends just as good as anyone else’s! We had our dinner, called our boys, and called it a night. After all, we had to be up early for our trip to York…

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woe is U.S.

Hey, y’all. This is a political post, not a parenting post. I was feeling like I wanted to get this written down and shared for discussion.

I’ve gotten more politically involved at a local level for the last year or so, culminating in joining my local Democratic group to be a precinct delegate. I’ve been to two meetings thus far; the first was a general local group of several precincts to elect delegates, and the second a precinct-specific meeting held in a neighbors home with a total of seven people. I added my name to the delegate list at the first meeting.

I was excited to join as I hoped to spearhead a Dem-supported volunteer group for the organization Spread the Vote, which is dedicated to getting individuals who need them IDs. NC passed a voter ID amendment in the 2018 midterms so it feels like a critical, time-sensitive piece that we need to jump on. I brought up the organization at both meetings I attended, to a lukewarm reception.

At our first meeting, we discussed ABC stores at length (did you know that NC’s education system relies on money raised via ABC stores, making privatizing them cost our schools desperately needed money?). We briefly touched on hog farms. I brought up the local ICE presence (federal crack down to punish NC for refusing to enforce) and the voter ID issue. Pained expressions and sympathetic comments, but no real discussion.

I went to my first convention as a delegate last Saturday. Arranged childcare and drove 25 minutes to be there. Stood in a lengthy line. Got to the front and my name was not on the list. They sent me to another table. Still not listed. They got my precinct chair and discovered that it was a mistake on his end (he and two other precinct folks didn’t review an email that was sent over to verify). I was gracious and drove the 20 minutes home, not too pleased. Received multiple texts/emails apologizing for the error and hoping I’d continue to be involved.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting emails from Spread the Vote asking for volunteers and for folks to host fundraisers. I have two young kids. I can barely handle one “extra.” So which one do you think you’d pick? The one that doesn’t seem to address the big issues and doesn’t have their paperwork in order, or the one that is feet on the ground, addressing a MAJOR need in our community? Yeah. Dems need to do better.

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