Three Reasons I’m Voting for Biden

This isn’t a political blog. You’ll note that the last entry was primarily about a bourbon cocktail. But this is a political time and because this is my tiny corner of the internet where I (over)share my thoughts, I wanted to share a few about the upcoming election.

I’ve read that 90% of America already knows exactly who they’ll be voting for on Nov. 3. And while I think it’s highly unlikely anyone from that remaining ten percent will stumble across this space and suddenly have an epiphany, stranger things have happened. So, here are my thoughts:

First, I don’t like the idea of one-issue voters—like “I’m voting for Trump because he’ll nominate conservative Justices who will reverse Roe v. Wade.” However, in the insanity of the last four years, it’s so hard not to let the endless news cycle of Trump’s latest tweets (California is going to hell!) or gaffes (inject bleach?) dilute the really important things. So, I’ve chosen three primary reasons that Biden—and House and Senate Democrats—have my vote in November.

America Should Be a Refuge: Since Trump took office he has done everything possible to shut down our borders—not only from the “bad hombres,” as he says, but from families and children from around the world who sought freedom and safety in the United States.

Under Obama, the U.S. admitted 130,000 refugees each year. Trump immediately slashed that number and has continued to go lower each year. This year, the U.S. admitted only 10,800 refugees. As an American, I am so ashamed of that number. (This, by the way, doesn’t even account for the cuts in regular immigrants and asylum seekers—this is strictly refugees, people vetted by the United Nations and known to be fleeing oppression and war.)

Historically, America led the world in refugee resettlement. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” But that took a sharp decline in 2017 and today numerous other countries, including our northern neighbor Canada, resettle more refugees than us.

Biden has said that if he is elected President, he will increase our 2021 cap to 125,000 refugees on his first day in office. That’s more than 100,000 men, women, and children whose lives will be changed, and often saved, because we saw them “as strangers and invited them in.”

America Should Not Betray its Allies: The Kurds, an ethnic group with no actual country, had long been a strong ally for the United States in the Middle East. They saw themselves as a persecuted minority that stood up for American values in the region. In Syria, we were providing their forces with direct assistance to fight ISIS.

However, in 2019, Turkey, which considers the Kurds a terrorist group, wanted U.S. forces to leave the region so that they could launch an offensive on Syria—and subsequently, the Kurds. And so we did. Trump suddenly ordered 2,000 U.S. troops to come home and left a vacuum in the region, prolonging the violent civil war and leaving our allies in a vulnerable position they couldn’t have imagined under any other American administration. (The initial Turkish offensive alone displaced more than 130,000 people.)

Putting aside all of the strategic and political ramifications (who wants to be the ally of a country that would do that?), America abandoned its friends in their hour of need. I want leadership with the kind of moral compass that understands that cannot be done.

America Should Not Put Children in Cages: There’s a line that I couldn’t have imagined being a real thing before 2016.

The Trump administration’s family separation policy in 2017-2018 may be one of the most disgusting moments in recent American history. Separating children—sometimes as young as toddlers—from their parents at the border was barbaric.

The administration ultimately took 4,368 children with no plans in place to reunite them with their families. I know almost nothing about child trauma, but I know that this is horrific—both for the children and their parents. These weren’t criminals. These were desperate parents seeking a better life for themselves and their families. And instead we took their children with no plans to return them. That’s kidnapping.

Unfortunately, even in four years it will be difficult for Biden to undo all of the damage Trump has done to our immigration system. But he has said that if elected he is “going to end Trump’s assault on the dignity of immigrant communities. We’re going to restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum-seekers.”

If you’ve made it this far in this little manifesto, thanks for reading. Those are my three major deciding factors. But I have about 300 more, so if you need convincing, just let me know. Whatever you do, go vote.

Fall isn’t my favorite season—spring and summer win every time on that count—but I’m partial to fall food and drinks. There’s something about warm and earthy flavors that I really love. Fall dishes aren’t the ultimate comfort foods of winter yet. They still include the fresh herbs and vegetables of warmer weather—but with an extra serving of cozy.

Anyway, I wanted to share a few of my favorites this fall. The cocktail above is a boozy bourbon drink that’s cut by the sweetness of honey and the fragrance of rosemary. Here’s the recipe for what I think of as a Honey Rosemary Old-Fashioned:

Mix three ounces of bourbon (Woodford Reserve is always my favorite) with one tablespoon of rosemary simple syrup (boil equal parts water and sugar and steep in fresh rosemary to create this syrup), one tablespoon of honey, and three dashes of angostura bitters. Shake over ice (I like to let a little bit of the ice melt into it because it cuts the sweetness of the syrup and the burn of the bourbon a bit). Pour over ice and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Fall salads get to be so much more hearty than their warm weather counterparts. This one has become a staple for me this fall.

Start with a base of chopped kale and toss with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and salt. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Top with warm quinoa (I’m currently obsessed with the ease of the steamable bags of this), roasted butternut squash (I roast cubes of this tossed in olive oil and balsamic for approximately 45 minutes at 350), sautéed red onions, dried cranberries, dried pecans, and burrata cheese. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy. (Ideally with that Honey Rosemary Old-Fashioned to wash it down.)

September

It’s been almost exactly a month since my last post. In some ways, it feels like a decade and in others I feel like I blinked my eyes and the weeks passed.

My dog Pawley passed away this month and I ache for her in a way I can’t quite explain. I’m still spending most of my time on my parents’ farm (caring for my mom who cannot walk without crutches right now), and at night, after I’ve cleaned up our dinner, I go outside and stretch out in the grass to look up as the stars start to appear. That’s the time of day I allow myself to think about Pawley.

I also sold my house this month. Or, at least, it went under contract. The real estate market felt like the perfect time to sell a home, and so I did some deep cleaning and a few paint touch-ups, and crossed my fingers. 36 hours later I had a contract and started apartment shopping so I won’t be homeless while the new house is being built.

Speaking of which, the new house is making progress. Not fast enough for me—I’m ready to get to the fun stage when I can actually see the view from my bedroom or pick a paint color for the kitchen. But I’m trying to enjoy this moment of really thrilling things like choosing exterior door handle colors and mildly panicking over erosion in the landscaping.

So, that’s been my month. (Well, that and the rest of my normal life.) Nothing really feels normal this year, but there’s something oddly comforting for me about feeling busy with things outside of work. It feels like “the before times” when things were happening outside of my computer screen.

And there’s something so gratifying about creating something new right now—a house, a different life—in a year when the old version feels like putting on a pair of jeans that don’t quite fit right anymore.

And so that’s how I’ll think of September 2020—the month I started to create the next iteration of my life.

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I’m building a house. Well, not literally. Let me rephrase that: I have hired someone to build me a house.

It’s on this little wooded hilltop that I purchased three years ago. When I bought it, I thought “Maybe someday I’ll put a house here.” But I wasn’t in much of a rush. My life was busy and full, I liked living within walking distance of breweries and restaurants, and I half just thought it was a decent investment that I might resell in a few years.

The lot is about two miles down a gravel road in the country. I’ll have well water. There won’t be Door Dash. There will be a lot of deer. Ubers aren’t exactly cruising by. I’ll actually have to drive to my mailbox. And it’s WAY outside of my dog walker’s service area.

But this tiny dream of having a home here has niggled in the back of my mind of years and finally set up shop full time last February. And this year has really pounded me over the head with the idea that life is short and “if not now, when?”

So, I took a deep, deep breath and signed a contract. We’ve finalized the house plan—it’s a cottage largely modeled after this Southern Living plan. They’ve started to clear the land—that’s all that bright red dirt you see above. It’s going to be white with a grey metal roof, a pink front door, and a big back porch.

Anyway, I’ll be using this space to document the experience—as much for my own memories as to share with others. So, prepare yourself for thrilling topics like doorknob brands and mortar color coming soon.

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I’ve been reading Bob Goff’s new book, Dream Big, and it’s pretty good. Usually, I’m a big Bob Goff fan but I think maybe I’m just not in much of a “dreaming big” kind of mood lately this entire year.

Anyway, I recently came across this quote from him and liked it. It feels applicable right now. It makes me wonder what I’ll title my 2020 chapter. Current tentative titles include “Please Make It Stop” and “ARRGHHH WHY?”

But I believe strongly in both redemption and purpose. So, I believe I’ll look back on this year one day and see all the beauty in it. Which reminds me of another quote—this one by Gilda Radner.

“Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” 

And I think maybe that’s what I want my 2020 chapter to be called: “Delicious Ambiguity.”

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One afternoon earlier this summer I had some fresh blackberries and wanted to make a pie for friends—but didn’t have like half the ingredients I’d need to do that. And, because I am on the “prepared to purchase a hazmat suit” end of the spectrum for Covid, I only order from grocery stores—which can take days.

So, I found this “Easy Blackberry Cobbler” recipe online and it has been a game changer. I’ve now used it six times and it works perfectly for both blackberries and blueberries. It’s so fast and easy, and so good.

Just passing on in case, like me, you have a few extra summer berries that you know would taste better with some buttery crust and whipped cream.

Latinx Novels

After I read American Dirt a few months ago (which I still qualify as one of the best books I’ve read in years), I did a lot of research into the controversy around it. One of the things that brought it under attack was that it was written by a white American woman and that Latin America should get more representation from actual Latinx authors in America’s fiction reading.

That seemed reasonable—especially when I started to consider how little Latin American fiction I’ve read. So, I perused some reviews and chose three books by Latinx authors that looked enjoyable to me. I really liked all of them and I’ve given a mini-review of each below, but before I get to that, I want to address an overarching thought on cultural fiction:

Personally, I think there might be something really valuable in having an American (who identifies as white) write the migrant story. She intrinsically knows how white Americans think. She understands where to make us hurt and how to make us cheer someone on. She has the ability to shift the white American mindset around migrants in a way someone with a different cultural background might not be able to do—not because they’re a lesser writer, but because of cultural understandings.

I don’t know if that’s a controversial—or even a correct—opinion, and I’d be happy for someone to change my mind, but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about as I’ve read these three other books. Anyway, here are my thoughts on those.

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Somehow I bought this book not realizing it was primarily set during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. That certainly gave some perspective to the current Covid situation. There are magical and fantastical parts of the book, but it’s primarily a story of a wealthy Mexican farm family—and Mexico in the early 1900s. It’s beautifully written—something that is especially impressive considering it was translated from Spanish. And it’s a book that hits the full range of emotions. It’s rare that I laugh out loud and cry reading the same book, but this one did it.

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This book is fiction, but the author acknowledges at the end that it’s also semi-autobiographical. Of these three books, this one is my favorite. I think that may be for a few reasons. First, the author would be very close in age to me—growing up in the 1990s. Second, it’s set in Colombia during the time of Pablo Escobar—something that we’re all familiar with because of the way stories of the drug lord are woven into American pop culture. Third, there’s a lot of interesting tension and drama in this story. But also this book also just does an incredible job of painting the discrepancies between wealth and poverty, and while it’s set in Bogota, its themes are universal.

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This is a fascinating kind of historical fiction. The author, who moved from the Dominican Republic to the US when she was 10, takes a famed Dominican news story and uses her imagination to create a book featuring the thoughts and lives of three revolutionary sisters known as “the Butterflies.” I knew nothing about the Dominican dictator, Trujillo, and this offered a glimpse of life in the DR during his horrific rule. I find it hard to read historical fiction that you know will end in tragedy (it’s why I only ever watched the first tape in the VHS version of Titanic). But this is a compelling story and worth the read.

 

 

Waiting

Yesterday, my mom was going a little over 13 mph on her bicycle when she struck a pole, shattering her kneecap and fracturing through her shin from top to bottom. I’d just walked in my door from a long walk with Winston when my dad called, telling me she was in an ambulance on her way to the emergency room.

I threw my things—and my dogs—in the car and drove the hour to their house to wait for their call. I cleaned the garden vegetables scattered across their kitchen counter, and made squash casserole and roasted veggies. I neatened up the first floor guest room and brought down her things. I picked flowers from the yard for a vase near her bed. And I waited.

2020 feels like one long wait to me. Wait for the grief to subside. Wait for the disease to come. Wait for the disease to go away. Wait to be sick. Wait to do normal things again. Wait for my dog to die. Wait to not feel sad and scared. We’re all just waiting, right?

So, yesterday I stewed squash and picked flowers. The rest of the time I’m just sending emails, doing yard work, going on long walks, reading more books, but it all just feels like biding my time. When what I really want to do is go somewhere and do something.

In the Bible there are 141 references to waiting—I looked it up. In Isaiah it says that God will renew our strength as we wait in Him. In Lamentations it says that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him. And in Romans it says—and I really feel this one—”we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” It makes me think there is something holy in waiting if you do it right.

Eventually, they called and I went to pick my mom up. It wasn’t pretty or glorious, but she’s ok and I’m so grateful. Now, it will be a long recovery ahead with, of course, more waiting. But I’m working on feeling some peace and patience in that—and learning that some days that’s not so hard and other days you just bake squash casserole.