Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Political

Several months ago, a good friend named Heather told me she was interested in running for the Minnesota House of Representatives. This news wasn't terribly surprising to me-- she has always been very involved in politics, very opinionated, and very connected in the community. I was thrilled for her, but also thrilled for myself-- I'd never known a real, actual politician, and I think a woman in her thirties is supposed to know at least one.

The details are long and tedious, but I'll sum up thusly: Heather and I have always been aligned politically (we are Democrats). She is also a wonderful person and great friend, and after a few rounds of helping her edit some website material and other literature, she asked me to be her campaign chair.

I think my actual response was, 'You know I don't know what the hell I'm doing, right?'

And her response was something like, 'Yeah, we'll figure it out together.'

Our first major hurdle to overcome was the caucus in March. California is not a caucus state, so this was the first time I'd participated in such a thing. IT WAS WILD. Heather was running against a person who's held the seat for 1000 years (slight exaggeration), and another newcomer. Our point that day, other than voting for POTUS, was to become a delegate in the district convention in April, where the Democratic Party would formally endorse a candidate (hopefully Heather) to run against the Republican candidate.

Here I am the night of the caucus:

To this day, Anna thinks Auntie Heather was running for President of the United States. I stopped correcting her because I like that idea.  

In theory, on the night of the caucus we would go in, cast our vote for President, then sit in a room with our other Democrat neighbors, and listen to some resolutions people wanted on a ballot at the convention. When the chair asked, 'Who wants to be a delegate at the convention?', some people would raise their hands, get chosen, and go home to watch American Idol.

But politics is tricky. Heather knew that in order for her to do well at the convention, she'd need as many delegates on her side as possible at that convention. So the night of the caucus, we had LOTS of people who wanted to be delegates, from all the candidates. Long story short, we sub caucused, argued, and were there for several hours before the delegates (including myself) were chosen.


It seemed like Heather did great at the caucus, but we live in a huge district, and it was hard to tell just how many delegates Heather would have voting for her at the convention. So the time between the caucus and the convention she spent door knocking, networking, mixing, mingling, and getting herself out there. I helped a little, but really it was all Heather.

(As part of my 'help' to her, I was on the Rules Committee for the convention. These are the people who make the rules for how the convention is run. This is a post in and of itself. What a crazy learning experience for me. Talk about 'government by the people'! It was really fascinating.)

So the day of the convention was last Saturday. I was on pins and needles for Heather, but also for myself because I was nervous for her. Truth be told, there was a part of me that was scared she would get the nomination. If there is anything I've learned in the last few months it's this: politics really are a yucky business at times. And when you have a dear friend involved in it, you want to protect her from the yuck.
Little politicians. 

The convention, in theory, can last a couple hours. Some resolutions, a couple votes, and the Democratic endorsement is set. But last Saturday was truly a wild ride. After a couple votes, one of the candidates (with the least votes) dropped out of the race and didn't endorse a candidate. So it was Heather versus the incumbent. We voted at least four more times... maybe more. I lost count because it was so crazy. They were neck-and-neck (last count she was down by FOUR votes!).  By 4:00 there was no way either of them was going to get the 60% needed for the endorsement.

So Heather had two options: she could go to a primary, which would divide the party and prolong the process, or she could concede to the incumbent.

When people have asked me about Heather in the last few months, I have described her as someone whose heart is pure gold. She's a firecracker, wicked smart, and very generous. Of course she wasn't going to do what might be best for her-- she did what was best for the party. This was her during her concession speech. I can't explain the amount of energy in the room at this moment. We were all emotional and so proud of her.

A few weeks ago, Heather and I were talking about this process and how much we'd learned. She likened it to us going to college together, and that was so true. Because of this process I understand what's happening on the news better. I understand my party better and feel more aligned to it. And I truly understand the amount of time and energy it takes to run for political office. It's not for the faint of heart.

And the craziest part: I loved being a part of this for Heather. No, I don't have what it takes to run. But I do have talents that lend themselves to being a part of politics, just like every other red-blooded American (WE ARE SO FORTUNATE TO LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY!). I'll always be grateful to Heather for allowing me to be a part of this first run with her. And as far as the next run goes.... well, let's just say I'm 100% sure that I'm going to have that friend in politics after all.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Goes* Back* to* Work*

*Not at all sure how I feel about this title, based on the reasons you'll read below. But it works for now. It's a 'working title'. Get it??

You're not going to believe this, but I'm officially 'back to work':

(Look closely and you'll see me, toasting with my new co-workers.  Side note: always accept a job where they break out champagne when you sign on.)

This post has the capability of being very long and extremely boring, so I'll summarize by saying this: for the last six months or so, I've felt the urge/desire to go back to work. Please don't confuse that by thinking I was feeling 'bored' as a stay-at-home mom or 'unfulfilled'.  I was neither of those things.  I think what honestly happened was that I re-emerged as a real-life human being after getting a solid year of sleep that made me functional and able to put together a cohesive thought.  And when I did that, I felt the desire to re-enter the workforce.

If you've been reading for a long time, you know I loved teaching. I still do love it, and do it on the side. But I'm a mom now, and as I've mentioned before, my family life is not exactly conventional. Part of the process of going back to work was figuring out how to do that and still keep my family going, and I quickly (and sadly) came to the realization that teaching was not the right path for my family.*

*It really pains me to write that. I am a good teacher. Teachers are so important and so powerful. I will miss having that be a large part of my identity. 

I also had the insanely, ridiculously fortunate position of being a woman in her thirties with an incredible choice in front of me: I could do whatever the HELL I wanted.  My career choice could, quite simply, be whatever I wanted it to be. I could volunteer in an animal shelter all day, if I wanted to. I could go back to school and learn taxidermy (not sure why that thought popped up in my mind). Because of the life my husband provides, my choices were endless.

(Side note: Thank you, Daddy! For all you do!)

It was a few months ago during a meeting with my publisher that I talked about this 'dilemma', and during the course of that conversation she mentioned that they were needing to hire someone because book business is booming. And my newly-functional brain (because of the sleep) mulled over what it would be like to work for her, and how it could possibly be the perfect career move for me.

So I did what Brene Brown or Elizabeth Gilbert would do, and I put together a proposal. I didn't say what I couldn't do, but rather what I could. I needed flexibility (the one, major thing missing from my career in teaching) and I needed part time (another near-impossibility in education).  I needed to be able to work from home, mostly.  I told them that if they gave me a chance, I would make myself invaluable to them.

It feels appropriate to put a picture of my little monkeys here. Because I love them so much.  

Yesterday was my first day. I have a lot to learn, but man, it was exhilarating. We talked about business and monetization of services and how to uplift writers and build their platforms. I'll miss teaching, but I know I can give a lot to this career. And I still got to pick my kids up from school and play in the park until dance class.  Wins all around.