Monday, February 13, 2017

Under the Republican banner and with R's compliance: the unraveling of the Constitution and our Republic

Conservative Talkshow host & former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough is alarmed and calling for immediate denouncement by all Republicans in Congress and the White House of stunning comments by WH advisor, Stephen Miller. Watch this clip, it's jaw-dropping.

"The President has substantial power and it will not be questioned.”—Stephen Miller

Scarborough points out that Miller has no law degree or law education and seems not to understand the Federalist Papers, The Constitution or how separation of powers works. Miller's comments are a combative challenge to the Judiciary, to the US Republic, to the US Constitution and to the essence of our country’s balance of power. This is "doing violence to the US Constitution,” Scarborough noted.
The pillars of our country and the sacrifices made to create this nation are being sh*t on. Republicans especially should be concerned that this is being done under their banner. Call your Senators & Reps and ask them to speak up.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Two Atheists take their kids to visit a Mosque...

and it was lovely. 

Our guide, Chema, on the Outreach Committee

So how did we get there?

In late January, after the Seattle Womxn's March, I was listening to KUOW and I heard Aneelah Afzali of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond speak about how the march was a good first step but if non-Muslims are serious about combatting Islamophobia and the division that goes with it, they have to do more. Reaching out and getting to know our Muslim neighbors plus dispelling some of the false assumptions and "otherness" of American Muslims was the second step. She mentioned that MAPS would be doing Open Houses for the public to come and see a Mosque and learn basic information about Islam.

Ken and I thought this was important to expand our knowledge about Islam and Muslim people and to make personal connections since we didn't personally know any Muslims as it was. I reached out to MAPS on the day the Executive Order banning refugees, green card & visa holders from 7 predominantly Muslim countries was released and expressed our empathy and support for their community--I also inquired if we could attend their next open house. To my surprise, they were kind enough to just invite us over within the next weekend. 

Which leads me to today and our enlightening visit to MAPS in Redmond.

Muslim Association of Puget Sound
Our guide Chema met us in the entry, clad in a turquoise blue headscarf and holding a tall cup of Peet's coffee. She instantly made us feel welcome and even tried to make small talk with the kids. As she took us through the mosque (they call it a masjid which is the Arabic word for 'mosque'), we were offered food and people came up to us to say hello. I was struck by how warmly the women greeted each other and even women who didn't know Chema said goodbye to her as if she were a longtime friend. A wedding celebration had just cleared out and one of the men gave the children cookies from the festivities. Men and women setting up chairs wasted no time changing over the great hall for a benefit later that evening to raise funds for the Bellevue Mosque that had burned to the ground (by a mentally ill homeless man) last month.

Chema described the tenents of Islam and explained how it is a peaceful and humble religion. The humbleness and helpfulness were aspects I haven't heard much about. From what I gathered, a Muslim is taught to always help his/her neighbors (no matter who they are) and to be humble in dress and manner. Some of the ways that is visible is in the head coverings for women and the separation of the sexes on each side of the room.

I asked about why some of the women I saw wore headscarves while others had veils over their nose and mouths. With 1.5 Billion Muslims on the planet coming from areas as diverse as North Africa, SE Asia and the Middle East, their regions and environments play a part. Chema pointed out that a woman I saw with a veil is from the Middle East, where the topography and sandstorms necessitated nose and mouth protection, and was incorporated into the traditional garb. But Chema herself only wore a headscarf as she was from Tunisia in North Africa.

As for men and women sitting on opposite sides of the room with dividers between the sections, Chema explained that the observance of this practice was honoring the tradition that women are to be protected as they are highly revered. But the reality was that men and women worked side by side inside MAPS and out in the world. (This was evident in how everyone was scrambling to set up the room.) She mentioned that the women actually preferred to sit and talk with their female friends (or "sisters" as they call each other). The feminist in me couldn't help but cringe at the formality of this arrangement as I watched actual dividers going up between the men's and women's sections, but I also thought about how this male-female grouping does organically happen even at our parties and gatherings. But still...

She explained how they pray facing Mecca 5-6 times a day and showed us a library where they keep a vast number of texts of the Quran itself plus multiple volume interpretations by various scholars. There are a lot of books a student and follower of Islam has to read and it's mostly in Arabic. They also consider the ancient scrolls, Torah and Bible holy texts as they are part of the Abrahamic religions. They consider Moses, Jesus and Mary to be honored disciples of their God, Allah. Whenever Chema mentioned Allah's name or any of the disciples, she would add "peace be upon him/her." All this is to say that Islam seems to make room for the other religions & their texts but I'm not so sure that's reciprocated by the others.

We were fortunate enough to be there when people were called in for prayer. The man who manages the mosque sang out a traditional call to prayer that floated out over the entire building's sound system. Chema translated the words as he sang. The melody and the sound of his voice were both tranquil and reverent. It was very beautiful. We also got to observe from the back as the men, all heads pointed in the same direction, knelt on lush red carpet and did their prayers.

The kids did very well considering they were required to stand with us as we were touring and listen for a lot of the time. But it didn't hurt that they got cookies. We saw a number of children running about with their parents. The center has many programs for kids as well as preschool and youth activity programs. It's hub of a community that also has a cafe, boutique, meeting rooms and offices.

The people at MAPS are devoted to helping people outside the Muslim community. They regularly provide food, clothing and supplies for the homeless, Tent Cities & Refugees. Looking on their website, it's easy to find the numerous events/drives they have. It's quite inspiring to hear how they do so much for their surrounding communities that may not be as welcoming or mutual.

This was an eye-opening experience. Chema is a fantastic ambassador for MAPS with her relatable demeanor and her clear devotion to her faith and community. Even though we only spent a little more than an hour with her, it was clear the a basis of Islam (as imparted to us) is living a life in service to being a good person and helping those around you--which sounds like the tenets of some other belief systems.

Unfortunately in Islam, as in Christianity and Judaism, there are a few bad eggs who do terrible things in the name of God. But in Islam's case, the actions of a relative few out of 1.5 Billion followers have stoked fear and intolerance enough to inspire our own government to retaliate with things like the Muslim ban.

It's also horrifying to learn that because of that, a threat was called into the MAPS recently which requires them to take extra security precautions. Their sign has also been defaced twice in the last 4 months.

Therefore, Humanizing Islam and Muslims is a crucial step in dissipating fear.

I would encourage anyone to take an opportunity to attend an open house at a nearby mosque or initiate a dialog with a Muslim friend/colleague.

[To get in touch with MAPS in Redmond, email them HERE.]

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Conservative Words to Conservative Ears

I know I've been quiet on the blog since the election and New Year. There is so much to say and I have learned so much about our government, politics and activism. This might seem like a great leap but this is big given this moment in time as things keep changing every few hours in this new administration.

One of the things I do everyday now is to learn about other points of view, specifically the conservative one. It’s admittedly challenging but I feel it’s important to find connection and places of agreement.
I’ve taken a friend's advice, who used to be a political staffer, to look at Fox News on a daily basis to see how that organization frames the same news I look at on more neutral or liberal sites. There is a slant (obviously) but what is interesting is to see what is given emphasis and what is downplayed.
I have even subscribed to a Conservative podcast by Ben Shapiro who is a political talk show host and nationally syndicated columnist. To be sure, there are cringe-worthy moments but I can follow the thread of his arguments--even though I don’t usually agree with him. He is sane, he knows history and policy but most importantly he’s consistent with his values/approach. I can begrudgingly respect that.
But I am really looking at Conservatives and politicians because I am wondering if they see what I see. When some of their own begin to call out to warn of the grave danger Trump poses, are they listening? We are in uncharted territory.
Eliot A. Cohen is a respected Conservative professor and the director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. From 2007 to 2009, he served as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. These are his words from a piece in The Atlantic today:

“Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him.”

“For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.”

“There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


It's December so that means I trot out festive sweet treats that I only make this time o' year. One is my Italian grandmother's anise-flavored waffle cone cookies also known as pizzelles. Those are a throwback to my childhood and now my mom, cousin and I continue the tradition. Check out some silly photos from a 2012 baking sesh with Mom & Angela HERE.

There is a new sweet that I recently folded into my stable of holiday rituals. It's a variation on what some people call "Buckeye Balls." But I class it up with fine artisan chocolate that takes this treat to the next level. Also the addition of graham crackers gives the balls a little crunch and texture while also binding the balls together. (It's an optional ingredient though, if you are gluten sensitive.) I'll list the base recipe and provide my Pro-Baller Tips that further improve the process and the final product.

Kali's Fancy Schweddy Christmas Balls
  • 2 cups Finely Crushed Graham Crackers
  • 1-2 cups Powdered Sugar (adjust if you want less sweetness than a Reese's PB cup)
  • 2 cups Chunky Peanut Butter (Adams Chunky recommended)
  • 1/2 cup Butter (Organic Valley Pasture Butter recommended)
  • 1 lb Chocolate for melting (2 x Scharffen Berger 62% Cacao 9.7oz pkgs recommended)

1. Mix together all ingredients, except chocolate
2. Freeze mixture for at least a 1/2 hour
3. Roll balls, 1 1/4" in diameter is ideal

[Tip: Use a balling tool to keep them uniform size and to keep your hands out of the peanut butter]
4. Place peanut butter mix balls on non-stick or parchment paper-covered metal sheet/flat pan 
5. Freeze for at least a 1/2 hour 
[Tip: The harder/colder the balls are, the easier it is to work with the chocolate later.] 
6. Melt chocolate over low heat in a sauce pan
7. Move pan off burner. Let it cool to lukewarm. 
[Tip: Is it cool enough that you rest your hand on the side of the pan? If so, go get the balls out of the freezer]
[Tip: Portion out the balls to only have to handle half of them outside the freezer at a time because the peanut butter balls thaw very quickly.] 
8. Using two large soup or tablespoons, scoop up some chocolate and juggle a ball between the two spoons while drizzling chocolate over it. Make sure the ball is fully covered all the way around and then set down in the pan again. 
[Level Up Challenge: If you have something to prove or are adept with proper skills, you can use chopsticks which minimize the wasted chocolate that can collect in the spoons or end up splashed on the cooling sheet.]
9. Get the chocolate covered balls back in the freezer as soon as possible to set.
10. Once chocolate hardens, store in sealed container or ziplock bags in fridge or freezer.

Makes 48 balls (with baller tool)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thoughts on a week

All of this pain and anguish and doubt
This all-consuming uncivil war. 
The fractures of differences, the recriminations of association.
I mourn the fragile webs we wove to connect unlike things

so precious, so breakable

When we choose to stand up, when we choose to sit down
When we choose to let things come to pass
Now an unknown fate awaits and
what you and I see is not the same 

and yet
and yet
and yet can we survive a moment to learn its significance?


Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

Been gearing up for something big, scary and exciting...

My first ever NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Mother did this last year with a Young Adult fiction project and I have been stymied by a lack of urgency and focus throughout 2016 so I believe this is just the thing I need. Luckily I have also found a writing program called Scrivener and it may not write the book for you but it is a powerful tool to help organize and consolidate all of your work in one place. I just love it.

It's a lot of words and I still have all my normal responsibilities and activities to manage, not to mention the Thanksgiving Holiday. But my story has been churning in my brain for over a year and it needs to be realized. The toughest thing is not to squander time or get distracted. Let's do this thing...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Sia in Seattle

Sia shone bright like a diamond in Key Arena last Thursday during the first stop of her new tour. A spectacular blend of performance art with music and a sophisticated application of cameras, screens, lighting and dance to really make you pay attention. Plus that amazing voice! Such a memorable performance by a talented artist. Wishing Sia and team a smooth and successful tour!

I'm pretty sure that's Tig Notaro there with the shiny gloves. 
Kristin Wiig in a wig brings the emotional resonance