Monday, January 23, 2017

The Women's March on Washington

My daughter Brigid at the mach - photo credit to my daughter Grace

The Women's March on Washington turned out to be just as wonderful and life-fulfilling as I'd hoped. I admit, I got a little scared on Friday, after hearing about violent protests and pepper spraying in Washington on Friday. Still, we decided to go ahead with our plans, and my daughters, Brigid and Grace and I boarded a bus at 6:00 am, and arrived in Washington a couple of hours later.

Everyone we encountered throughout the entire day was beaming with good will. Even the Washington DC security, who lined the route to the march, cheered us on and gave us high fives.  At most of the houses on the route to the March, up Capital Ave, supporters waved or cheered from their front porches. One house had a live band. One resident of the street handed out soup. Except for one lonely house with a pro-Trump sign in the window, almost every house along the two-mile avenue had a sign that expressed solidarity with the march.

Also awesome was the sea of pink hats, the result of the Pussy Hat Project. From our bus on the way to the march, we saw a long line of pink-hatted people waiting to get into one of the metro stations. We saw trains crammed with pink hats, and the crowd around us, walking to the march was an endless expanse of pink hats. Now I wish I'd knit one for myself, but I used all my knitting energy making anti-Trump yarn bombs, which I secured to trees on Capitol Hill and in other spots around Washington. I will knit a few now. I'm sure I'll find some places to put them. :)

Friday was a sad day. Trump's inaugural speech was disturbing, to say the least. After speaking grandly about returning wealth that had been "ripped" from American homes, Trump's VERY FIRST action in office was to screw the middle class by suspending indefinitely an initiative that would have lowered PMI premiums. He then went on to scrub the White House web site of any mention of climate change. The new "America First Energy Plan" is a truly terrifying document and I urge you all to read it, unless you're OK with the total destruction of our national parks. After this, what I needed was to be with other people who agreed that this is fucked up and un-American; that we need to fight Trump and his policies.

Trump is unbearable

I was thrilled to attend the march with my daughters, and experience the largest protest in American history with them. My mother was an activist - I have memories of being pushed in a stroller while she canvassed door-to-door for liberal political candidates. She died twenty years ago, but I know that she, along with my aunts and grandmother, were with us in spirit. I hope that Brigid and Grace and I will carry on my mother's practice of activism.

Of course we had some funny little incidents, the main one being the drama caused by Brigid's coat. She got a free fur coat from a thrift shop, and using other thrifted textiles, stitched the word NASTY on the back and appliqued an assortment of female anatomy. Wooden sign posts were forbidden, but Brigid found a thrifted baby toy and fashioned it into a long, albeit droopy sign post. People freaked out a bit We hadn't even boarded our bus in Charlottesville and I spotted someone photographing Brigid and her coat. And so it went, for the whole march, people asking to photograph the coat or to have their picture taken with her. Eventually we ran into the press. A journalist from Montreal interviewed her, and later, another journalist chased her down and said, "Do you know how many people are chasing after you, trying to get a picture of your coat?" She took a lot of pictures, and then another journalist took more.  Also, as we approached some police officers who were watching the crowd, I overheard one of them say to the other, "We've got a vagina coat over here." But when we walked past and he saw the "Nasty" on the back, he said, "That's awesome." I guess it's pretty cool if the D.C. police admire your protest wear. Have you seen her coat in your feeds?

We ran into the woman pictured below and of course had to have a chat and some photographs. The hilarious thing was that a little girl, as she approached us, screamed, "That is NOT a hot dog!"
The "hot dog lady"

Brigid's coat turned out to be useful in addition to being decorative. There were tight bag restrictions at the march, so we put most of what we needed into our pockets. Brigid's coat pocket was large enough to hold a partial roll of toilet paper, which came in handy at the port-a-potties at the end of the march.

Finally, one of the most personally heartwarming things about the march was that I hung a small "NO TRUMP" yarn bomb on a tree in Lincoln Park on the way to the march. Hours later, as we were walking back to our bus, I checked to see if it was still there. It was, only someone had embellished it with a solidarity pin. We also noticed that the tree I'd randomly selected was a pussywillow!

I hope that everyone had a great marching experience on Saturday. It was a historic moment and if we continue to stand together, we can defeat this man.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thoughts on Gaslighting and the Women's March

Just posting briefly to prove (mostly to myself) that this blog is still alive. Lately, I feel like my relationship with my blog is like that scene in Gone With the Wind, where Scarlett whips her horse until it collapses. The intellectual demands of my job seem to have taken up all the space in my brain that used to come up with things to write about.

Also, any remaining brain space has been taken over by panic/rage at Donald Trump and his team. HOW can anyone observe this man without realizing that he is deeply disturbed and not in any way able to carry out the duties of the president of the United States? During the campaign, even I thought that a lot of his bluster was just shtick and that if he were actually elected, he might be able to pull it together and behave more or less like a rational human.  But that has been proven not to be the case. Clearly.

And now it is the eve of the inauguration and nothing can save us. I am attending the Women’s March on Washington, along with Brigid and Grace. I know it is going to be a long, grueling, and uncomfortable day, but I am looking forward to it. One unexpected (to me) thing that came out of the election was the large-scale emotional abuse perpetrated by Donald Trump and his team (*cough* Kellyanne Conway *cough*).  They are manipulating the meaning of truth itself, so that we are perpetually confused and doubting. Their insistence of the rightness of Trump’s actions, in the face of facts that prove the nearly everything he says is a lie is a type of abuse known as gaslighting, which causes its victims to question their own perceptions and even their sanity. To me, attending the Women’s March is a way of combating this abuse. To say that those of us who find Trump’s actions abhorrent are real and that we won’t be gaslit. How will Trump explain away over 100,000 people marching in protest, with sister marches occurring all around the world?  I’m sure he and his people will find multiple demeaning ways to dismiss us, but being present in these marches is a weapon against his abuse.

Are you planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington, or a local march in your own area? If so, let me know in the comments. I wish us all a safe and affirming march.

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

2016 Book List

Here's a summary of everything I read in 2016. It was definitely a more fun reading year than 2015, when I got bogged down in multiple heavy-hitters like Ulysses and The Education of Henry Adams. I hope these brief descriptions aren't too unhelpful.

A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David (1950) A classic by one of England's cooking giants.

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1911) Strange novel about a woman so beautiful an entire university commits mass suicide because they can't have her. (Sorry, spoiler, but you're never going to read this anyway.) I once met a woman who was actually named Zuleika.

Map of Another Town by M.F.K. Fisher (1964) The great American food writer's memoir about living in Aix, in Provence, in the 1950s as a single mother.

A Considerable Town by M.F.K. Fisher (1978) A memoir about life in Marseilles.

Might as well be Dead by Rex Stout (1956) Nero Wolfe mystery. Not great literature, but they grow on you.

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones (1975) Brilliant children's novel about a star that's forced to be reincarnated as a dog.

Good Faith by Jane Smiley (2001) This novel looks at the seamy side of real estate.

Come Back, Wherever you Are by Lenora Mattingly Weber (1969) The last of the Beany Malone series.

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather (2011) Newly divorced, Mather learns how to eke an existence through thrift and canning at her Lake Michigan cottage. Mostly a memoir, but has some good recipes.

The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd (2012) Super-creepy Victorian mystery.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (1972) A sweet little book about life on a Finnish island. To my knowledge, the only book I've ever read by a Finn.

Sloop of War by Alexander Kent (1969) Sometimes I like to read nautical fiction. This is one in the Richard Bolitho series.

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd (2010) So, what if one of the characters in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is actually a murderer and kills Fanny Price? Read this to find out what that would look like.

My Life in France by Julia Child (2006) Title is self-explanatory. Entertaining. Shows how much labor goes into writing a cookbook.

Studs Lonigan Trilogy by James T. Farrell (1932-1935) Growing up working class and Irish on the south side of Chicago. I struggled with these books because the characters are so unlikeable.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (2004) A disappointing, fictional account of the relationship between Mozart and Constanza Weber.

To Glory we Steer by Alexander Kent (1968) Another about Richard Bolitho. It was while reading this book that it finally dawned on me that this series is mild homoerotica.

Life Would be Perfect if I lived in that House by Meghan Daum. (2010) I loved this book so much! Daum writes about her house lust, something I can really relate to. She even has the same recurring dream that I have - the one when you discover a whole secret wing of your house that you never knew you had. I always hate waking up from that dream.

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (2015) Bryson travels from the south end of Great Britain to the north.

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford (1915) I can hardly remember anything about this one. :(

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759) The amazing thing is that I've actually read this book twice. It is funny, but it's also very hard to tell what's going on.

I Iago by Nicole Galland (2012) Novel telling the Othello story from Iago's perspective.

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (1860) One of the Barsetshire series, about the financial troubles of a young clergyman.

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (1934) Cynical novel about a marriage gone wrong.

Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley (1928) A rather depressing novel set among artists and intellectuals in England.

We'll Always Have Paris by Emma Beddington (2016) A memoir by one of my favorite bloggers.

Frost on my Mustache by Tim Moore (1999) Travelogue about Iceland and other points north. This was a reread in preparation for my own trip to Iceland, but it wasn't as funny on the second read.

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (1864) Concerns the romantic adventures of Lily Dale, a young lady.

Three for the Chair by Rex Stout (1957) Three murder novellas.

The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins (1954) A beautiful woman finds her husband's affections are drawn in a surprising direction.

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (1913) The tale of audacious social climber, Undine Sprague.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene (1948) A British police inspector in a west African town faces serious moral dilemmas.

Galore by Michael Crummey (2009) Chronicle of a Newfoundland fishing village.

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad (1904) I had such a hard time reading this. A South American town has a silver mine. There's a revolution. Some people load a bunch of silver onto a boat and escape with it; someone else is tortured to death; someone else kills himself; someone else is shot at the end. Thank God that's over.

Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor (1946) Cassandra Dashwood goes to work as a governess for a family with some shameful secrets. Elizabeth Taylor is one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this, although there's a terrible plot surprise near the end that left me feeling depressed and rattled.

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (1867) The last of the Barsetshire series. Concerns a stern, upright clergyman who is accused of theft.

The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell (1934) Tiresome novel about a bratty child.

Plot it Yourself by Rex Stout (1959) Murders and other crimes in the publishing industry.

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth (1969) Angst-ridden, hilarious novel concerning sex and impossible parents.

Longbourn by Jo Baker (2013) Retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the servants.

Curse of the Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. Fantasy.

Juliet in August by Dianne Warren (2012) Beautifully crafted novel about a single day in a small Saskatchewan town. Highly recommended.

Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse (1906) Usually I like Wodehouse, (author of the Jeeves and Wooster novels) but this was disappointing.

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope (1864) The first of the Palliser series. Concerns Alice Vavosar, a young woman who is torn between two lovers. Also concerns the early marital difficulties of Plantagenet Palliser (heir of the Duke of Omnium from the Barchester books) and his wife Lady Glencora - two mainstay characters of the Palliser novels.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009) Tells of the rise of Anne Boleyn from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell.

Too Many Clients by Rex Stout (1960) Nero Wolfe again.

The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever (1957) Preppy New England family saga.

Lake of the Prairies by Walter Cariou (2002) Memoir of growing up in a town in northern Saskatchewan.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012) Continuation of Wolf Hall - the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

The Misses Mallet by E. H. Young (1922) A family of eccentric spinsters in Bristol.

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran (2012) Humorous essays by a British journalist.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth (2014) A neat summary of the unacknowledged down side of Scandinavian societies. I wish there had been more about Iceland, but I enjoyed this.

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope (1867) Second of the Palliser series. Concerns a young Irishman, Phineas Finn, who manages to fall bassackwards into a seat in parliament.

Three at Wolfe's Door; The Final Deduction; The Mother Hunt; The Right to Die; Trio for Blunt Instruments; The Doorbell Rang; Death of a Doxy all by Rex Stout. (1960s) What? For God knows what reason, I'm reading all the Nero Wolfe novels, It's taken me years, so I pushed to get through a bunch at once. They are pretty entertaining, though formulaic.

Justine by Laurence Durrell (1957) The first book in the Alexandria Quartet. Concerns an unnamed British man who is having an affair with the wife of an Egyptian nobleman.

The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West. (1930) I loved this! Deeply, deeply cynical novel about the British aristocracy. If Downton Abbey wasn't so stupid, it could have been like this.

Village Christmas by Miss Read. (1966) A cozy Christmas story.

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope (1871) The third in the Palliser series, and one of my favorites of all Trollope's novels. I plan to do a post about all the Palliser novels together once I finish them.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017


If January had a color, it would be white. That's probably something that everyone in the world has already thought of. I'm just slow on the uptake, as usual. But seriously, besides the snow and the monochrome winter light, January is a blank slate and a fresh start. I know it's a cliche, but I love starting the year with a bunch of resolutions, even knowing full well I won't keep them. My diet cleanse started today, actually. For the next three days, I will eat nothing but miso soup, seaweed, tofu, greens, sardines, turmeric, and copious amounts of water.

In addition to the figurative fresh start, I like the summary of the year - both reading those of other people, and writing my own. Despite the global catastrophes, 2016 was a much better year for me, personally, than 2015, which was a long string of crises. The trip to Ireland was great, but other than that 2015 sucked, massively. In 2016, I ascended the steep learning curve of my new job. It was also the year that I finally sought professional help for my depression. I read a lot of good books, I went to Iceland, and enjoyed another year of watching my children mature into lovely adults.

Here's a little photo summary of the year, taken from Instagram, so I apologize if you've seen these already.

Our one big snowstorm of the year.

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I knit myself a sweater.
A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

We painted a chalkboard wall in our kitchen.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

My daughter Brigid graduated from art school.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

I went to Buffalo.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

For my 30th high school reunion

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Jon broke his foot.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

I went on a solo trip to Iceland.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

A video posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

And caught a norovirus on the flight home. (I literally threw up about a minute after taking this picture.)

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We burned Donald Trump in effigy.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

And voted for Hilary Clinton.

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I knit these mittens for my brother:

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

And these for my sister-in-law

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I took a lot of long walks through Charlottesville

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

The vacant lot next door was finally sold and a house put on it. (A big deal for us, because we've been living next to that vacant lot for seventeen years.)

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My plan for 2017 is to yarnbomb my world with anti-Trump signs. I hope other knitters do the same. Perhaps 2017 will be the year I start a second, secret career as a street artist. #yarnbombtrump

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