LGBT Fundraiser

I know I will forget people when I try to thank them, so apologies in advance — I am going off the list of people who originally signed up! But the event wouldn’t have been possible without so many people chipping in — the clothing racks, for example, were essential in making it possible to even try to look at the vast amount of clothing that was donated.
I was trying to figure out how much we donated — I did a rough calculation that if there were 40 bags, each with 10 items of clothing (many had more, I think), that’s at lest 400 items, and then if they sell then for an average of $10 each (which I think is about right for pricing at Brown Elephant), then even if you cut out half of that for their overhead, I think we donated probably $2000 in clothes, in addition to the $300 cash. Well done, everyone!!
11 – 1: (set-up: sorting clothes, putting them out, snacks and drinks) (Rebecca Mortenson Ho, Melissa Diglio Healy, Jenna Leving Jacobson)
1 – 3 (first shift): Stephanie Bailey, Susan Penrod Osterkil
12 – 2: Aisha Pickett Ellis (door)
3 – 5 (second shift): Rachel Benoit, Peggy Lynch
5 – 6: 2-3 people to help with clean-up and/or driving extra clothes over to Brown Elephant for donation (Marianne Merola, Nicole Sumida)

Other volunteers:
Emma Draves: rainbow veggie tray and rainbow cake
Jenna Leving Jacobson: bringing rainbow balloons and rainbow snack
Pem Hessing: donate Pellegrino, cups, napkins, pens
Jalissa Bauman Horne: rainbow fruit skewers, dress-up clothes for kids
Dawn Xiana Moon: Raks Geek can donate a pair of tickets to our March 24 show at Uptown Underground. (some more theatre tickets would be great to add to the raffle, if anyone wants to solicit those for us)
Kelly Sorprych: donate a pair of tickets to Other Theatre
Marianne Merola: bringing some ideas from Equality Illinois’ website. A few days ago they released a press release about a House Bill they want support for. So perhaps something like that can be the focus of our postcard writing.
Rebecca Mortenson Ho: bringing a clothes rack.
Aisha Pickett Ellis: bringing a clothes rack and accessory grid, also a snack (and her friend Laura Elk-Weist will also bring a snack)
Kat Tanaka Okopnik: bringing a clothes rack
Dima Ali: photographer


The unseasonably warm weather meant that we broke out the grill. I’m a good cook with curries and such, but I need more practice with grilling. I think bigger shrimp would’ve worked a bit better — these got slightly dried out (but fine in sauce, and will be fine mixed in a caesar salad with dressing). Everything got tossed in olive oil, salt, and a generous amount of white pepper.

I put all the veggies in a grill pan, which was okay, but they didn’t char that much in there — I think next time, I’ll keep the eggplant slices, red onion, and bell pepper pieces big, so they can just sit on the grill directly. But the grill pan was good for the asparagus, carrot pieces, and mushrooms.

I’m mostly just being finicky. Overall, it was delicious and very more-ish. I had planned to toss the veggies in balsamic vinegar, but we were out! But it wasn’t too hard to make a quick lemon-mustard sauce, delicious with a glass of prosecco.


“Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend today’s class because there was a bomb threat to my local mosque. We are relocating all our neighbors and families to a different mosque and also having a huge prayer so I will not be able to come in. Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for understanding.”

– from one of my UIC students today (2/17/17), reposted with permission

Day Without Immigrants

Today is the Day Without Immigrants protest — a lot of restaurants in particular are closing in protest. I’m working from home today, so my not working wouldn’t be so visible, but I’m an immigrant, and I’m protesting.
If you’ve enjoyed my presence here, please take a moment to consider what America would have lost if I hadn’t been allowed in. Please imagine what my life would be like now if ICE showed up at my door and forcibly separated me from my family, shipping me back to Sri Lanka (a country I left when I was two), leaving Kevin to support and console our traumatized children.
The fact that I’m here legally is an accident of history, and mostly the product of the U.S. finally deciding to repeal the racist Asian Exclusion Act that would have kept my family out in decades previous. The entire concept of legal vs. illegal immigration to America is a relatively new one — for centuries, there was no such thing. If you’re here legally, all it means is that for a while, no one was trying too hard to keep your family out. It’s sheer luck.
The current path to legal immigration is also prohibitively difficult. “In April 2016, the U.S. government was still processing some family-sponsored visa applications dating to September 1992, and was still processing some employment-related visa applications from August 2004.”
Mostly, when Americans want to limit immigration from other places, they choose those places based on race. ‘Race,’ which doesn’t actually exist, is generally standing in for ‘culture we dislike’ or ‘religion we’re afraid of,’ or ‘people who will work for less money than we will because the situation in their homeland is dire and their children are starving or being shot at,’ but nonetheless, limiting immigration from certain countries, generally for people with certain skin colors, is racism.
We’ve done it before; we’re doing it again now. Let’s not hide from that truth.

Cancer log 184: Seroma

Feeling frustrated that my lower belly has developed seromas (accumulations of fluid) post-reconstruction surgery — they are harmless, but somewhat achy, and exercising much at all, even walking, makes them hurt more, so I’m not sure if it’s okay to exercise.  I meet with the doc again on Tuesday, so I’ll see what he says, but I’ve gained a bit of weight the last two weeks, and that combined with the soreness (and this damned administration) has made me cranky.

A Valentine for my Country, in the Time of Trump

America is having a conversation
where fear, one of the most
powerful and primal of forces,
is being pitted daily against
love. It is hard when you
are afraid for your family, to
reach out in love to others.

When my neighbors chose
to hold the doors of our village
open, welcoming the foreigner
despite threats of losing funds
that might impact their families,
they chose love.

When Iowa firemen
and policemen stood up,
understanding ‘right to work’
means ‘right to be fired’ —
refusing to be divided
from other workers in
‘less essential’ jobs,
they chose love.

When millions of women
and not a few men
turned out in the streets
got on buses and planes
leaving families and spending
hard-earned money,
they chose love.

When Americans donated
in unprecedented numbers
to the ACLU, the SPLC,
to Planned Parenthood,
and all the other orgs who daily
fight for our freedoms,
they chose love.

This Valentine’ Day
I am trying to have faith
that in the coming days
and months and especially
next election day,
America everywhere
will choose love.

M.A. Mohanraj

(Image by Dima Ali)


Cookies for the kids!

I did some physical activity today for the first time since surgery a week and a half ago, an hour of yard clean-up raking. It was probably still a bit ambitious, given how twinge-y my belly is now, but the weather was beautiful and I really, really wanted to move. Afterwards, I ate quite a bit, but I’m not worrying about it. Or trying not to, anyway. 🙂 Hoping to be back to normal activity levels this week, and actually exercising / dieting again next week? We’ll see. The yard needs a lot of work…

First snowdrop, hellebore, adorable garden helpers.  If, like me, you let the fall leaves serve as mulch and habitat over the winter, now is the time to rake them back (here in Oak Park, at least) if you’ve planted spring ephemerals — the snowdrops and other little bulbs aren’t strong enough to push through a thick layer of wet leaf mulch. I don’t mind the labor, though — it’s so satisfying uncovering the first treasures.



marhabaan bikum fi ‘amrika

I asked Kavya if she wanted to write a Valentine to include with the cookies I’m giving to a local mom who’s taking them to a new Syrian refugee family in the city. Kavi said yes, and then went to her iPad to look up how to say ‘welcome to America’ in Arabic — and I have to tell you, people, I almost started crying right then.

Now I’m just waiting for Kavi’s cookies to dry before packing them up and taking them to the woman delivering them.  Kavi wasn’t sure that she’d be able to accurately copy the Arabic script; I’m hoping their hosts can help them read the transcripted version. Her card is meant to say “Welcome to America” and “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

I had some love cake and rich cake left over from Christmas, so I packed that up too; I’m not sure how similar those are to Syrian desserts, but they’re full of fruit and nuts and love, so they’ll hopefully bring this family a little luck in their new home. I’ve been reading reports about the ICE raids all day, feeling helpless and angry — it was good to do something to send a little love and welcome back into the world.

Now, back to writing to our legislators.

Meet / greet

So many thanks to Julie Nilson Chyna for hosting my first in-home candidate meet-and-greet! She put together a book swap (books + wine = lots of interest!), and about forty people showed up, mostly Irving and Julian moms. It took me a little time to get used to just introducing myself to strangers, “yes, I’m the candidate,” but everyone was so nice and welcoming, and I ended up having some great conversations with her friends — even a few about the library! But mostly, it was just a nice party. 🙂
Interestingly, lots of people said they’d vote for me, even without hearing anything about my positions — if Julie was willing to vouch for me, that seemed like enough for them. I think people mostly just want to know their local candidates seems like a reasonable, nice person that they can talk to. Well, unless you’re running for school board — that’s where the stakes get really high!