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!

Politics, potluck, and postcards

Standing room only at this month’s Democratic Party of Oak Park meeting — you can’t see me, but I’m standing way in the back. They’re going to need to get a bigger room…

Protest postcards, including a few designed by a local mom.

Postcards and board games go great together.  Nara Nayar is a postcard-writing machine! Thanks to James Parran for bringing Splendor — it was fun!


I planned to start canvassing today, but I am TOO tired. Have reset plans — going to spend the morning making Valentine’s cookies and cards with the kids, including a set that we’re passing along to a Syrian refugee family that just made it into the U.S. (thanks to a Lincoln Park moms’ group organizing to bring them here). Other than that, finish knitting my niece’s sweater, put out some Valentine’s decor, and take the kids to their sex ed classes. Watch tv and deal with a little e-mail. The campaign can wait a little; I want to start canvassing in a positive, high-energy mood. Tuesday, I think!

Envy my dinner.

Tasting at Wishbone, pursuant to deciding whether to use them to cater our anniversary party. I didn’t even photograph it all — there were also roasted root vegetables, green beans cooked in vinegar and ham, and pulled pork. Most recommended: shrimp and grits, crab cakes, green beans, split pea soup. But it was all good! I only ate about a quarter of each sample serving and I am STUFFED.

Entrepreneur day

Kavya and Delilah made emoji stress balls. May I note that these were actually quite difficult to make, even with both parents helping, and I don’t recommend them? (We used a funnel to fill a balloon with rice, tied it off, and then put a second balloon over that one for durability.) But they made about 60, and only have 2 left, so I suppose they were successful. The workers will likely revolt if Kavya wants another production run, though.


Several people asked on Facebook, so here’s a brief summary of what the problem is with many charter schools:

a) public schools in your area have x amount of money, and are not doing as well as people would like

b) a charter school is formed, costing y money of public funds (now the public school has x-y amount of money, so they’re almost certainly going to do worse than before)

c) the charter school is much less regulated than the public school, and among other things, has an ‘application process’ where they get to turn away kids that the public school has to take — all the disabled kids, for example, the ones with behavioral challenges, the poor kids, etc. and so on (they can also get rid of those kids after acceptance, through ‘weeding’)

d) a year later, the charter school is able to show great scores, because they’ve cherry-picked the kids that will bring them those scores

e) the charter school has also drawn those kids out of the public school system, along with their often wealthier parents (who generally have more time available to be involved with supplemental enrichment at the school — after-school arts and language and sports programs and the like), so that’s another hit to the public school, dragging their overall scores even lower

f) public school now declared to be ‘failing’


Charter schools are paid for with public funds (which is what differentiates them from private schools). Add in that a great number of the charter schools are functionally religious, with complications you can imagine. (Separation of church and state, anyone?) And a great many are run by for-profit operators – a back door to funnel public money into private hands.

Charter schools don’t *have* to abuse the system this way — if, for example, they accept all the kids (by lottery, if they need to limit numbers) the way the public school does (and support them all to the same standards for disability, etc. as the public schools), if they don’t mandate religious education, and if they use their charter to experiment with new ways of teaching (forest classrooms, Montessori-type styles, etc.), then charter schools could actually be used as innovation incubators, and the lessons learned there brought back to benefit the rest of the public schools in the district. That would be ideal.

I can’t remember offhand, but I think it’s Minnesota where the charter schools have been largely successful? And a friend tells me that in Louisiana there is a single application and they cannot cherry pick; they also have a central all-schools expulsion system for hearings etc. to prevent weeding. But overall, so far, they tend to be discriminatory and abusive.

And note: once the public schools are closed or downsized, there’s no capacity for the system to reverse course when the charter operators go out of business because they don’t make enough profit.

Some good pieces with more information:






On a dreary day of national news, it is remarkably heartening to go to the post office and pick up campaign donation checks. The nicest thing about checks (as opposed to convenient online donations) is that most people sending them have included little notes or cards with them, which I hope they’ll forgive me from quoting from:

“If I’m not mistaken, you were a student messenger taking drafts from one location to another when I was at U Chicago…” (I was! 25 years ago!)

“There are few happinesses since Nov 8, and one of them is all the women now running for office. I’m hoping that we fill the governmental bodies to look more like America, the vision of America I was taught to revere: all colors, genders, ages, abilities. Here’s to your success!”

and simply…

“We are very happy you are doing this.”

All of which reminds me of my favorite chant from the women’s march:

Tell me what democracy looks like!
THIS is what democracy looks like!

Seriously, thanks, folks. I needed that today.


Campaign donation info here.

Book review: How to Win a Local Election

Quick review: How to Win a Local Election. This was a decent primer, though my edition was fairly out-of-date re: computers, etc. No mention of the internet! I somehow missed that there’s a 2007 edition which presumably is a bit more up-to-date.

It’s geared towards a mid-level local election, so quite a bit of the advice was too much to do for something like my own library board election. But I would still say this was worth skimming, because it’s fairly comprehensive and gives you a good overall sense of what goes into campaigning (and winning). Glad I read it.

Locals, I’d be happy to loan this book out if anyone is thinking about running! If I don’t get any takers, I’ll see if the Democratic Party office wants to hold onto it.