Friday, September 18, 2015


Tonight we attended the Democratic Gala (*The Dinner Formerly Known as Jefferson-Jackson) in Mishawaka, a dinner for the St. Joseph County Democratic Party. I think this was our third one, and it’s a fun opportunity to meet some legislators and hear some good speakers. (Also to stand and applaud a lot. I told Ken, “Jeez, it’s like being in church!”)

This was probably my favorite one that we’ve been to so far. We sat next to an elderly couple, Chuck and Dot. Chuck is retired from teaching, and Dot was on the Mishawaka City Council for many years, and was the first female president of the Council! They were just delightful people. Chuck is big on unions, and they have both campaigned and worked for the Democrats for many years. They’ve been married for 58 years! People were constantly coming by to say hello to them and shake their hands. It was a treat to sit next to them and I am very happy to have met them.

We got to meet the county clerk and the county auditor. We got to say hi to Senator Donnelly and of course, to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. We also got to shake the hand of Tim Roemer, who was the keynote speaker and a former Congressman and Ambassador to India.

It was obvious that Tim Roemer was a seasoned professional. He was motivational and got us all wound up (in a good way) about supporting Democrats. He also sat on the 9/11 Commission and told the heartbreaking story about hearing the messages that passengers on United 93 sent to their loved ones when they knew that they were going to crash the plane rather than fly it into the Capitol Building. He was in the Capitol Building that day, and those passengers may have saved his life and countless others. It made me cry. It was an honor to shake his hand afterwards.

They also had a silent auction and Ken bid on a few things, and we won three! We counted up the swag, and we absolutely got our money’s worth in these packages. All the items were donated, so it went to a good cause: our county Democratic Party!

Finally, I can tell you that it was a charged and upbeat atmosphere in that room. There were no unkind remarks about any Republican opponent or any of the candidates running for president, even after last night’s debate. There was talk about defeating Governor Pence and about the harm he is doing to our state, but it was all policy-oriented and absent of any personal attacks. After some of the recent remarks from Republicans, it was quite refreshing to be around people who want to win because they feel that they are doing the right thing for the right reasons, and can do it without playing to the basest fears of people. There was also a sense of unity concerning whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being. There was no splintering of the party and no disagreement about supporting our eventual nominee, be it Hillary, Bernie, Joe, or the other candidates. It was a very positive vibe and everyone seemed happy, fired up, and ready to go!

After Wednesday night, boy, did I ever need this!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Never the twain shall meet

I’ve got the Republican “kiddie-table” debate on, but I don’t feel the necessity to pay extremely close attention to it, so I think I’ll take this opportunity to write a bit of frustration out.

I was beginning to have a little debate of my own earlier today, but because it was on someone else’s post (someone I love a bunch) and because the other commenter/debatee was also someone I know and care about, I decided to nip it in the bud there. It became obvious very quickly that we weren’t going to come to a place of agreement, and if I’m going to take the time to write out my thoughts, I’ll do it here rather than in a futile debate on someone else’s page.

Anyway, the whole thing started with a post comparing Mike Huckabee’s comment about religious law to that of Anjem Choudary’s comment about the same thing. (Don’t worry...I had to look him up, too. He’s a prominent British Muslim political activist.) The other person took exception to comparing Huckabee to a Muslim. Never mind that they essentially said the same thing, about religious laws trumping (Ha! Trumping!) those of man and of the courts. The argument was that Muslims kill people and Christians don’t. Then there was some back and forth about whether our country was founded as a Christian nation and what the founding fathers intended and following the laws laid out in New Testament but not following those in the Old Testament and...well, you get the idea. It’s a debate that I’ve had before and nothing is ever really resolved. I just didn’t feel like engaging in it again.

The core issue here was Kim Davis and her refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. You all know how I feel about that. However, I feel that the larger argument is the question of whether people can refuse to obey laws based on their religious beliefs. Some have compared Kim Davis to Martin Luther King, Jr., which is absurd. Rev. King advocated for civil disobedience of laws in order to expand the rights of blacks; Kim Davis was going against the law in order to deny the rights of others.

This is a significant difference. I have no problem with people worshipping the way they wish. The First Amendment guarantees that the government shall not establish a religion, or prohibit people from the free exercise of religion. This means that you have the right to worship whatever god you want, or not worship any god at all. But that right ends when you infringe upon the rights of others. Specifically, those rights laid out in the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the laws. Kim Davis was not only denying the right of couples to a marriage license—couples both gay and straight—she was infringing upon the rights of those in her office who wished to do their jobs.

To use an extreme example, let’s say your religion requires human sacrifice. Are you free to practice your religion? Sure...but you cannot infringe upon the rights of others by taking their lives. If your religion requires animal sacrifice, you cannot violate animal cruelty laws. You are taking rights away from others based on your religion, and that is exactly what Kim Davis was doing. Those rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, the Supreme Court made the decision, and you’d best get on board or get out of the way!

This brings up another point when it comes to those who would like to see us be a theocracy. Who gets to decide which religion we’re going to follow or which religious book we’re going to base our laws on? Let’s go ahead and assume you’re going to say that no one has to decide...we’re a Christian nation, period (a point that I do NOT concede at all). How many Christian denominations are there? How much do those denominations differ in their dogma and interpretation of the Bible? Who gets to decide which belief system will prevail? Who is The Decider?? Is it the President? Whatever denomination he or she happens to be will be the one that we base our laws on? Is it the Supreme Court? Do they get to come to a consensus and vote on the denomination? Does the Congress decide? Or do we leave it up to the states? Do states with a large population of Jewish people get to base their laws on Jewish laws? Or is it up to the individual county? Or each city or municipality? (I’d probably be moving to Portland, Oregon.)

And hey, if it’s up to the President, what if he or she has an epiphany while in office and converts to Islam? Then decides to make that the official religion?

This is why we don’t base our laws on the Bible. We base our laws on the Constitution. We are not a theocracy.

I honestly do not understand why some people don’t understand this and continue to advocate for a religious influence on our politics. We are a very diverse country. We have people of all faiths and we have people of no faith. Our government cannot promote any religion or one religion above another.

I am happy to keep my government out of your religion. I expect you to keep your religion out of my government.

This ain’t Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, folks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Party in the Bend!

Pardon my brief absence here (I’ve been trying to update much more regularly), but it was a busy weekend, and Monday was my Introvert Recovery Day. As much fun as I have on weekends like that, I’m exhausted by the time they are done and have to spend some downtime to recharge my battery. I’m feeling quite a bit better now!

The busy weekend was because we had the super talented and amazingly cool Bob Walkenhorst back in town! We had Bob out last year for a house show and it was so wonderful that we had him come back this year, again at Shane and Matt’s house. In the year since we had him out last, we’ve been to Kansas City to see him a couple of times. Once for New Year’s Eve (a show with the Rainmakers) and a business trip for Ken, in which we got to see him play at the RecordBar with Jeff Porter (the guitarist for the Rainmakers) and Norm Dahlor (bass and banjo player for the Elders). Bob and his super cool and groovy wife Michele invited us into their home and we got to meet the rest of the band and friends and family and...well, we seem to have ended up friends!

This show started turning into something special pretty quickly. Many of the attendees last year were happy to join us again this year, and we had friends from Detroit (Tony, Alaina, and Winston) come down, friends from Chicago (Joe and Maria, George and Karen...we met them through Bob), and of course Bob and Michele from Kansas City.

It was another great night of fun and friends and family, and Bob brought it, as always. He is an amazing performer and is capable of connecting with an audience to a degree that is a rarity. It was even more special for us this year after getting to know him and Michele and enjoy and cherish their friendship. It really was another magical night.

Oh, and this happened. One of my favorite photos of all time is this one of a young Elvis fan at a Philadelphia concert in 1955. This young lady embodies everything I feel about music. The craziness, the joy, the fandom, the sheer ROCKITUDE of it all. I’m not sure how Shane and Matt and I came to the conclusion that we would try to recreate this photo, but we did, and Bob was a great sport and played along as Elvis. Bob. Elvis-Bob. The angle isn’t quite the same due to the constraints of the room, but we all had a blast with it and it was a very fun time! (Thanks for doing the photo, Dan!)
On Sunday, we all met at South Bend Brew Werks for brunch and for some of us, beermosas. (Yum!) We had a wonderful time talking and it made me sad to have to say goodbye to Bob, Michele, Joe, and Maria. But not as bad as last year, because I know I’ll get to see them all again. In fact, we’ll be seeing Joe and Maria (and George and Karen) this weekend when we go up to Chicago to see a Cubs game! They very graciously invited us to come over to their place after the game, so that will be fun!

After brunch, the rest of us went back to Nutwood Junction so Tony and Alaina could see the place. After being blogger friends for years, I think they really enjoyed getting to see a place they’ve seen so many pictures of! We even took a little hike through the wetlands and the woods. We didn’t see any critters, but we saw lots of bees (so happy our bee population is fairly healthy here!) and a couple of Monarch butterflies! They also got to see the Retro Lounge. Then it was back to Shane and Matt’s to load up the truck with the borrowed chairs and coolers. We then waved like crazy people when the Detroit gang drove off, and I felt sad to see them go, too.

But as we discussed with Shane and Matt afterwards, it really wasn’t quite the feeling of sadness after last year’s party. We’ve all become friends (Tony and Alaina went to Vegas with us, Winston has done several things with us, we’ll see the Chicago and KC gangs again as I mentioned above), so it’s more of an auf wiedersehen moment than a sad farewell. We WILL see them all again!

I’ll end this story of what was really a wonderful weekend with something that was truly one of the most joyful moments of my life. And no, I’m not exaggerating! When we saw Bob, Jeff, and Norm in KC, one of the songs they did was “Daydream Believer.” There is something about that song that just brings out the Full Happy in me. After that set, I told Bob that I loved it and would he maybe sing that at our house show? He said, “I’ve never sung it by myself before...but I’ll learn it for you.” And by golly if he didn’t sing it as the last song, and I get a little teary-eyed just thinking about it! It was a perfect ending, and he gave me a big hug afterwards. Thanks to everyone who helped make this shindig happen, and thank YOU, Bob, for such a special music moment!

Video by Dan; photos by Dan and Tony. Thanks guys!