Thursday, November 10, 2016

Against the Apocalypse (+ macaroni and cheese)


Well. I am totally heartbroken. I imagine you are too. It’s hard to find the strength and light, although there is so much of both, of course. But, then, Birdy. Birdy who has had a fever since Friday, wept in our arms yesterday, she raged and grieved, and then got up, dried her tears, and filled out an application to be a volunteer conversation partner for people in our town who are learning English. Humbled and inspired, I thought about changing out of my pajamas. I wasn’t actually able to accomplish that— changing out of my pajamas yesterday. But today I will

Because, among other things, Thursday is my lunch shift at the survival center here. If you aren’t volunteering any of your time, I cannot recommend it enough as an antidote to despair. I’ve been serving lunch once a week for four years, and it is one of the best parts of my life. Also, people actually flirt with me there, which is refreshing. Plus, I get to be reminded of the precariousness of our lives, our circumstances. Service is the road to happiness, I swear to you.

Relatedly, we can support the most vulnerable people in our communities, either in established ways—volunteering with organizations that serve youth and queers and the poor and the elderly and other people in need who need our time; involving ourselves in local politics and issues; donating money to local causes we believe in—or in creative ones. My friend Kate Schatz posted a photograph of a bouquet of flowers yesterday, and wrote this: We just brought this to the Islamic Center of Alameda, across the street from our daughter's school, and we're doing the same in Oakland. The card expresses love and support and solidarity, and pledged that, as white parents, we will always teach our daughter to stand up for her friends and to love and respect people of all colors and faiths. I urge everyone to do something similar in their communities today--find a way to show love and solidarity to the communities who are most vulnerable right now. Black and brown children are afraid of being hurt, being deported. What can you do to show them you'll protect them? I am so inspired by her. I am thinking of making a similar gesture towards the Black Student Union, Asian Student Union, Latinx Student Union, and Gender Sexuality Diversity committee at my kids' school. I want to say, "I honor your rage. I've got your back."

Brown people, black people, immigrants, Muslim people, our LGBTQs, indigenous people, we are circling the wagons. We are going to make sure that respect and compassion and kindness and courage guide all our actions, our interactions. We are going to remind our children to do the right thing. We are going to go to bed every night with integrity in our hearts. Right? If you live in a Trump town or a border town or a place where you feel isolated or afraid, we are sending you the extra courage you need to do this precious work. We are circling the wagons.

Let me also remind you that the 2018 midterm elections are not far off. A third of the senate will change hands. Let’s make sure we’re working to elect our democrats.

And can we look at the bright spots? Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. That means that, yes, less than half of the voting population supported Trump. California’s Kamala Harris became the second black woman ever elected to the senate. In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar won a state House race to become the first-ever Somali-American legislator. In her hijab. In a place where Trump had been spewing his usual xenophobic bullshit. Maggie Hassan, a champion of the earth and reproductive rights, won in a close race in New Hampshire, where Birdy and I canvassed [shrugs modestly].

Hey, the people in England feel less Brexit shame now that we elected a xenophobic billionaire reality TV star for president! So there’s that bitter little silver lining.

We’re going to stretch financially—to continue our global efforts by donating to Partners in Health, like we always have, but also to redouble our efforts to support our most important domestic institutions. Planned Parenthood. Public Radio. The National Immigration Law Center. Jezebel posted A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant,Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support” here, and it’s useful and inspiring both.

We are trying to smile and make eye contact with strangers. We are trying to find compassion for the disenfranchised citizens who expressed their despair by voting for bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia. (Not super-successful so far, given that we’re kind of torn between Love Trumps Hate and burn everything the fuck down.)

I wrote and sent a thank-you note to Hillary Clinton, and it made me feel better. I really recommend it. Write one to her, or to Barack or Michelle Obama, to whomever is inspiring you now, whose work you believe in, whose leadership you’re grateful for. Encourage your kids to do the same. And while you’re at it, send five emails to friends and colleagues you’re thankful for. Tell people you love that you love them, and why. {Edited to add: my friend Katie's organization offers free gratitude themed ecards here, if you need a little more encouragement to write one. . . }

Finally, if you need to, remind your kids that the constitution is the revered foundation of American politics, and people don’t just get to enact all their craziest ideas into law. I have been comforted by hearing the comforting things that Michael and I have been saying to the children.

Listen to music, make art, cuddle your pets, and cook up a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese, because you deserve a little comfort.

Macaroni and Cheese
This is my favorite macaroni and cheese, and it’s adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe cookbook. I love it because it makes mac and cheese that’s like the Stouffer’s kind—just shy of too unctuous, too tangy, too cheesy. I don’t top it with buttered bread crumbs, like the recipe recommends, because then it’s not like the Stouffer’s one, which just has the browning cheese. Yum. (But you could.)

I have to note: my mother makes a fantastic and more refined macaroni and cheese that is Birdy’s favorite thing to eat in the entire world.

2 eggs
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
½ teaspoon Frank’s or a similar red-hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 teaspoon dry mustard dissolved in 1 teaspoon water (I sometimes skip this)
¾ pound (1 ½ boxes) elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound grated cheese: I use half sharp cheddar and half cubed/diced American or Velveeta. (The original recipe calls for 12 ounces, but only ½ pound of macaroni, so. . . )

1. Beat the eggs, ½ of the evaporated milk, the pepper sauce, the salt, and the mustard in a small bowl.

2. Cook the macaroni in salted water until it’s just tender. Drain it and return it to the pan over low heat. Add the butter and toss to melt.

3. Pour the egg mixture over the macaroni along with ¾ of the cheese and stir until the cheese is starting to melt. Gradually add the rest of the milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes.

4. Pour it into a greased broiler-safe dish and broil until the top is as browned as you like it. 

98 comments:

  1. Love and light to all.

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  2. Beautifully said. It's a strange world out there but we can help. And we can keep our homes as sanctuaries of love and light and comfort. And comfort food. Note: my Dad tops his baked Mac n Cheese with cheese-it crumbs. Takes it to a whole other level.

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    1. Yes! Sanctuaries of love and light and comfort. I am trying to be my most gentle self right now. But cheese-it crumbs, my god, that's brilliant!

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  3. Man,
    Never I have wanted more badly to be living next door from you and getting a hug right about now. You are a beacon and an inspiration. I've been saying, it's okay Rebecca. It just went from a movement to a revolution. It's just growing, and evolving.

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    1. That would be so nice. Sigh.

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  4. Thank you for your word as always, Catherine. They are much needed. Let's keep fighting the good fight.

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  5. I had a customer from Venuzuela call me yesterday to say everything was going to be okay. I had a customer from down the street call me to chant "Long live the Don!" and was shocked that I didn't join him. I had a customer call me from the Pacific Northwest who was devastated. It has been the most surreal couple of days.

    I am not to a gentle place in my mind towards my fellow citizens yet. I will fight to get there- but right now? Fuck those asshats.

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    1. Yaysssssss. May they reap what they sow. And other current uncharitable thoughts!!

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    2. This made me laugh! Thank you! xo

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  6. Thank you. I'm too sad to say anything else right now. So, thank you.

    -Loren

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  8. Ever since about midnight on Tuesday I've felt very despondent looking at that red, red map. I thought, am I so out of touch here in the Northeast where I've lived my entire life? But then a friend pointed out that its not us in the blue cities that are living in a bubble, rather that we're a paradigm (his word) of the entire world and humanity itself and its the others who are in that bubble. It helped me to think of all this globally, not nationally....

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  9. I have long been a silent admirer of your work but with the stunning results of this week, have vowed to stay silent no longer on things I care deeply about. Thank you, dear one, for sharing wise words, actionable steps, and comforting food inspiration. Sending lots of peace and gratitude your way.

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  10. After two days of holding my breath, I finally feel like I've exhaled after reading your column so thank you. Listening to Christmas music and baking a pecan pie bundt cake--surprising how soothing it is to listen to The Carpenters sing Xmas songs but there you go. And what a brilliant idea to write to HC and the Obamas--going to do that now.

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    1. I love that xmas album. xo

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  11. Kristac12:59 PM

    Thank you Catherine. I have been reading your blog since my college-bound senior was an infant. You have been an inspiration to me for a long time and this is what I needed to hear (and possibly eat!) right now.

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  12. My family and I were devastated as we watched the results roll in on our Canadian news show. I thought of you, whom I don't know, and the many other American friends I do know and couldn't imagine the despair that you must feel. I think the only thing we can do is to advocate for people who need to have the wagons circled around them and causes that need our support. (Trust me Canada isn't immune to the thinking that led to Tuesday night's result. After a decade of a right-wing prime minister we *finally* voted him out of office last October. One of the contenders for his job as the leader of the Conservatives has congratulated Trump on his victory and said we need to throw out the "elites"--she's a pediatric surgeon so does that mean her?--and have his message come to Canada.)

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    1. So we *shouldn't* idealize Canada? That's hard to think about. : ) [still idealizing Canada]

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  13. I'm not heartbroken, but it's sweet to see how many people I never met offering their condolences to me over the last few days. It's touching that so many people assume we're all exactly alike, like one big unified mass of people sharing one mind.

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    1. I changed "know" to "imagine" in that first sentence, and I think it's a good fix. But honestly? If you don't want to be here right now, you are more than free not to be.

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    2. Allyson2:05 AM

      It *is* touching that so many people assume we are all united against homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and sexual assault. It's sad to see that we're obviously not, though.

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  14. Thank you so much, Catherine, for your kind and smart words! Mac & cheese does seem perfect right now.

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  15. You are so right! The only things that are making me feel better right now are doing service to others, which is significant because I'm generally pretty selfish and lazy. I got to volunteer at school yesterday to teach 1st graders how to finger knit, and the little girls were kindof like, "meh" but two little boys got really into it! That was the perfect antidote to having spent the morning crying and reading the news. I signed up to volunteer with a local organization that coordinates meals where you can cook whatever you like, then serve it to the homeless. I gave money to RAINN. One other thing we did that made us feel better was make new yard signs: we used 2 poster boards to make signs about love and respect for all the groups that he-who-must-not-be-named has denigrated and taped them together at the top and sides, then popped them over one of our political yard signs. I tried to make myself feel better by going to the cupcake shop while running errands, but that just made me feel yucky. Mac and cheese is a better option. Thank you for your wisdom and generosity. I was kindof waiting for your post-Trump post.

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  16. Anonymous3:05 PM

    Catherine, it's been so long. I'm one of your "old" readers and have dropped out of touch. My heart is broken and I don't know when it will heal. As always, it is comforting just know you are still out there (still in the same city as my in-laws!). I too live in a little bubble of mostly like-minded people so I am also grateful for that and I've told my children how lucky they are. And that they are safe in this country because there are legal documents that protect our values and they can't be undone overnight. BUT, we are making moves to walk out the door anyway. I cannot spend the remaining decades of my life staring down this hate. I cannot live in a country where this many people accept this behavior, these positions. The veil has been lifted, truly, and I just had no idea. I will love all of my people with all of my heart, and will miss them dearly, but like all of our ancestors, this family will seek its fortunes somewhere else and build a new life. Thank goodness for our technological connectedness. I will still be able to read your comforting words no matter where we land. :) Love and light to you and yours,

    Hadley

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    1. Oh, Hadley, hi again, and Godspeed. Xxoo

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  17. Francine3:14 PM

    Hi Catherine. I love you for your kind and smart words, always, and again in front of these incomprehensible, sad and frightening election results that I see from not so far (Montreal). Your words have often helped me think and be more open minded, and they do again today. I am grateful to you for that. And for mac & cheese, of course ! :-)

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    1. Thank you, Francine. Xxoo

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  18. I love reading what you write. This may seem an insignificant way to show solidarity for the most vulnerable groups, but the Pantsuit Nation has taken a cue from post-Brexit England. They are trying to start a movement to wear a safety pin to indicate that you are a safe person. It basically says "You are safe to be yourself, no matter the color or your skin, your religion, your gender, etc." I wore a safety pin on my sweater today, and two (!!) strangers in my small community pointed it out with knowing smiles and thumbs up. It's like a secret society of good people.

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  19. dale in denver5:44 PM

    If anyone knows how to circle the wagons, it is your readers!

    I found my happy place between "Love Trumps Hate" and "burn everything the fuck down" to be making donations to Planned Parenthood - in the name of those I know who fight the hardest to have it defunded.

    Maybe not the high road - but not the low road either.

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    1. I love that. I'm going to do that too.

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  20. Thank you so much for this. You've expressed how so many of us feel, and given us action steps to make us feel better. How lucky we are to have you for this.
    My daughters were terrified that school would be empty on Wednesday because so many of their friends said they were leaving America if Trump won. She wanted to leave too. So I told her that Trump was a cannonball that hit the ship of America. If all the good people leave, there won't be anyone to fix the hole. We have to stay and fight. We have to be the hole pluggers.
    She rolled her eyes and told me to shut up with the metaphors, but, really, I'm gonna work to plug this big fucking hole. We were going to make shirts that read, "I am a hole plugger" but thought it may sound pervy. Thanks for being a hole plugger too.

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    1. Make me a hole plugger shirt. I promise I'll wear it. Xxoo

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    2. Ha! I want to sell shirts that say, "I didn't vote for the asshole" so I could donate the profits to all sorts of liberal, feminist, tree-hugger, social justice organizations.

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  21. Anonymous6:13 PM

    I know my opinion is biased, but I'm sharing anyway. I have read that we are responsible for not understanding the fear of the masses, and to some extent that's true. Apparently a lot of people would like to go back to a previous time, not realizing that 1) that previous time was horrible for some other people, or 2) the policies of the president-elect mimic the policies that triggered the great recession in the first place. Anyway, if the electoral college stays (unlikely to change during this presidency, I would guess), it would do us all well if progressives in blue states moved to swing states (NOT Canada - please don't abandon your country when it needs you the most).

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  22. Carey in Victoria6:16 PM

    I stand with you, Catherine and Birdy and everyone here. Happy to say I have another bright spot to share - despite going red, NC voted out Pat McCrory of HB2 fame.

    I vote in NC but have lived in Victoria, BC for the last 5 years. I can tell everyone that many things are true - it is beautiful, clean, safe, and socially progressive. But there are parts of being an American expat that you may not realize when you decide to move to Canada - the main ones being that immigration is HARD and the tax implications are forever and ridiculously complicated. I don't regret our family's decision to immigrate here (more than ever on Nov. 9!) but I'm not sure we would have done it if we had known then what we know now.

    Peace to you all. Victoria stands in solidarity with us, my Canadian friends have been telling me for days.

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    1. That is a bright spot, Carey. Moooove baaaaaack.

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  23. It's encouraging to read so many post-apocalypse-silver-lining narratives these past two days. Sending virtual hugs from north of the border... we truly are all in this together.

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  24. Thank you for this. This was helpful and inspiring. I'm done wallowing and ready to DO something, and your suggestions are a great starting point.

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  25. Catherine you are echoing my thoughts. Thank you for this. And if you haven't read it the post circulating on Facebook from the writers at Parks and Rec (and I don't actually watch TV but my kids are fans) is spot on and worth a read.

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  26. We are heartbroken here too. We are finding ways to help, and ways to take action. But Catherine! Your Ben and my Aidan will be voting in that midterm election. And all their awesome, kind, critical thinking friends. And if *that* doesn't give you a ray of hope, I don't know what will.

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    1. It does, beemama. It does! xo

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  27. Anonymous1:59 AM

    Another long-time reader here, commenting for the first time. I started reading "Bringing Up Ben" on BabyCenter when I was pregnant with my first son (now, impossibly, a 7th grader), and I have found that your words so often capture exactly how I'm feeling. This time, as well -- so, thank you so much for that. We are also fortunate to live in a like-minded bubble, but I have family and friends all over -- and I had feared this could happen. We made a list of all the environmental organizations we have supported and committed to up our support this year --- because those folks are going to need more resources to fight the good fight. And I love the safety pin idea -- that's brilliant. Going to find one now. Peace to you and your family.

    -Deb

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    1. Thank you for writing, Deb. xo

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  28. It's awful and offensive and unthinkable, and what helps me so far has been donating to worthy causes, peaceful demonstration, and connecting with my community. Thanks for being part of my community, Catherine. You're doing a service here, too.

    Hmm, I'm thinking soft, rich, melting mac and cheese would be perfect with crisp, tart apple slices...

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  29. Anonymous6:21 AM

    Thank you so much, Catherine! Your article helped.

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  30. Anonymous10:05 AM

    I am so angry but more so I am so deeply hurt by what has happened.

    Last I commented, I had just come from voting and was full of hope. I was "giddy" with excitement and I even kept the little golf pencil I voted with because it was a precious symbol of this precious vote. I have friends who have said that this feels like what it felt like after 9/11. This unimaginable thing happening to us. And the incredible amount of shock and grief that has followed. I am simply devastated and hurt by what my country--my country--did. I have been struggling on how to get my hope, my faith in human kind, back.

    Thank you for your suggestions. Maybe I'll write that letter to Hillary (where do I send it?), maybe I'll write a check to Planned Parenthood, or a note to an organization like those you mentioned to ask to join as a volunteer, or a note of support to an Islamic Center near us. And maybe I'll use the little golf pencil. To put it to a much more powerful use. Love to you. --Cathy K

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    1. Anonymous6:07 PM

      Made me tear up about using the golf pencil. Beautiful

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    2. Oh, Cathy K. I am sending you such a big hug. xo

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    3. Anonymous10:08 AM

      Thank you for the hug, Catherine. And thanks to this kind community for giving me a space to share by raw emotion. I'm sorry for my reference to 9/11. If I had someone who lost a loved one in front of me when I said it, I would have been ashamed. I could have expressed the feeling of shock at having the unimaginable happen another way. Thanks for letting me realize my blunder myself. Please forgive me. Love to you all, Cathy K

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  31. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Thank you. Yesterday, instead of looking at the beautiful and fearful 9th graders that I teach and crying, I spoke of how in the next election, they will be old enough to vote, and how they can be the change they wish to see. That we will learn and we will listen and we will work to make the world the best possible place for them and their families. And it made me feel a tiny bit better, because I feel like I have failed the kids so, so deeply.

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    1. Thank you for doing the work with our children. xo

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  32. Here in Canada, we feel your pain! My daughter was cleaning out her closet yesterday and came across a children's book that's all about all colors being part of the color wheel of earth and that we should remember we're all family. We joked that we "guess Donald Trump didn't get to read enough books like these when he was a child." Maybe not such a joke? It would be a fun and lovely gesture to dig through our closets and send him all those lovely books and lessons he should have learned in kindergarten!

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  33. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Sending love from Canada

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  34. Heart-crushed and grieving in Beacon, NY. Reading this really helped tonight. xoxo

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    1. oh, as gretta, I know. xo

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  35. What is hillary's address?

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    1. Betsy8:21 AM

      Hillary's official address is
      Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton
      120 West 45th Street
      Suite 2700
      New York, NY 10036

      There is also a contact link here: http://hillaryclintonoffice.com/

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  36. My favorite post of yours ever, thank you. I wrote to Hillary too!

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  37. Thanks much for all of this, Catherine. I tutor adults studying for the GED every Tuesday evening and was there on election night. Doing this always gives me perspective, grounding, and a sense of purpose I don't get anywhere else (and I'm a university professor doing cancer research and teaching public health students). It helped me the next day to remember one of the reasons I volunteer beyond what I get out of it...to fight the hate and ignorance.

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    1. Thank you for all the work you're doing, Lynette.

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  38. Anonymous3:11 PM

    Thank you Catherine. I'm still alternating between "burn everything the fuck down" and so much sadness. I wrote a check to Planned Parenthood and made food to share with neighbors who are struggling. Trying to find comfort for myself and share comfort with others. Your words and suggestions are helpful and much appreciated. From a long time reader, (Mommy Needs a Nap) who can never remember her profile password. xoxo

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  39. Thanks for this. As I sat on Tuesday night, watching my beautiful brown-skinned 17 year old sobbing in the arms of her gay friend who had come to watch election results with us, it just felt so, so personal. It has been a difficult week, but we have been engaging in both self-care and random acts of kindness, and that has helped. Today we went to a love/welcoming rally in our very conservative city in Colorado, and several hundred people turned out. When I arrived home, I found on my doorstep a gift from a conservative friend who voted differently than I. She does screen printing, and she made me both a sign to hang and a t shirt with a rainbow colored safety pin. She said she knew we were hurting and afraid, and she didn't want us to have to wonder whether or not she had our backs. Goodness is out there, and I am trying to take heart in that. (Also, I made nearly this same recipe of mac and cheese tonight. Sometimes we just have to eat our feelings, amirite? :D)

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    1. Wow. That is such a beautiful gesture. Love to you and yours, Beth. xo

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  40. You are really so wonderful. Thank you.

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  41. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Catherine, I am a long-time reader but was too shy to post a comment until now. Thank god you wrote this. I've been feeling so heartbroken and helpless by the election results, and yet everybody seems to be going about as if nothing has happened (probably as a way to cope). Am I the only one crying alone in the car about this and feeling waves of grief? I know so many others also feel the rage, pain and glimmers of hope (Pantsuit Nation is my group therapy) but your writing really made me cry. Please keep writing and making us laugh and feel. Thanks for all that you do. Julie in CA

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    1. Anonymous9:41 AM

      You are not alone. I've been crying in my car, too. Yesterday, I couldn't even make it to my car before I started crying. Tears rolling down my face as I walked through the streets in Boston. Got it back together for a meeting. Then afterwards, a friend hugged me and simply whispered "You are not alone" and the tears came again. So, what I'm saying is--you are not alone. --Cathy K

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    2. Thank you for posting, Julie, and for responding, Cathy. We are here.

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  42. I love you guys so much, showing up here the way you do, to support me, to support each other, to share your despair and hope, to help us take practical action. Thank you.

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    1. I can't help noticing that many of you seem to live in Canada, though. . . : )

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  43. Loved this post. Still heartbroken in New England. Now addicted to Pantsuit Nation's stories of despair and hope. Made your mac & cheese with GF pasta---entire family loved it. Stay strong everyone!

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  44. Still heartbroken in SoCal... Love your post, thank you so much!

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  45. Anonymous7:27 PM

    This brings tears. So heartening to be reminded that we are not powerless and have strength in our solidarity. Thank you Catherine.

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  46. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I wish I had found this sooner - the days after the election were disheartening and sad. I actually won an election in my home town - School Board Trustee - but it was overshadowed with despair at the national election. I withdrew for a while, but I wish I'd remembered to check in with you. You give great perspective; you always do. "torn between Love Trumps Hate and burn everything the fuck down." It's that, exactly. Thank you, Catherine.

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