The Before or the After

Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the hard may be; for without victory there is no survival. ~Winston Churchill

This should be a world where we recognize that we are all connected, where we act in solidarity in times of crisis. ~Jonathan Reckford

I was looking through the posts over the last few weeks, mentally cataloging what we’ve talked about lately.

I went back through April. Then March. Then February. And then Before.

And it became clear as I saw the tone and content change over time.

There is a certain shift that we’re undergoing. It’s the same shift I felt after 9/11, although that shift happened catastrophically. It was obvious, because it was so sudden. Abrupt. One beautiful early fall morning life as you knew it ended. By lunch you were in the After.

This time is different.

In fact, it’s so different I’m not sure if we’re still living in the Before, or if we’re already After. If you have figured that out, shoot me a message and let me know. I’m fairly convinced we’re all just making it up as we go along.

(As a side note, that’s what I’ve learned “adulting” is. Being an adult just means you can hide how much you’re flailing about so it’s not as noticiable. After a few decades you just have a better poker face.)

Living through history is terrifying and fascinating and confusing, all at once in equal measures. Because we’re so unsure of where we are right now (Before? Or maybe After the Beginning but Before the After?) it’s hard to manage expectations. When there’s no anchor for your experience, everything feels so … shaky.

I suppose it’s human nature to want to look for someone to give us direction in times like these, particularly when the commander in chief is recommending a bleach cocktail.

So I read all the articles that offer some glimmer of hope in the headline – some “here’s what you can do now” advice, because I’d love to share some magic secret with you that will make your day brighter. Inevitably, I’m disappointed to find that they’re offering the same advice. Learn a language. Call a friend. Work out. Bake a cake. (Or, often, the exact opposite – let yourself relax, don’t feel pressured to reach out to anyone, recognize your need for solitude, quiet your mind…).

In other words, they don’t know either.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I think it’s important for us to acknowledge our lack of knowledge, because – at least to me – there’s comfort in that level of honesty. We have no idea what the outcome of this will be. We have no idea what tomorrow will look like – let alone next month.

We don’t know if we’re still living in Before. We don’t know if we’re After. What we do know is that we have one another. We at least know and can count on that. We know that we’re still looking out for our families, our friends, our neighbors. We know that there are still people who are absolutely devoted to making sure our democracy withstands this crisis, and that we remove the crisis that resides in the White House.

We know that there are people who are cataloging what was wrong with Before so maybe – just maybe – we can make what comes After better.

We know that we’re still sanding side-by-side, just as we have been for years. Pushing, pulling, advocating, resisting.

We’re all still here, even if it’s harder to see us. Our faces are just covered up by our homemade masks.

That’s enough certainty for me right now. I wish I could have more. But I rest more soundly just knowing you’re by my side. Thanks for keeping on.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of May 5, 2020

Tuesday: Teacher Appreciation Week

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! Every day teachers approach the challenge of caring for and nurturing our future generations with open hearts and minds. Their willingness to wear the hats of social workers, role models, therapists, friends, and instructors for our children is an inspiration to all. Too often they go unrecognized. It’s time we show our thanks. 

This week I challenge you to email a teacher from your past or a teacher in your life right now. Take this opportunity to write a meaningful thank you note. Perhaps include why you are grateful for them, your favorite memory with them, or how they impacted your life. Reaching out, especially under current circumstances, lets teachers know we see their work and appreciate their sacrifice. 

Next, we need to fight for teacher pay. This is a great article that summarizes why increasing teacher pay helps our students, our society, and our teachers. Unfortunately, state governments are facing difficult decisions in upcoming budget deals with the ongoing economic crisis.  Call your governor and ask that they support a budget that maintains teacher pay for the 2020-21 school year.

Example script:

Hi, my name is ___ and I’m calling about the state’s budgetary cuts in light of the pandemic. I understand that the current economic crisis is forcing our state to make difficult monetary decisions. However, please tell Governor ___ that teachers’ salaries should not be considered flexible in budgetary discussions. Teachers continue to make scarifies as education transitions to online platforms and we need to recognize their selfless work for our community. Thank you. 

Wednesday: Stop court packing

Senator Mitch McConnell plans to reconvene the Senate this week to begin the confirmation process for pending judicial nominations (more on his decision here). He is especially interested in filling the controversial vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (more on that here).

First off, calling Senators and their staff back to D.C. forces many to travel and disregard stay-at-home and social distancing orders across the country, putting their health at risk. Second, this should not be the focus of our elected officials during a global pandemic. Allowing Republicans to use this time to pack courts disregards the massive public health, economic, and humanitarian crisis at hand.

Third, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Walker, is highly unqualified for the job. Before his appointment to the district court six months ago, the American Bar Association rated Judge Walker as unqualified. Judge Walker is another judge in the mold of Justice Kavanaugh, his former boss.

His close friendship with Senator McConnell will make this a particularly difficult confirmation for Democrats to defeat. So please pick up the phone and call your Senators and ask them to vote against McConnell’s plan to use this time to fill court vacancies.  

Example script:

Hi, this is ____. I’m a constituent at ____. I am calling to ask Senator ___ to vote against Judge Walker’s confirmation. He’s completely unqualified for this position, and it’s making a mockery of the Circuit Courts. I would also like Senator ___ to vote against any other judicial nominees Senator McConnell brings forward during this time of crisis. He’s endangering Senators and their staff so he can fill as many judicial seats as he can – putting his agenda before the lives of fellow Americans. It’s just shameful.

Thursday: Go local on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. (I know, right? I had to double check.) What better way to celebrate mothers than with something from a local artisan, florist, or shop? Small businesses are getting crushed by this pandemic. So, if you are able, support a local business this weekend with an order for a mom in your life. And if you love flowers, the floral industry has been particularly impacted by the pandemic with no events or gatherings calling in orders. Check out this New York Times piece for some floral inspiration. 

Friday: Another Wisconsin Special Election 

This weekend phonebank with SwingLeft to remind voters in Wisconsin to request a mail ballot for the March 12th special election. Democrat Tricia Zunker is running against Republican Tom Tiffany for the U.S. House seat in Wisconsin’s 7th district. She’d be Wisconsin’s first Native American member of Congress. Learn more about here campaign here. You can sign up to support Zunker and this vote-by-mail campaign here. The phone bank system is easy to learn and you can make calls anytime between 10am and 9pm. 


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s