The Need to Tend

Gardens are not made by singing “Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade. ~Rudyard Kipling 

The other night, my husband and I watched a little hummingbird ride out a summer storm, perched on the feeder under our awning.

I had opened the back door to rescue a seedling from the too-big raindrops I saw splashing the deck … only to come face-to-face (or face-to-beak) with her, her wee feet clutching the feeder as it swayed and circled in the wind.

Yes, it was as adorable as you’d imagine it to be.

So we stood there, stone-still so as not to disturb her, and looked out on the garden.

“The backyard looks like a jungle,” my husband said.

It wasn’t judgment. It’s just the fact of the matter.

“Last year you could see the individual plants. Now, it’s all just green.”

There are good and bad things about that. I rather like it. It’s lush, gorgeous, green, full.

But that’s in part because there are certain “thug” plants that have big enough hips they will push out the more delicate ones if left to their own devices. This year the thugs are thuggier. Some of the delicate plants are missing altogether. And of course there’s a healthy population of weeds.

That’s all because last year (right around this time, actually) I saw there was a house for rent located five minutes from a Lake Michigan beach. My husband’s new job meant that finally he, too, worked from home. My son is still homeschooled. We live in Missouri, where summers are as hot and sticky as Florida. We escape north as much as we can in the summer months.

Could we? we wondered. Should we? we wondered.

Why the heck not, was our answer.

And so we spent the summer – the whole, glorious summer – at a house cradled in the Michigan woods, a mere five minutes from what became “our” beach.

That on its own is a story, and a good one about taking opportunities and not looking back. I’ll tell it in time.

But that summer of fun and beach and memory is the reason my backyard looks like it does. Just one summer of not being here, weeding, puttering, tending, pushing back, pulling up, means that the whole yard looks completely different.

That’s what happens when you don’t tend to things.

Those small things that you do in a garden matter – pulling that random weed on the way to the garbage, or while you’re on a conference call, or taking five minutes between dinner and bedtime to cut back the Jerusalem Artichoke (the thuggiest garden thug which grows a foot a day, I swear).

Those small acts of tending compound to make a bigger difference than you’d think.

On Sunday I was happy to spend part of the day in the garden.

There’s … a lot to do. But I love trimming and pruning and weeding and futzing, so it was a joy.

And at the end of the time I could spend out there, I surveyed what I had accomplished.

And you know what? I made a huge dent, just in that short time. I opened spaces up to light and air, and the garden will be healthier and grow stronger because of it.

But there’s still a lot to do. One day of massive work does not replace a season of tending.

Regular tending matters. And we, as Democrats, don’t do enough of it.

We expect to get the same results spending gobs of money in one election as we would if we had spent years of time, energy, and love in those same areas. We expect to be able to swoop into a place where we’ve been absent for decades, announce ourselves, and be welcomed like soldiers liberating France.

It just … doesn’t work that way.

In red states and red counties all over the country, Democrats decided over a decade ago to pull up stakes and head for the ‘burbs. In a lot of places, that’s still the strategy – a strategy based on a broken assumption about “efficiency” that distills a person’s value to the cost of a vote.

A strategy based on dollars and cents and fundraising numbers doesn’t value expending resources year in and year out. But expending resources year in and year out – tending – is what we need. It’s the right thing to do. And ultimately it is more efficient.

This was all on my mind as I was out yesterday, moving my seedlings around in the sunshine and listening to the hummingbird squeak on the feeder.

I’m proud to be part of a community that values tending.

I’m grateful you’re part of it, too.

On that note…

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of May 16, 2023

Update! Your Voice Matters!

Last week two things happened that show that YOUR VOICE MATTERS. First, the CDC issued new guidance for indoor spaces that recommended at least 5 air changes per hour. It’s not specific to health care spaces (there’s still advocacy going on for that specific change) but it shows the CDC is listening. If you responded to the call to write a letter to the CDC from a few weeks back, thank you thank you!

Second, the DEA extended the current policy that allows telehealth prescribers to prescribe suboxone (used for those with opioid substance abuse disorder). Under the proposed rule, an in-person exam would have been required within 30 days, which for many is unreasonable and burdensome.

I called on you to write a comment – and I know many of you did! And 38,000 others did, too.

Because of that, the DEA has extended the current rule for six months as it considers those comments. And, from press reports, it looks like they are really being thoughtful about it.

Give yourself a pat on the back. And a hug from yours truly.

Wednesday: Launch Blue Tennessee

Every State Blue (of which I am the Executive Director) has launched Blue Missouri, Blue Ohio, and Blue Texas – each of which creates communities of supporters who chip in to fund Democratic nominees for state legislature. 100% of the funds that monthly members donate go to the nominees, using a “bottom up bathtub” method that funds those nominees who have the least resources first. (Blue Texas is the exception – 50% goes to the nominees, 50% goes to the permanent voter protection programs supported by Power the Vote in Texas).

It’s very unique, and we have proven data-backed benefits.

Now we’ve been approached by a group of fantastic folks in Tennessee that want to launch a Blue Tennessee! Very exciting stuff – but to get the project off the ground we have to raise the launch funding.

Tomorrow night there will be a great zoom call with Jessica Piper, David Pepper, and from Tennessee to talk about what a project like this could do for Tennessee.

But you don’t have to attend to pledge your support (and you don’t have to pledge to attend the zoom).

We are accepting pledges, not donations – your card won’t be charged unless and until the launch goal of $64k is reached. This is a totally do-able amount, folks!

Pledge here:

Sign up for the Zoom here: (I’ll see you there!):

Wednesday: Debt Ceiling Advocacy

I just can’t even believe we have to advocate to save the economy. But here we are. From Indivisible:

Join Indivisible Action for a phonebank into Unrepresentative districts this Wednesday, May 17 at 1pm ET/10 am PT. Kevin McCarthy has allowed MAGA-Republicans like Matt Gaetz to take over the Republican party and control vital pieces of their platform and agenda. Now, we are facing the threat of defaulting on our debts for the first time in American history due to those same extremists holding our economy hostage. And the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is cheering them on, actually encouraging a devastating collapse.

The Unrepresentatives are the 18 Republican Members of Congress who represent districts that Biden won in 2020. We believe these Unrepresentatives are uniquely vulnerable to persuasion from their constituents because they know that their re-election campaigns will sit on a razor’s edge of possibility. The simple wisdom is: If you want to win an election, don’t piss off your electorate. Voters will remember. 

This is where you come in! Time is tight, and we need everyone to take action in order to prevent a default that would hurt our seniors, our schools, our veterans, and our economy.

Indivisible Action will be calling into Unrepresentative districts to talk to voters about how MAGA Republicans are trying to slash over 100,000 K-12 teachers’ jobs and cut healthcare for seniors and disabled children. At the end, we’ll connect them directly through to their Reps and encourage them to speak up to the people elected to represent them. We need to make sure that the voters in those districts are activated and loud, so their representatives know exactly what is going to happen if they choose to allow a default — they will be voted out. 

More Debt Ceiling Advocacy

Friend, honestly, the Debt Ceiling fight is the biggest thing I’m focused on right now because the GOP is playing chicken with our economy. This is a big-big-big deal.

If you can call into the Unrepresentatives districts (above), that’s amazing. But don’t forget your own reps – Republican or Democrat. There are also events popping up around the country (find one here:

Indivisible has a great toolkit, including a messaging guide and an explainer.

If nothing else, pick up the phone this week and call your Representative. Let them know you’re paying attention, that you’re disgusted that Republicans are holding the economy hostage and that you want to ensure Dems are standing firm (if you have a Democratic rep) or that your Republican MOC understands that you’re placing the blame for any repercussions from the debt ceiling fight squarely on his/her shoulders.


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 email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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

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