IMG_2373I never expected to love my quiet moments of solitude at the dog park quite so much.

I never knew that dogs are kind of particular about which other dogs they befriend and run with or wrestle. Sure they’ll sniff any dog’s rear ends, shamelessly, but they tend to wait until a dog who’s at least a little bit special comes along until they put their whole hearts into the chasing or the grappling or whatever interaction they deem appropriate.

I never understood how the varieties of dogs are endless, like humans, and how dogs come in so many shapes and sizes and colors. At least at our dog park, perhaps because it’s in South Arlington, the dogs are quite diverse.

I never realized how many tiny feathers were inside a pillow that a dog could chew to shreds. (I will be finding little feathers in my office for years to come.)

I never anticipated how much like a sibling a dog could be to my children, and exactly how they would each respond to her.

I never knew how pleased I would be when my dog pooped or peed. I had no idea how similar the urine-soaked laundry would be between potty-training children and a house-breaking dog.

I never thought about how much pet ownership is like parenthood in terms of admission to this completely new world where you look around and everyone else seems to know what they’re doing and you’re just making it up as you go along. It’s a club I never especially cared that I didn’t belong to, but now I do. It’s like stepping into the wardrobe and through to Narnia–it’s been here all along but I didn’t quite see it.

I never imagined we would find a dog as sweet and gentle and affectionate as Daisy, who is so perfect for our family. She doesn’t jump on us, but she always wants to be pet or to snuggle. She sometimes thinks she’s a cat. She’s a little anxious, but then so are we. She’s a lot of work (but so are we sometimes) and definitely worth it.

 

15704070-15704070It turns out I do ask a lot of questions, or at least I ask five questions to a lot of people, in my new podcast, aptly named Five Questions.

I ask questions such as:

  • If you could switch places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
  • If you could witness a moment in history, what would it be?
  • What do you believe in?
  • What is your favorite smell and why?
  • If you had a museum, what would you put in it?

I invite you to listen to it here: http://betsyrosso.podbean.com. I’ve published five episodes so far, and more are in the works. Look for a new one every Sunday.

If you would like to be the next person to answer my five questions, let me know! Interview spots are in demand, but I will always make room for you.

IMG_2241Perhaps naively, I did not anticipate how much like having a new baby adopting a dog would be. Having had two babies myself, I can say with assurance that there are many differences between new humans and new animals entering one’s life, but a surprising number of common themes.

  1. Your standards (or at least my standards) for cleanliness, hygiene, and what I’m willing to look like in public may shift. Or plunge into embarrassing depths. I remember when Zoe was born she would spit up a lot and at some point I would say to myself, “well, there’s not a LOT of spit-up on my shirt…I can go out like this.” Eventually you have the presence of mind to clean yourself up a little more, but some permanent damage is done in terms of what you will tolerate.

    Suddenly I have become a person with dog hair on her clothing. I imagine people might look at me and think, “Did you not realize you have dog hair all over your shirt?” The answer would be yes, but I had several more pressing things to do than locate the lint roller and remove it. And if you see someone out walking in the early morning who looks like a thinner Michael Moore, that would be me, with a baseball cap and a hoodie, and possibly pajama pants, taking Daisy out for a constitutional.

  2. Your eyes are opened to the extraordinarily enormous and somewhat unnecessary variety of products you can buy. A few days after we brought Zoe home from the hospital, Randy and I went to Babies ‘R’ Us to pick up a few supplies we realized we needed. When we walked in I’m sure our bloodshot and sleepless eyes widened in shock at the absurd number of choices of every baby product you could ever need, and many that you really don’t need at all but you might just buy anyway in a moment of confusion.

    I found PetSmart to be the same experience. There are so many brands of food and within each brand so many flavors and then different kinds for different ages of dogs, and different breeds of dogs, and dogs with different kinds of medical conditions. There are dry foods and wet foods and organic foods, and single serve pouches in case you’re packing a lunch or snack for your dog when she goes off to school. There are so many treats and snacks and chew toys. Some of the chew toys say “for light to moderate chewing” or “for heaving chewing.” How do you anticipate precisely how much your dog will want to chew on a given toy? A main difference between baby products and pet products is that many of the products designed for dogs seem to be bacon flavored. I’ve rarely seen a bacon-flavored pacifier.

  3. You have entirely different feelings about your dog than about anyone else’s dog, no matter how much you like another dog. Your baby and your dog are instantly special and important in a way you never understood before they were part of your family. I am not saying I am at the point now that I love Daisy like I love my children, but a strong connection forms quickly. One moment this dog is one of dozens of dogs in a sea of rescue animals, and a week later you’re looking soulfully into the dog’s eyes trying to understand what she’s thinking.
  4. You’re somewhat confused at first. Just like a baby’s behavior changes from day to day and week to week, so does that of a rescue dog, we have learned. According to the vet and our trainer, Daisy may not reveal her true personality for a few weeks or longer. She hasn’t barked once. Will she ever bark or remain the strong, silent type? Who knows? At both my kids’ early pediatrician visits and Daisy’s first visit to the vet, I arrived with a notebook in which I had written a long list of questions about Daisy and what to expect and how to best take care of her. It’s good that our pediatrician and our vet are patient people.

    For the first five or six days Daisy was here, she didn’t really touch anything that didn’t belong to her, except for unexpectedly eating the head off a sunflower (I was in the midst of texting my cousin about Daisy and thankfully she assured me with a quick ASPCA web search that sunflowers are not toxic to dogs. Then one night she quickly and enthusiastically tackled the chew toy she had previously ignored, completely shredding the tennis balls that were threaded onto the braided rope. She started gnawing on the rope too. And then she looked around and realized she was surrounded by a wonderland of chewable things. We had to move fast. This morning when we were trying to get out the door to go to church we could only locate one of Zeke’s sneakers. It turned out that Daisy had the other one and had been nibbling on it. Zeke was exonerated and we realized we would have to have a new plan for shoe containment.

    So far she hasn’t jumped on anyone at all. The first couple nights she was here she tried to jump up onto the table during dinner to see what she could eat, but we dissuaded her and she hasn’t done it since. She still certainly lurks around the table and pokes her head into our laps, but no jumping.

    Until tonight, when she was lying on the couch and she noticed that Zeke had left his seat, leaving his plate of chicken pot pie unguarded. Swiftly and boldly, she leaped over the back of the couch. Luckily Randy’s lightning quick reflexes kept Daisy from completing her mission and Zeke’s plate remained safe. But we were surprised to see just what Daisy was willing and able to do.

  5. You experience these small moments of bliss. Any parent or pet owner would be lying if she said all of this wasn’t a whole lot of work. And expensive. And messy. But every once in a while you have a moment. With your baby it’s that feeling of contentment after they finish nursing and fall asleep on your breast, or when they’re nestled under your chin, or when they smile or laugh for the first time and then you can’t get enough of that joy.

    With your dog it’s on a walk in the woods, watching your dog just stand absolutely still, listening to the bluejays and sniffing the air, thoughtfully observing her new world. Or when she snuggles up to you on the couch, resting her head and one paw on your thigh, laying claim. Or when you see that elusive tail wag that says she’s having her own little rush of happiness that hopefully means she’s starting to feel at home.

LUP07231

 

 

 

 

 

ONE

M: “You need to take your medicine so your ear infection doesn’t come back.”

Z: “No, I’m scared of this medicine. It’s disgusting!”

M: “Well you need to take it anyway, to stay healthy.”

Z: “I can’t take it, it’s disgusting.”

M: “You can chase it with any kind of juice you want.”

Z: “No, it’s too disgusting.” [curls into ball and hides face in the couch]

[repeat 10-20 times]

M: “You can have an Oreo afterward.”

Z: “OK.” [downs medicine in one gulp]

 

TWO

Z: “What’s for dinner in the crockpot?”

M: “Chicken with potatoes and carrots and green beans.”

Z: “That sounds disgusting.”

M: “Zeke, that’s really rude. The dinner I made is not disgusting. Those are all ingredients you like. You’ll like it. The dinner I made does not taste like your medicine.”

Z: “Oh. OK. Sorry!” [smiling sweetly]

 

THREE

Z: [sees dinner on plate] “I don’t like this food, I’ve tried it before and I don’t like it.”

Zoe: “Zeke, it’s delicious! Try it! It’s tofu and spinach and peanut butter! You like all those things! Try it!”

Z: [leaves table to play with fire station] “I’ve tried it before and I don’t like it.”

M: “You know when I was little I didn’t like certain things, like tomatoes, and chicken salad, and then I tried them a few more times and realized I loved them!”

Z: [plays with fire station]

Zoe: “Zeke, it’s delicious! Try it! It’s tofu and spinach and peanut butter! You like all those things! Try it! Just try a bite! Try it! Come on! Try it! If you don’t eat it you won’t get dessert!”

Z: [tries one bite, looks as if he’s going to throw up, makes horrible noise.]

M: “Are you ok? Are you going to throw up? Can you swallow?”

Z: [almost in tears] “Yes I can swallow it. But I don’t like it!”

M: “OK, at least you tried it. Thank you for trying it. Do you want some soup?”

Z: “Yes.”

M: “Minestrone or lentil?”

Z: “Minestrone, please!” [eats entire can of minestrone soup]

 

FOUR

Z: “What’s for dinner in the crockpot?”

M: “Beef with broccoli and carrots and peanuts. Served with rice.”

Z: “YAY!

Z: [sees dinner on plate] “This is the best food EVER!”

Z: [eats one bite of beef, one spoonful of rice, one peanut, all broccoli and carrots] “Can I have more carrots?”

D: “Eat the other food on your plate, then you can have more carrots.”

Z: “But I don’t like the other food.”

D: “Just eat a little more of the other food.”

Z: [eats one more bite of other food] “Can I have more carrots?” [eats carrots, repeats 10 times]

D: “I’m cutting you off before you turn the color of a carrot.”

 

FIVE

Scene: our bed, Saturday, 9am.

Z: [in the bed between us] “Get up! It’s morning time! Get up! Wake up! Get out of bed!”

M: [grunts]

Z: “Get up! It’s morning time! Get up! Wake up! Get out of bed! Get down and walk on the floor!” [repeats 10-20 times]

M: “I’m going to get up in a few minutes. I’m not ready to get up yet.” [wonders why Zeke always asks her to get up instead of Daddy]

Z: [pokes M in the nose]

M: “Zeke, please don’t poke my nose. I’ve told you I don’t like it when you put your fingers in my face.”

Z: [pokes M in the nose again] “But Mommy I actually like doing that.”

 

 

snow daffodil large.jpg.560x0_q80_crop-smart

 

 

 

 

 

Like the daffodils and cherry blossoms this winter

sometimes we bloom unexpectedly

And it’s lovely

And then it snows

and buries us

knocks us flat on the ground

forces our fragile petals off the branch

Sometimes we open ourselves up to the world

and we are warmly welcomed

Other times we are frozen out

We risk showing ourselves

Hoping someone will shine on us

But sometimes

we emerge

to a dark and unforgiving world

Even so

like the undaunted daffodil

we push ourselves up through the earth

again and again


Method Daily Shower Cleaner, ylang ylang scent, smells just like my Nana’s Aqua Net hairspray. This provides the best ever incentive for me to clean my bathroom. When I spray this stuff on the sink or floor or toilet (why confine it to the shower?) I am transported back to my Nana’s bathroom in the house on Chestnut Street in High Point where I watched her get ready for church.

At the time I did not think her hairspray smelled particularly good, or particularly bad. I just ducked out of the way to avoid being caught in the aerosol draft. She was not using the hairspray to create any kind of fancy ‘do, but rather to cement in place the curls she had created the night before with those little pink foam rollers and bobby pins in a ritual that I did not quite understand but enjoyed observing.

I did not even know what ylang ylang was until I happened to buy this shower spray, and I’m positive my Nana didn’t know her hair spray was scented as such. Ylang ylang is apparently prized for its aphrodisiac properties, among other virtues. An obvious choice for a bathroom cleaning product, right?

For Hanukkah last year Zeke received a Paw Patrol washcloth that was mysteriously scrunched into a tiny block that you drop in water and watch expand. It was packaged with a little bar of handmade green soap that smells just like my Papa. I have no idea what the scent is. The soap wasn’t labeled and it was made by a small business whose name I don’t remember. But I love washing my hands with it. I also have a little bottle of English Leather cologne that belonged to my Papa. When I need a fix I uncap the wooden stopper and put a few drops on my fingertips. 

Coming across these smells unexpectedly is like when Harry Potter sees his long-dead parents in the mirror of erised. They’re right there, smiling, waving, with their hands on his shoulders, but no more alive than they have been for a decade. But it feels like they are right there. Tantalizingly, reassuringly present, however fleeting. For me it’s an olfactory comfort fix.

Now excuse me while I go scrub the sink and wash my hands. 

MAKING 
Every time you press record,

Lay yourself bare

Wide-eyed heart exposed

Without saying a word

Or singing a note

Send your soul into the world in a small plastic box

That’s likely to crack 
LISTENING 
Sliding the tape into the car stereo

Driving to your destination along a new musical route

Carefully mapped out for you

The soundtrack defining a moment

Serendipity when song matches sky
Read into each lyric what you want to hear 

Or wonder what it all means 

Or if it even means anything at all
Unspooling of a feeling, of a story, 

Of a shared past or hopeful future
The surprise of an old favorite 

Curiosity of a fresh find 

Comfort of the perfect tune

Ease of the right flow

Joy of a good beat

Energy of a track you rewind and repeat 

and turn up and up and up

marchsigns1

Photos by my cousin Lauren. Thanks, Lauren!

I have never seen so many pictures of and words for and references to vaginas, vulvas, ovaries, and uteruses in my entire life.

At the Women’s March in Washington, DC yesterday, of the half-million plus people gathered, thousands of them were holding up signs protesting Donald Trump’s vulgar description of his proclivity for sexual assault, and advocating for women’s reproductive rights.

It’s a good thing we talked to our nine-year-old daughter the night before about why everyone was wearing those pink knit hats. I’ve never been a fan of the word pussy, but I’ve become pretty comfortable saying it lately as feminists have reclaimed the word in recent months with images of angry cats saying “PUSSY GRABS BACK.” So we explained to Zoe what Trump had said and done. We told her no one has a right to touch her or any other girl or woman in a way they don’t want to be touched. We told her that, sadly, that doesn’t stop some men from doing it anyway. We explained that’s one reason we were marching.

I decided we needed to go step by step about everything the Women’s March represented, so I read Zoe the unity principles of the movement. If you discuss reproductive rights, you have to explain what birth control is. When kids have pretty much been taught that sex is for making babies, you have to explain that people also have sex for fun, and sometimes even when they’re not married, and sometimes when they’re teenagers. By this point she was kind of burying her face in a pillow but still listening. Every once in a while I would ask if she had any questions and she would shake her head. I would also ask if she was ok learning all this and she would nod.

We talked about disability rights and how some of her friends wouldn’t have been able to attend public school or easily go to public places before the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were passed. We talked about our friends who live in this country but who the government hasn’t given legal status to even though they work hard and contribute to the economy and pay taxes and are good people. We talked about our friends who are gay and married and how that wasn’t allowed until very recently. Zoe was a little kid when she watched one of our best friends marry her wife, so in her mind marriage has always been between any two people who love each other. We talked about how some people–including parents of her classmates–can’t get good-paying jobs so they have to work multiple jobs and they can’t leave their jobs to come to school whenever they want or they’d be fired.

It was a lot to process.

But then Saturday night when we were all home from the march, I asked her if she saw or heard anything that was confusing or she didn’t understand, and she said no. She said, “if we hadn’t had that talk I wouldn’t have understood most of it, but I did. I’m glad you told me that stuff.”

marchsigns2

Photos by my cousin Lauren. Thanks, Lauren!

What we heard:

TELL ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

***

Men: HER BODY, HER CHOICE!

Women: MY BODY, MY CHOICE!

***

WE WANT A LEADER, NOT A CREEPY TWEETER! WE WANT A LEADER, NOT A CREEPY TWEETER!

***

WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS! WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!

***

NO HATE! NO KKK! NO FASCIST USA!

***

WE ARE THE POPULAR VOTE! WE ARE THE POPULAR VOTE!

***

NO HATE! NO FEAR! IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE!

***

HEY HO! DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO!

***

YOU CAN’T BUILD A WALL! YOUR HANDS ARE TOO SMALL!

People led chants from the crowd, from trees, from the top of traffic poles.

You’ve probably seen pictures by now and heard that there were way way way more people there than were expected, so the plans for where the rally and march were supposed to take place quickly went out the window. So for the first several hours we were there, it was a little disorganized and chaotic. But it was the friendliest, most polite chaos I’ve ever experienced. Even during the hour we spent waiting to get on the metro, people were so pleasant. When the Metro employee took the microphone to update us on the wait situation, everyone got quiet. I mean silent. I have never heard people be so respectful to a Metro employee. After he made his announcement everyone said thank you. Seriously. One female Metro employee was wearing a pink pussy hat which she told us a marcher had given her earlier. She was pumping her fist in the air and people were high fiving her and cheering for her.

And everywhere we went downtown, everyone was nice. People shared snacks. People said, “excuse me,” when they tried to get by. We weren’t anywhere near the stage and we couldn’t hear or see anything official that was going on. But we were definitely in the midst of thousands of people who were excited to be there–people wearing pink hats and fabulous shirts and suffragette sashes and all manner of activist accessories. We just enjoyed reading the signs for a while.

After a couple hours my sister and my daughter decided to head home. The rest of our group attempted to make our way closer to Independence Avenue in hopes of joining the march as it went by. We ended up trapped in a throng of people who had the same idea, but we were all stopped before we made it to the street. We were standing extremely close to each other. For over an hour. Finally we got word from a march volunteer perched on something high that the reason we couldn’t move is that the street was completely packed with people. And in fact, all the streets were completely packed with people. We didn’t learn until we got home that the entire route that the march was supposed to take was totally full of people, so there was nowhere to march. But people stayed calm. They passed out chocolate. A guy next to us laughed at my husband’s joke and told him he got an A+. Someone told me she liked me Unitarian Universalist shirt and had gone to UU summer camp in the midwest. Anytime someone felt ill in the crowd, everyone shouted “medical” and people moved out of the way to let the person get to the street where there was a police officer on hand to help. When we heard cheering from the general direction of the stage, we cheered. We read each other the signs we spotted in the distance.

marchsigns3

Photos by my cousin Lauren. Thanks Lau

Eventually the woman on the perch instructed us to turn around and head to the mall, so we did. Soon we found ourselves enveloped by the march, which was exciting. I don’t even know if we were on the planned route or if there were multiple routes at that point. In every direction there were marchers as far as we could see. It was incredible. Not only were we in the largest group of people we’d ever experienced, but with all these people who shared our core values. If this is a bubble, it was a freaking enormous bubble that I was happy to live in.

As we approached the Washington Monument, a woman asked if she could take a picture

oursign

Our sign: the slogan was Randy’s idea, inspired by the book Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood.

of our sign with the monument in the background. There was more chanting, more singing (mostly “This Land Is Your Land”) and a drum line somewhere nearby helping us keep the beat. There was a topless woman astride the shoulders of a topless man. Her nipples had black tape across them and she and her partner were shouting “FREE THE NIPPLE” and holding a sign saying “DESEXUALIZE WOMEN’S BODIES.”

When we first got there, Randy asked how many people I thought we would see who we knew. I guessed 50. He said five. He ended up being closer, as we actually only spotted two of his co-workers and the reading teacher from Zoe’s school who I sometimes substitute for. In my head I’d been thinking about the Arlington County Fair, where we always see lots of people we know, because there are only a few hundred people there and we know a lot of people in Arlington. But when you’re in the midst of more than half a million people, it’s statistically unlikely you will unexpectedly wind up marching next to your friends. Thanks to Facebook, I realized later that there had actually been hundreds of our friends and co-workers there. People from our preschool (including the director); our current UU church, previous UU church, and previous Presbyterian church; Zoe’s school; my elementary, middle, and high schools and William and Mary; work; martial arts; my soccer team; and basically any other group I can think of that I was every a part of. I feel like virtually everyone I know was there, although I didn’t see them. I saw the photos and there were those same signs behind them! I also had friends who marched in cities around the country and around the world. The word solidarity has never meant so much to me before.

When we finally decided to head home to see our kids, many marchers were headed to the White House to deliver their message more directly to Trump. I understand that many of them left their signs on the White House lawn as calling cards. It took us a long time to get home, but as we walked through the city people were still chanting, smiling, singing, wearing their pink hats. Everyone was exhausted but inspired.

Rev. Aaron’s sermon today at church reminded us that yesterday was just day 1. It wasn’t the end of the world, but the beginning of our revolution (my word, not his). He talked about how we need to treat Trump’s absurdity like the weather, just be prepared and dress accordingly, but don’t let it stand in the way of doing what we need to do. We can just say, “Oh it’s tweeting outside” and move along.

I have felt better the past two days than I had in a long while, thanks to the friends and family who came over to our house to celebrate kindness so we could forget about the atrocity happening across the river for a few hours, and because we spent the day with more than half a million like-minded strangers yesterday who are willing to fight for what they believe in. Cynics are asking, “but what happens now?” And I know what will happen now. We keep raising our voices.

TELL ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

16142375_10155563196822908_2813492193303340328_n

Photo from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Facebook page

 

 

betsy-art

Some of my art

I cannot shake this feeling that what’s happening tomorrow is apocalyptic.

Throughout my 42 years many world events have caused me to worry that the world as I knew and loved it would somehow end, but all those scenarios began with bad guys from some other part of the world coming in and taking over, attacking us, poisoning our air or water, and taking away our freedoms.

I never imagined that an orange-haired guy from Queens and his idiotic henchmen would be the culprits.

I can no longer listen to NPR on weekdays because anything I hear about the incoming regime makes my stomach clench. I can’t read the paper. My news is nicely distilled for me on Facebook, which gathers a wide variety of sources, and every time I check my feed my chest tightens and I have to squeeze my eyes shut and turn it off.

I am making calls to legislators when I can, although I’m still not clear about whether that’s effective, especially since I am fortunate to have a Congressman and Senators who hold the same views as I do. I’m giving to organizations that I know are fighting to protect people who need protection and safeguard our rights. I am committed to my church’s movement to live the pledge to end racism and I am facilitating reflection sessions. And of course I’m going to march on Saturday.

But still.

And yet.

I keep thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert’s post the day after the election encouraging us to choose who we want to be, even and especially in the most challenging situations we face. I know she’s right. But it is so hard to feel open-minded and curious and loving and calm and hopeful when these tsunami-sized waves of dread crash over you again and again and again.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of art. I am not an artist, really. I like to glue things together. My kids and I bring home bags overflowing with recycled materials from UpCycle Creative Reuse Center and we create. When I am gluing small things onto other things, no bad thoughts can penetrate my brain. Making art creates a force field around my spirit. I am running out of space to put my art.

Tomorrow I’m going to celebrate kindness with friends and family. We’re going to make art and eat delicious food and listen to music and focus on how we can offer kindness to the world. At least for tomorrow I will put up that little force field around my family and friends. And they will give me strength. We will be kind and we will survive. And the next day we will wake up and march. And those hundreds of thousands of people who will be marching with us, in DC or in other cities, or in spirit, they will give me strength. Maybe I will give them strength too. Maybe our presence and our voices will be art, and all that beauty will sustain us over the next four years.

Maybe we will learn how to live and be brave in a post-apocalyptic world.

856e6648c9786df2d87bb0e11315585f_fullThis is the text from my reflection today at church, in a service led by my friends D and Diane, called Self-Fulfilling Prophecies.

When my daughter Zoe was in second grade, her friends all started reading Harry Potter. I was thrilled, because I am a serious fan. I was one of those people who would go to the bookstore at midnight to get my hands on each of the seven books as soon as it was released. So when Zoe decided she wanted to read the books aloud with us, I was even more excited. For the past few years, we have read Harry Potter at bedtime almost every night and we have had so much fun exploring the wizarding world together.

This past summer, in the midst of the sixth book–Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince–I rediscovered Felix Felicis. Also known as liquid luck, Felix Felicis is famously tricky to concoct. It is banned from use before athletic or academic competitions. During the first potions class of the school year, Professor Slughorn offers a vial of Felix Felicis to the student who can correctly brew that day’s assignment in his or her cauldron. With the help of notes written in the margin of his secondhand textbook, Harry unexpectedly succeeds and wins the prize.

It turns out that Felix Felicis conveys to its user something closer to courage than simply luck. The first time Harry almost uses it is when his best friend Ron is plagued by self-doubt before a big quidditch match in which he’s supposed to play keeper. Harry only pretends to pour some of the potion in Ron’s pumpkin juice at breakfast, but that’s all that’s required for Ron to gain the confidence he needs to play the best match of his life.

Harry actually drinks some of the Felix Felicis to help him convince Professor Slughorn to reveal a memory that will enable Harry to make progress toward his defeat of Lord Voldemort, who, if you haven’t read Harry Potter or seen the movies, is the bad guy.

As soon as the potion hits his bloodstream, Harry heads out to accomplish his mission. What he immediately decides to do seems completely counterintuitive, but he feels certain it’s the right thing to do. “I have a good feeling about this,” he says to his incredulous friends, and of course it turns out he’s right.

Reading these books a second time, this time as a parent and most recently in such a fractious political climate, I was struck by the appeal of not just having a bottle of Felix Felicis at my disposal (and it’s hard to come by—the potion takes six months to brew) but wondered what it would be like to live my life every day as if someone had poured a few drops of Felix Felicis into my juice in the morning.

What would it be like to be assured that whatever decisions I made would turn out to be good ones? I’m not asking for the kind of luck that turns up a winning lottery ticket or makes me famous. I mean Felix Felicis that guarantees courage and confidence in the small moments—the ability to live what you believe and not shrink back from your values because it’s a little scary or inconvenient or unpopular.

At the beginning of this service I read my statement of belief. I wrote it not long after the election, in the covenant group that D and I facilitate together. She had suggested that articulating what where we stand, especially in the face of bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, and just plain meanness, would help us stand up to those oppressive forces. I was surprised at how empowering it felt to write, and speak, what I believe.

Where my desired dose of Felix Felicis comes in is embodying those beliefs every day.

For example, extending generosity without condition or expectation of reciprocity. Not wondering what will happen with my contribution or whether a person or cause is going to do the right thing with what I have freely given. Not concerned with whether I get a thank you.

For example, showing kindness not just to people I love, but to strangers. A couple weeks ago I was sitting in this sanctuary during our standing outside the season service, seated behind someone who was weeping. I had seen this person at church before, but I didn’t know her. I didn’t even know her name, but I really wanted to put my hand on her shoulder or rub her back. But I didn’t. I worried maybe she wanted to be left alone, maybe she would jump back in alarm when a complete stranger tried to touch her. I agonized about whether or not to try to comfort her. In the end, she turned around to comfort my friend with whom I was sitting, who was also quietly crying. I immediately saw from her smile and her action that she would have welcomed my touch.

For example, turning to wonder instead of accusation when I don’t understand a person or situation. It’s a hard world out there right now, but it doesn’t get any softer if I vilify people whose beliefs and actions I don’t understand. Especially if I’m accusing those people of doing the exact same thing.

When my husband and I got married, in his toast to us, my dad talked about my husband’s and my commitment to tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world. We are both still at it, with a far greater sense of urgency now.

It is easy to wonder if I am doing enough. When this worry bubbles up to the surface, I have to remind myself that tikkun olam for me is also raising two children to be kind and generous. Tikkun olam is creating and giving myself to the many communities of which I am a part. Tikkun olam is doing something nice for myself so I have the energy to care for others. Tikkun olam is being able to laugh with my husband when things are not going well.

My bottle of Felix Felicis would help me brave and openhearted in my efforts to heal the world. I know I will make mistakes, I will question my decisions, I will fall short. But just a shot of Felix Felicis could remind me, in the face of what seems like utter powerlessness, that I do have the power of my beliefs, and the strength to live them. What would a few drops of Felix Felicis do for you?

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