Saturday, December 31, 2022

Letting Go

My writing withered this year.

I wrote twice, and that is basically a cheat because the first one was my review of 2021.

But, having already written my new Twitter profile for 2023, when I re-reading my single piece from February, With Teacher and Student, I see a huge connection with where I see myself going in the coming year.

At the beginning of 2022, I was pooped and worried. My Twitter profile included that fact when I said that a goal of mine was to “Just keep going”. To just remain in the system was a goal. If I could stay, I could do the other things I wanted to accomplish: to keep mentally expanding and to also DO what should be done.

I’m happy to say that I accomplished or made good progress in everything I wanted. I kept going. I read books and met with people who expanded my awareness. I taught as I thought I should in order to support that awareness. I wrote letters to my representatives describing what I saw happening and what I’d like to see happen, and why.

My son started 2022 mouthing off about the stupidity of elections. Over the course of the year, he realized that what he saw on YouTube was false. He saw locally that voting (and whether people run or not) matters. He saw that propaganda doesn’t sway all things as We The People stopped an “inevitable” red wave, that abortion was supported in some states, and that marriage rights would be advocated for by national political leaders even if the Supreme Court was potentially going to not.

While he’s not a philosopher, we had some good discussions over the year, as I did with my other son who can’t vote yet. Our young people are more aware than many believe. And, they are motivated to not accept the status quo. I think my hope of not belittling and of empathizing has helped us understand one another better. I am extremely hopeful that I (we) can let go of the reins to them. I think they have great potential to fly.

Having focused on being more aware of this huge globe in 2022, I see myself seeking to let go in 2023.

Simply put: the mic belongs to those who haven’t held it.

Many are trying to cling to what they’ve known. We should truly live in a post-colonial world that has nations on equal footing with one another and the non-human components must also be included in that equality of voice.

All people. All living things. All non-living things.

Who should be off the mic and working in empathic support?

Those who cling to the term “white”, regardless of gender or their actual DNA. Technically, that would include me by my skin color and DNA. And yes, I don’t want the mic. For example, I don’t want to run for an office. But I *do* want to support with deeds others who haven’t held the mic: for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, for water, air, land.

The white world needs to let go.

I am not advocating for the disappearance of any people. That’s a white concept, anyway, and needs to be let go. Some Native American cultures greet one another with a phrase like “I greet you, relatives of mine.”. I learned in 2022 that “relatives of mine” means ALL. That was a humbling discovery. And so full of good potential!

This non-white and more-than-human world is a heady concept that goes against so much I was brought up with, and I’m sure others will experience feelings of fear, disbelief, anger, or confusion. Letting go is hard. James Bridle's 2022 book Ways of Being is a great book to support the more-than-human concept. 

My feline friend of 13 years, Owen, appears to be slipping away. We’ve spent a month of rollercoaster emotions- is he getting better, how much can we spend, is he suffering. It’s another example for us as a family that everyone dies at some point. It’s the daily living that’s important. If we do that, we can more readily let go when the time comes. We’re trying to listen to him tell us what he wants.

That circles back to my main point. Cats deserve a voice. Our rivers deserve a voice. Our fellow human beings deserve a voice. Our forests deserve a voice. The cats, rivers, people, and forests on continent thousands of miles from me deserve voices. The UN has had a program on protecting biodiversity since 1992 and just completed an international summit in Montreal that, to me, supports and rolls in those non-human voices as well as those who haven’t had the mic.

My only goal for 2023 is to continue this journey toward getting that mic to those who haven’t held it. Bringing the ideas and skills of all onto the stage can let us all work out a better deal…for the whole. My daily actions, words, and connections with others are my tools to do so.

I’m thinking of Ukraine, who some thought would be absorbed by Russia in February 2022. People from around the world came together in a myriad of ways before, during, and to this day to make that not happen. That authoritarian leader has destroyed people, land, water, air, and I’m sure many animals. So many voices silenced. But the Ukrainian people and land still cling to that mic and there are others who are supporting them.

I confess I don’t feel a fire inside me as I look to a new year. I’m neither in a deep pit nor a scenic overlook with a glorious view. I am here.

But you know what? Let’s just go.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

With Teacher and Student

“No. It’s stupid.”
“It doesn’t mean anything.”
“None of my friends are voting.”
“Who cares. It just makes people angry.”
“I’ll just vote for all Trump people. He was funny as hell.”

These were the adamant protestations of my 18-year-old son about voting this year- a typical mixture of honesty, avoidance, and defiance.

As I think back over my life and consider how I would have responded to these statements at different ages and stages, I see more clearly how I and my thinking have evolved. That evolution has been made possible by the people I have been exposed to and the life stories they have shared.

That includes people I have been in direct contact with and those I only know of from a distance. Chance meetings, friendships, disagreements, classes, books, presentations, TV shows, and arts- they all add up to who I am today.

In every encounter, each person can be, and perhaps should be, both teacher and student.

Daniel Tatum said something to that effect to Celeste Headlee in her book, Speaking of Race and it has stuck with me. I can learn where my son is right now as he speaks. I can tell of my own experiences. We can both listen and take in each other’s truths as best as we can. We can ask each other how we have come to think what we do. Perhaps, the interaction will nudge one or both of us in a slightly different direction.

What we are all going through now is not anything completely new to the world, but each day is new to us. It’s a new opportunity. It’s a chance for us to take comfort in the fact that we’re all imperfect, but we can be both bigger and more whole in the future by learning and teaching with each other every day.


That’s a big word in a little package. To be with someone or something is to be beside- not above or below. Not that you’re the same- but you are there in body, mind, and spirit. Another word that springs to mind is: empathy.

Can I empathize with my son?

Yes. Or, I could belittle and push my own desires.

Can I empathize with a stranger?

Yes. Or, I could belittle and push my own desires.

Can I empathize with a forest?

Yes. Or, I could belittle and push my own desires.

If I had you, perhaps I lost you on that last one. I do believe an ecosystem has something that one can be with. That’s the subject for another time, but I wanted to offer it for those who might be ready to consider. If it’s too much, it’s OK to step back from the idea. We can give each other some respectful space.

That’s how we learn and grow.

Did I like my son’s reactions? No. Did I feel the urge to belittle and push my own desires? Yes. I tried to both understand his point of view and offer my own. Did I change his mind? No. But perhaps, not yet.

Not yet.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Borahae 2022

Every year I create a new Twitter bio to reflect my life focus for the upcoming 12 months. It’s time once again and I just read through my 2020 to 2021 thoughts.


Here’s my 2021 Twitter bio:’d I do on what I wanted to accomplish in 2021?

ONE BOAT: Nationally, we need massive efforts on multiple fronts: public health, social justice, green economy, education, infrastructure, and health care. Covid is top, but the others are vitally connected. By the end of 2021, I just want to see some progress on all these. We didn’t get here overnight. We won’t get out of it overnight, either. Dr. Richardson was a reminder to me of that truth and I hope to read one of her books this year to further my understanding.”

I didn’t read any of HCR’s books but I do see some progress in public health, social justice, green economy, and infrastructure. George Floyd’s murderer was found guilty. We have vaccines in about half our population. Infrastructure got some money. But we don’t have BBB and our voting rights are under attack.

REAL PEOPLE AND THE PLANET: We need to show we care about both. That we need to care for both. It's not about years old customs and stock prices.”

This one…is still a dream. Build Back Better and other work need to be put into place to walk us toward what we say are our ideals- that this is the land of opportunity for all. We (all humans and species) ALL deserve healthy food, water, shelter, and space to the best of our communal abilities.

STAY ENGAGED: To that end, I want to see an expanding political/societal participation by all the people at all levels- especially state and local. Volunteering somewhere. Supporting candidates. Talking with family and friends. Attending meetings as a citizenry. It’s important. Unfortunately, our problems are so big,many can’t do much more than try to survive. Those who can, should.”

My 2021 Verbostratis is filled with copies of letters to school boards and political leaders. I’ve joined meetings and a great book club. I’ve talked and I’ve written. I’m proud of not backing down and feel compelled to forge on in 2022.

“Personally, I just want us all to feel a little safer- to not feel like everything's hanging by a thread. That's #1. Then, I’d love to work with others and earn some sort of reward in return- money, food, other? Keeping busy would also help me shed some of those pandemic pounds. I’d love my kids to get back into society and the oldest to get a job and his driver’s license. A nature-based retreat sounds delightful: I want stars, water, and living stuff. And a bustling gathering of friends with great food, music, and drinks would be a dream come true. That's it. Well, that and finally see BTS again live.”

Except for the first line, I have achieved this entire paragraph. I feel less safe today than January 2021 and it’s not because of the current administration. I have found a new way to work with others, my children have rejoined the world, and our oldest has gotten a job and his driver’s licence. And though it did take until December, I was gloriously and joyfully able to see BTS again live. This time with a friend in a new environment I never dreamed I’d be a part of.

What about 2022?


It’s a never-ending journey of discoveries and realizations: this person and I share X, that organism gives me Y, this element connects me with that, this country reminds me of that country but that other country has a really cool and different way of doing this.


Connected to the first goal, not only do I have to see connections, I have to process/internalize them and answer the question, “So, what am I going to do to participate in this?” As an example. in 2021, I began exploring a better understanding of Indigenous peoples of Wisconsin past, present, and future. In answer to that question I’m posing- “So, what am I going to do to participate in this?”, I gladly accepted and began practicing Land Acknowledgements when I am out in our natural world. I remember wherever I step, there are peoples who were stewards of this land long before me.


Chunks of me are exhausted- at some levels it’ll be good enough to me to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a common problem today and by saying it out loud, I weaken the power of the lure to give up.


According to Urban Dictionary, “Kim Taehyung a.k.a. V of BTS gave a new meaning to the word purple. Purple means love, trust and loyalty. So technically if someone tells you "I purple you", that someone is saying "I'll trust you, love you, support you, and be loyal to you until my last breath".”

Using a purple heart tells the reader you trust, love, and support both yourself and them. I can’t think of anything better in life, whether applied to people or anything else on this planet.

Here’s to 2022.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Yes, Virginia. Racism and Sexism Do Still Exist

I wrote the following letter today because someone on my Assembly rep's page (Scott E. Allen) said no one reads these bills. And they were sort of right. So I challenged myself to print them off and REALLY read them.

Rep Allen stands by the wording of the bills as passed by the Assembly. He had an interesting response in a WISN UPFRONT piece last week that he shared in his weekly newsletter this weekend. I agreed with some of the counterpoints Rep. LaKeshia Myers made.

Senator Chris Kapenga

15 South

State Capitol

P.O. Box 7882

Madison, WI 53707-7882

RE: Please vote against SB 468, 410, and 411

Senator Kapenga,

I am writing as one of your constituents to voice my opposition to these faulty bills. I have read all three and have a number of concerns.

  • SB 463 places an extremely heavy financial and resource burden of documentation on already stretched IT capabilities in districts. There already are rules about transparency in curricula that should suffice. How are these extra costs and infrastructure needs to be covered?

  • SB 463 creates additional rules for assemblies, guest speakers, and other events that enrich the education of students. Will those experiences be denied students because of fears that something will be said by a speaker that goes against rules such as those being proposed in SB 411? I recall being moved as a child when a Holocaust survivor spoke at my school. That sort of thing may become a relic of the past with the passage of these new bills.

  • Why are these bills being proposed? I heard Rep Allen’s call that AB 411 is simply a means to establish what should not be taught in the classrooms. Has any school, district, or teacher been convicted of doing any of the things described in AB/SB 411?

  • SB 411 turns the very definition and understanding of “anti-racism” and “anti-sexism” on their heads. It reads as a call for people who have been in power to not be blamed for anything past, present, or future. 

  • I would ask all Senators to run the teaching of 1845’s Manifest Destiny, the ADA, or Title IX through SB 411. How could a teacher teach these history lessons without teaching about racism and sexism? Were there women and Black people in the federal government in 1845? What led to needing the ADA and Title IX?

  • I agree 100% that teachers should not ADVOCATE racism or sexism of any kind. But they have to TEACH it. SB 411 does not clearly state that and leaves the door open to being able to discuss, examine, and make decisions about our modern and historical issues of race, sex, rape, objectification, civil rights, reparations, and bias. 

  • In SB 411, I would ask that if modern students should not feel bad about people in their past, should we also teach them they can’t be proud of people in their past, either? True equity would mean embracing the goodness of all people through time and acknowledging the bad choices as warnings so we can move forward together.

  • My issues with SB 410 run along the same lines as SB 411. It reads like a cut/paste with edits to reflect the same ideas applied to all city, county, and state employees. It appears to be an attempt for those who have been in charge to avoid any sense of responsibility for what we exist in today instead of embracing an honest review and working with all of our citizens to build a better tomorrow. 

Wisconsin has rebuilt before- we were at the forefront of the mid 20th-century environmental movement. We have great thinkers and doers today in every corner of the state and from all walks of life. Our laws can and should reflect supporting them all as they work to bring us all forward into the future. 


Susan Baumgartner

Monday, September 20, 2021

We're a Friendly and Adaptable Species

I sent this message today. BTS and South Korea's President Moon spoke at the UN Sustainable Development Goals Moment 2021 this morning about how global crises connect us all and the solutions and improvements to avoid further crises need to come from us all working creatively and flexibly...together. 

I think it fits what I tried to convey in my letter.

The title I gave to this blog post relates to an interesting video from 2020 that I saw on the BBC this morning. Why Our Understanding of "Survival of the Fittest" is Wrong.

To the WSD Board and Superintendent,

Your job is harder than it has ever been.

Your job is more important than it has ever been.

I continue to hope you are able to close your eyes and take a long, deep, full breath in, hold it for a moment, and then let it out slowly and exhale fully. Paying attention to that rise and fall can be a reminder of how nothing stays the same forever.

From the outside, it appears this county and district are attempting an experiment to see how loose we can be with pandemic protocols. No mask mandates nor mandatory quarantining of close contacts seems to be on the outer edges of practices nationwide and beyond.

I'm not one to just "do what everyone else is doing". But in certain cases, group thought is extremely powerful. Watching the United Nations assembly speeches in NYC today reminded me of the benefits of us all working together as a worldwide species. Of the necessity, as well.

I'd like to ask that testing in schools be reconsidered, especially if masks are going to continue to be optional, which I would also ask you to reconsider. There has to be money for testing and even offering masks. Let's help understand this pandemic and help our kids safely stay in school or get them safely learning off-campus if they are positive and until they are not positive.

My 15 year old has been notified 4 times at South of close contact. We tested him on Friday because he had symptoms but because it came back negative, we sent him back today. I have no idea if he had it and we just didn't find it. If he could get tested 4 times at school, I'd be much more confident. You could be more confident, too.

This past week saw the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, but it also saw the anniversary of the battle of Antietam, which occurred in the Civil War fight over "states' rights". We need to encourage the full understanding of our past and present- both the golden and the tainted bits. The speeches by students and the Sept board meeting said a lot. I ask you to emphasize and encourage the ideals of inclusion and acceptance of all within the district. All people who act in ways that help the overall whole should *all* be valued members of the community with the same rights and opportunities.

It's a huge job.

Your job is harder than it has ever been.

Your job is more important than it has ever been.

Thank you.