A Day Off

So, if you ask any candidate how they feel at this point in the process, and if they give you an honest answer, it is “tired.” Campaigning is hard work. There is composing answers to radio interview questions, there are forums to attend, sometimes 2 in one day. We are supposed to be updating our social media sites at least a few times a week. There are events, that while fun, always seem to conflict with each other or are on different sides of the county.  And when one finds a beautiful block of evening or weekend time with nothing scheduled, it is a perfect time to get out, door knock, and ask for yet more yard sign locations. Combine that with paid work...can’t quit the day job after all….and in my case settling my mom’s estate. The honest answer is “tired.”

On Friday, I had a long list of things that needed to be attended to: The week’s worth of paperwork from my job. Insurance and financial forms to be filled out, signed, and mailed back in for my mom. Researching and writing answers to questions for a radio interview on Monday. Rethinking my closing remarks for this week’s forums. Contacting more folks that live along the highways for yard signs. I decided to do none of it. I needed a day at home. It is the end of the summer season. My garden was begging for attention after the first hard frost. Rain was in the forecast for Saturday, and I did not want to be working in both frost slime AND mud later in the season.

I live in Latah County because I love the people, the community that I call home. I also live here because we have incredibly fertile soil, made more fertile by the leavings of 2 horses, and I love to grow things to eat. We have chickens that turn our scraps into protein, but also a garden that provides all those things for a body that protein can’t. Being a solid midwestern girl, I can’t stand to see good food go to waste. I have a steam juicer, a hot water bath canner, a pressure canner, a food dehydrator, and a chest freezer. I spent the day on Friday harvesting everything and getting it ready to preserve. It was well after dark when I washed the last dish and called it a night.

On Saturday morning, I awoke at four and finished canning by nine. It was then off to events, off for a long afternoon of door knocking and conversations in Genesee, back home for a quick bite, then off to another event. I wasn’t tired. I was recharged, full. Full of the wonderful people that make this place a home. A full pantry of the bounty of this land. There is something about taking a day, creating something with my hands where I see immediate results, that is so different than the campaign trail. It fills my soul.

The Campaign Plan

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We are down to the final weeks of the campaign. Everyday I get messages in my mailbox. “You should be at 60% of your fundraising goal!”, “One more week until absentee ballots go out!”, “Do you have your direct and targeted mailing prepared?”  Every week I look at my calendar, I look at all the events that I have already committed to and those that I also should be at. I am also supposed to be door knocking fifty doors a night, eight nights a week to hit that targeted goal. I know there are only 24 hours in a day, and that I cannot possibly do it all. I know that my first outside of family obligation is to my paid work, and I am still trying to exercise regularly and eat. I am human, and I am running for public office.

I am a planner. My daughter is a planner. We come by it honestly and genetically. My mother was a planner, and so was her mother. My mom moved here twenty one years ago and stated that she was going to live her last twenty one years as the eccentric matriarch of this family, I was the one that would care for her in her declining years, and she was going to croak at 84. She died last week, at age 84, with me by her side. Even though I knew it was coming, this was not in my plan for the final days of my campaign. There is a lot to take care of after someone dies. It all takes time. And then there is the grief, which permeates everything and just makes everything that much harder.

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Life doesn’t always go according to plan. My original plan was to live to my golden years with the husband I married in my twenties. Grandkids maybe, but we had so many other things we wanted to do once the nest was empty. Jim died nine years ago and I had to revise my life plan. I married Greg three years ago. Greg is not a planner. So much of his professional life is dictated by deadlines, rules and regulations. Once he has time off, he has lists of things he would like to do, and relates them all to me verbally. And then he will spontaneously decide to do something else. He is getting better at looking at time realistically and prioritizing. I am getting better at throwing my agenda out the window, and changing my mind.

If you had asked me ten years ago, heck one year ago, if running for public office was in my future, I would have thought you crazy. What I did know is that I was rapidly approaching retirement. I needed to do something that would challenge my brain and something that could serve this community that has given me and my family so much. I knew that I wanted to be part of the change I wanted to see in this world. So, when asked ten months ago to run for County Commissioner, I spontaneously decided yes. And then I set out with a plan to make that happen.

I spent the first quarter of the campaign learning how local government works. I went to all of the city council meetings, I watched how they navigated differences. I talked to folks about what they felt their biggest issues were. In the second quarter, I visited all the county departments. I learned what a wonderful cooperative environment there is in Latah County, and how fortunate most people feel to work there. In the third quarter I ramped up the door knocking and attended every city’s community days and parades. The one on one conversations have been invaluable. Now we are in the final days, and I need to prepare for multiple forums. I have to be able to introduce myself and my passions in sixty seconds or less. I need to synthesize all of the complexity of local government into responses of ninety seconds. This is the campaign plan.

My name is Kathie LaFortune. I am running for County Commissioner, District 1. I know I am the better candidate for this position because I have the time, the energy, the intelligence, and the passion for the job. I am also human. I am grieving the loss of my mother who was my rock. I will need your help. I think I have enough money to finish this campaign. I have signs and I need you to ask for them, especially if you have a good highway location to post them. I need to continue hearing about that which is important to you. I need you to show up for forums and to ask good questions. Mostly, I need you to talk to your friends and neighbors, to remind them to vote, and to tell them what you know of me. Now, I need to get get back to today’s plan. Which is continuing to process the bounty of this year’s garden.

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Bounty




Introversion and Extroversion

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The “learning all about what a County Commissioner does” phase of the campaign is rapidly coming to a close. It is now time to sell myself as the better candidate for the job. In the next two months, there are campaign parties, forums, endless door knocking, and public events. Many, if not all, of these require me to speak to the crowd. I knew this would be part of the campaign, indeed part of the eventual job, when I signed up for this effort. Prior to emceeing Jim’s funeral, I had done very little public speaking. A guest lecture or two at the university, being part of a forum at church. All required at least an hour of preparation for a minute in front of the microphone. I have come to peace with it as part of the job, but I have to admit it is not my favorite part.

I really like people. When I see kindness, compassion, and love pass between my fellow human beings, I know that I am in the presence of the divine. I love to hear people’s stories, their joys and their sorrows. I love nothing more than being an “enzyme” that brings one person together with another that then forms a connection. That said, I am way more comfortable with people one on one, or in a small intimate gathering. I tend to shut up at the dinner table and let the conversation flow around me. Large groups are fun if there is dancing involved or a shared focus such as making it down a class IV rapid alive, or honoring the life of a well loved man. I am, according to every personality quiz I have taken, a solid introvert.

We all know solid extroverts. These are the folks that love to dominate the dinner table conversations. They are energized by a crowd and love to be the life of the party. They have a hard time staying within a time constraint during a lecture or public speaking engagement. Many flock to professions such as teaching, public relations, or politics. It is a natural fit. They can think and speak on the fly and are usually quick with a witty comeback or an argument if the discussion is a debate.

I also know that people are complex, and what may fit as a personality type one day, does not fit the next. Circumstances change us, and a life well lived is one of constant growth. Many of us need solid blocks of alone time to then venture back out to face the world. Being out in the world is required to feed our minds and souls with material to chew upon in our solo time. A musician needs quiet creative time to write, compose, and record. He also needs to tour and perform. Not just for the money, but also to feed his soul with ideas for the next set of songs. Perhaps entering the world of politics is a little like that.

I am a solid introvert entering a phase of the campaign that requires me to be an extrovert. There are simply not enough hours in the day to pour an hour into each minute of required public speaking. I will be banking on the hours of learning I have put in so far, my passion for the position, and the awareness, that though large, Latah County is an intimate gathering of people that all care about similar things. I can’t promise I will always have a witty comeback, nor do I love to engage in debate. But I will listen to you, and if you ask me a question, I will respond. I may disappear for a few days of woods work or to float a river, but I will re-energize, and I will be thinking of you.

 

Ch Ch Ch Changes

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I just returned from vacation. Greg and I went to the OR coast with a friends, (the coast is WAY more fun when you have someone to build sand castles with) and upon returning home I headed further east for a wedding. Being close enough to spit, I couldn’t resist traveling a couple of hours further to spend a day on the water with my daughter. On the long drive home, on what would have been my 30th wedding anniversary with Jim, I hiked in and had a glorious solo half hour soak in Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. It was bittersweet, as grief filled memories always are. A longing for the past, that can never be again. And gratitude for who and where I am now.

  Photo Credit: Marci Stephens

Photo Credit: Marci Stephens

In the course of less than ten years, I’ve lost my husband to brain cancer, my two children have been launched into independent adulthood, my dog died of old age, and I sold the home that we all lived in together as a family. I dated a bit, I met a man. We bought land, built a house, and got married. Yes, in that order. We now have a barn cat that adopted us, 9 chickens, and two horses. I am tapering down from a 35 year career as a physical therapist and I am running for Latah County Commissioner.

When I am out talking to folks at senior meals and standing on their doorsteps, I hear a lot about wanting all the advantages that economic growth will bring to the area. Better infrastructure, increased tax base for education, and new opportunities for employment. I also hear a longing to maintain our rural quality of life, our rich agriculture, and our public lands. Many families have lived here for generations, and there is nostalgia for their childhood memories. Change is bittersweet.

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My opponent in this race is of the same gender and political party as the fine gentleman who will be entering a well deserved retirement from the board of county commissioners. From reading his platform, he is running on “keeping the balance” of the current board, a “no change” ideal. In my last few months of sitting in on commissioner meetings, there is much to be said for “no change.” The current board gets along well, they respect and have the respect of all the county departments, and they genuinely seem to like each other. I certainly don’t want to change this aspect of the role. It is an ideal to strive for.

There is a saying that there is nothing in this life that is assured with the exception of death and taxes. I venture that we should add “change” to that list. Whether incremental or sudden, we all experience change in our lives, in our community, and in our world. I will make a great County Commissioner. I can do change. I’ve had a lot of practice in the last decade.

Dependent, Independent, and Interdependent

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I’m going to give away a little campaign strategy here. Unlike the door knocking that Greg did as a child for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we do not walk through neighborhoods and cold knock on every door. We are given a selected list, with a minimal amount of data. Registered party, previous voting frequency (not actual voting records, that is still thankfully private), and any answers to previous canvassing efforts. This data is crunched so we know if the voter is a strong democrat, a leaning republican, independent, or there is absolutely no data at all. And, the kind folks that answer their doors can be any combination of the above, as well as being new folks that have just moved in. It is not an exact science. Especially out knocking in the smaller communities of the county, there are a large number of people that identify as independent. I really started thinking about this word, it’s opposite, and the combination or expansion of the two.

Dependent is a person who relies on another, especially a family member, for financial support. As an adjective it means requiring someone or something for financial, emotional, or other support. Unable to do without. I now know for a fact that I could not be running this campaign without support. People have been incredibly generous with their funds, but even more importantly with their time, their talents, and their energy.  When I am tired and running low, someone offers emotional support in the form of just showing up for an event, or door knocking in the heat of the day. My friends meet me in the pool or out on the trail. They caffeinate me in the mornings. They listen and offer their opinions and experiences as I learn policy and procedures. I need them. I am simply unable to do without.

Independent is free from outside control; not depending on another's authority, not influenced or affected by others; impartial. It means not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence, not connected with another or with each other; separate. Prior to this campaign (and in reality, still so), I always considered myself an independent voter and an independent person. I was raised by a strong matriarch to take care of myself, to earn my own living, to manage my own finances, and to never rely on a man to do that which I could do for myself. Old lessons die hard. Even after my dad’s explanation for the divorce “Your mom never needed me, and I need to be needed,” I never really bought into the idea of relying on someone else. As far as my political background, I researched candidates and issues and made the best decision I felt I could with the information I had. I consider myself an independent voter and an impartial listener.

Interdependent means (of two or more people or things) dependent on each other. Fast forward to the last eight years of my life. My husband is diagnosed with and dies from brain cancer. I have one child just off to college, and another still in high school. Jim needs daily radiation, in Couer d’Alene. I have a job where if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Offers for rides to radiation and meals poured in. At first I resisted, then a wise friend told me, “Kathie, you have to let people do this, they need to be needed.” Dang, same lesson. Now, having years of being able to offer the same in return, I am starting to get it. Human beings are wired for connection and interdependence, it is in our DNA. The most difficult part of this campaign has been in trying to sell myself. I would much rather ask what I can do for you, what I can do for the people in this county. I depend on folks to tell me what they need. They will depend on me to listen to them, and do what I can to meet that need.

When we were on the river last week, my son, Jasper, offered to row the gear boat so I could play in a cataraft. After one longish day, we hit camp and he was parched. He had run out of water. I helped him untie the 6 gallon container from the front of the boat, and poured while he held his liter water bottle. Greg asked why he would have even asked me for help when he could have done it himself. I then realized, I raised my children to be interdependent. I truly believe it is the best way to be in this world.

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