7 Consequences from Darren Wilson Grand Jury Dismissal

Black Millennials

After much anxiety, anticipation, and anger, a St. Louis grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on any charges related to the August 9th death of Michael Brown. Federal investigators are continuing a parallel investigation, but sources say the outcome will be very much the same. In a case that gripped a nation, Mike Brown, the 18-year-old college bound Black teenager, was unarmed when Officer Wilson (who is white) shot him six times. Gunned down in broad day light, Brown’s body laid in the street for over four and a half hours, with many equating the crass display to that of a lynching.

The gruesome nature of Brown’s death fueled media attention on the alarming frequency at which law enforcement kill unarmed people of color. From the asthmatic Eric Garner, who died in Staten Island, N.Y. after being placed in an illegal chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo; to John Crawford

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Dealing With Family and Friends Food Police

Dances With Fat

Don't Judge just nomThis post is a danceswithfat tradition, offered for those who may have to deal with inappropriate friend and family behavior during this “holiday season” (whether they are celebrating any holidays or not.)

Ah, is there anything more fun than being under surveillance by the Friends and Family Food Police?  There are only a couple of things that I can think of – root canal, shaving my head with a cheese grater, a fish hook in the eye…

This happens to almost all of my fat friends, but to be clear it happens to thin people too – food judgment and shaming happens to people of all sizes and it’s never ok.

I think that we need to remember that fat hate and body shaming is modeled for people all over our culture, fear of being fat is a driver of a lot of behaviors.

First, I always suggest that you…

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Oh! How It Burns! (depression checklist)

I have now been tracking my scores on the Burns Depression Checklist for four months straight! Go me!
(July-August, August-September, September-October)

This month, my average score was 18. My scores for more than half the days were in the teens (the low end of mild depression); I had an unprecedented 5 days when my score dropped below 10, into the “normal but unhappy” range. To put things in perspective, my usual level of functioning is mild-to-moderate depression; “normal but unhappy” days are the best days of my life! This month’s scores are a huge improvement over previous months (linked above), when I was moderately depressed on most days.

Ziya's scores on the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17, 2014 to November 18, 2014.

Ziya’s scores on the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17, 2014 to November 18, 2014.

Ziya's (standardized) scores on the subcategories of the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17 to November 18, 2014. The subcategories are Thoughts and Feelings (blue), Activities and Relationships (red), Physical Symptoms (green), and Suicidal Urges (purple).

Ziya’s (standardized) scores on the subcategories of the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17 to November 18, 2014. The subcategories are Thoughts and Feelings (blue), Activities and Relationships (red), Physical Symptoms (green), and Suicidal Urges (purple). I only had suicidal urges (mostly just thoughts) on 6 days this month!

The Lamictal / lamotrigine I’m taking definitely seems to be helping. I’ve consistently taken it around 4:00pm every day, starting September 29th. My dose doubled from 25 mg to 50 mg on October 27th (purple vertical line). I’m very pleased with the benefits I’ve been receiving from it and especially the lack of side effects. It also seems to be helping with my anxiety symptoms, and I feel less irritable (though to be honest I haven’t been tracking those symptoms).

There are definitely environmental / situational factors that influence my depression symptoms (not to be confused with situational depression). For example, on Election Day (red vertical line) my score shot up from below 20 to 43 and I experienced my first suicidal urges in 2 weeks. To be honest, I think that’s the only sane response to the new Congress that – among other things – has vowed to repeal the reason I can afford medication! I don’t want to know what else they plan to do, but none of it is good for the vast majority of the people in this country.

There was also my and Fox’s big family wedding on November 9th (green vertical line). I felt really good leading up to that day and had a ton of important things to do. I got to be creative and problem solve and collaborate with Mom and get my hair done at a salon full of awesome people I enjoy talking to and wear a gorgeous dress and be congratulated about a million times. Sure, there were some aspects of it that were stressful, but a lot of it was fun. I was proud of myself for running the rehearsal on the night before as well as I did. I got to forget about all the stress at the combined bachelor/bachelorette party our friends threw for us; that was a fabulous time! And then there was the day itself… I’ve already written about it twice!

My scores on the depression checklist increased gradually from 6 on the 8th and 9th (OMG, 2 consecutive days with such a low score! That’s heaven for me!) to 34 on Monday (eww). I felt every point of increase and it was incredibly painful. I didn’t have the energy to connect with Fox and I’d cry when he left for work each day. I’d cry for no obvious reason. I had no motivation. I just wanted to fade away and stop existing. The worst part is I knew that if I stopped playing The Sims 3 and went out to socialize I’d feel better. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it!

Finally, yesterday (Tuesday) I dragged myself out of bed to go see Wakana for our regularly-scheduled music therapy session. Just being able to do that felt awesome. She witnessed me expressing how I felt through words, body language, and music. She empathized. She helped me address some of the things that are really getting me down. For example, Mom had brought up how much it costs each month to see Wakana, with the very strong implication that I should stop draining her of that money. She doesn’t seem to get how much I need and benefit from it, and I feel like that matters less to her than “getting ahead” financially. Sometimes it seems like she sees my whole life as a financial transaction; she’s “investing” in me and losing all her money. I can’t repay her – at least not financially. My love, the joy in my life from experiences like getting married and having children someday, whatever academic success I can muster, even the financial security I’m still striving for … these things cannot be a repayment of some debt! I owe her my whole life, but I can’t live it for her. I have to live it for me.

Wakana heard and understood and strongly encouraged me to apply for jobs. She also said I could invite Mom to one of our sessions. I’m kind of dreading it – assuming I can convince her to come – but I think it may be necessary.

Jobs. I signed up to be a tutor, which is kind of hit or miss depending on whether students decide to contact me. I think I’d be okay in the subjects I said I could teach. Today I was going to apply for a job I found yesterday that sounded awesome, but when I went to look at it the listing had been deleted. That undermined any motivation I had to do useful things.

Anyway, I decided to hang out at a nearby cafe after my session yesterday and enjoyed myself quite a bit (including saving potential job listings to apply for later). The food and drinks were good, it was a pleasant atmosphere, it got me out of the house and away from The Sims 3, and best of all I got to socialize a little bit. Even just being surrounded by people who were all doing their own thing was energizing. I’m still coming to grips with this whole being an extrovert thing. I like being around people. I need to stop isolating!

But how?

Disappointment is Necessary

I crashed and burned after the wedding, there’s no way around it. I was a whir of energy leading up to that day, emotions all over the place, a near-constant stream of goal-directed activity. It felt fantastic. The celebration itself was fantastic. Being surrounded by so many people I love and who love me …

Now it’s gone. It’s been gone. I didn’t get enough sleep and it left me exhausted. Over a week later, I’m still exhausted. I felt so good; I thought I could build on the energy and do things to improve my life. Clean the apartment, find a job, join a group, get out and socialize more, even just maintain some kind of contact with some of the people who came out to see me. Anything…

I’m too tired to do anything. I’m pouring what energy I do have into The Sims 3. I think it appeals to me because my sims can go out on the town and have vibrant social lives that I control and accomplish their goals in a much shorter amount of time than in real life: combine control, vicarious living, and instant gratification. After I restarted my current game for the second time I realized that my perfectionism was taking over, forcing me to give up progress in a game that was going really well because there was one thing I didn’t like and couldn’t fix.

I think part of why my perfectionism is taking over is because of how much I had to suppress it to cope with the reality of the wedding. There were a lot of things that didn’t go the way I wanted; I’ve been trying really hard not to dwell on them because if I focus on them I’ll feel like it was a complete disaster. But keeping the focus on the positive is exhausting, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure it’s healthy. We need to acknowledge the not-so-good aspects of our lives, even if we can’t do anything about them.

The thing that’s bothering me the most is that, because of how the space was set up and where my bridal party ended up standing, it was very difficult for my guests to see what was going on during the ceremony. I felt doubly bad about that because we hadn’t invited the majority of the guests to the legal ceremony last year, so this was their chance to see us ‘get married’. At least they were able to hear it?

Worse, I completely forgot about the audio recorder I’d brought specifically to record the ceremony and especially our vows – a compromise so we wouldn’t have to pay for a videographer. I don’t have the audio recording, and no one was able to take video because they couldn’t see it, and my memory of audio input leaves much to be desired… So, in short, the only record of the most important aspect of the entire affair – our vows – is written notes that exclude the parts we improvised.

I don’t know if I would have remembered to set up the audio recorder if things had gone differently, but we could have at least had the bridal party positioned so the guests could see. (Then maybe someone would have taken video!) We didn’t have time to have a rehearsal because we were late getting to the venue and then I lost track of time and I don’t even know where everyone was, so I probably would have had a difficult time getting them together. And some people – mostly members of Fox’s family – came early and started talking to us. So no rehearsal, and bridal party pictures had to be taken during the reception … but at least the space was partially cleaned and the handicap-accessible restroom didn’t smell of cigarette smoke.

Part of why we were late getting to the venue was because it took longer to get things together than I’d been expecting, and part was because I got in an argument with the bridesmaid who’d been kind enough to do our centerpieces. She wanted to get them from her parents’ car (which would be at the venue a little bit later), but I knew we wouldn’t have time for her to find her parents, get their key, unload the centerpieces, and reload them into Banji’s car. We were both butting heads for a stupid amount of time before I realized I could (and should!) just go. Then I felt bad for leaving Banji to deal with the situation, and I thought we were an hour later than we actually were because I’d forgotten to set my car’s clock back, so I was a furious raging mess. People kept telling me to calm down but to be honest I was glad I could express myself, and I needed to do so; it was what was healthy at the time. Can you imagine if I’d kept all that in? It would have been a nightmare.

No rehearsal meant that random things happened during the procession and introductions that weren’t what I wanted, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. “The show must go on.” For the most part it was fine; none of the guests have complained. No one has even said anything about not being able to see the ceremony. I think, really, they’re just happy to have come together and enjoyed themselves for an afternoon. That was my goal, the rest of it was just details.

I had a nice long conversation with Mom in the middle of writing this. We talked about all the things that went wrong before and during the wedding and complained to each other about annoying things that people did. We both expressed how we felt about all these things. She assured me that no one’s upset about not being able to see the ceremony. We also talked about some of the things that went well – mostly good ideas she had. I found the conversation to be helpful and energizing; I meant it when I said I enjoyed talking to her (as we hugged goodbye for about the 5th time).

I think I just really needed to process this stuff. Now that I’ve done it, I might still need a while to get my energy back and get back on my feet doing useful things, but at least I don’t have to waste energy suppressing part of my experience. There were some things that were disappointing, that I wish had gone differently. I accept that and you know what, I allow myself to feel disappointed that they didn’t go the way I wanted. That’s okay. It’s natural and healthy.

But I also choose not to dwell on them. I choose not to focus on them at the expense of the important things. I’m missing a couple of items I’d brought to the venue with me; finding them is very important so that’s a good way to direct my energy. Going forward, I choose to focus more on the stuff that went right: most importantly, that I got my big family wedding and everyone had a great time – including me. I choose to remember dancing with my loved ones, seeing them having fun, goofing off with my friends, and the love, all the love! Feeling so fully and vibrantly alive. That’s what’s worth remembering.

Extrovert?

The wedding was everything I’d hoped it would be. Almost everyone came, it was a beautiful day, the food was excellent, the music was varied enough that everyone had something to connect with and enjoy, and all I heard were compliments.

Even the things that went wrong were fantastic: the thing that was forgotten was a pair of cufflinks, of which we had two extra. The injury was an annoying scratch on my finger that I forgot about and no one noticed. The moment when I froze was an opportunity to practice stand-up comedy, which was well-received. The wardrobe malfunction was a detachable cap sleeve that came undone in the middle of my and Fox’s first dance and stayed attached so we could continue dancing unimpeded. People said they liked the dress even more without it and its counterpart! We ran behind schedule and yet things ended up happening at the time I’d planned for them to. The lulls in music and activity were great opportunities for people to talk and connect with each other.

There are some things I wish had gone differently, but they’re minor compared to all the things that were good. My guests had a wonderful time and thanked and congratulated me and told me I was beautiful. Our families came together as one and wished us well. We took a risk and started a new tradition that worked out beautifully. The cake was gorgeous. I succeeded in getting some of it on Fox’s face.

And best of all, I was able to be fully engaged in the celebration pretty much from the moment I woke up. I didn’t even need to use the restroom from the time I got into the dress until I was on my way back to the bridal suite to take it off! The dress was gorgeous and fit me perfectly (yay lace-up back!) and moved with me while I danced uninhibited. Mom kept track of time and gave me reminders so I could just enjoy interacting with guests. I was totally in the moment, expressing emotions as they came up (mostly joy), asserting myself, connecting with people, and feeling secure and confident and loved. So loved!

I thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention. One of the highlights of the afternoon was when Mom was bugging reminding me to do introductions (of the bridal party) and a song came on that I wanted to dance to. I ran out in the middle of the dance floor and started dancing, completely improvised. I had so much fun! Everyone was watching me and people even clapped along with the music and it was so fantastic! No second guesses, no insecurity, no worries, no fear, no nerves, just confidence. I was performing. I was gorgeous and graceful and one with the music and so full of joy! People got amazing pictures that show off the dress and my radiance. I loved every moment of it.

I was exhausted after the wedding and my feet hurt so much I could barely walk upright. For about a quarter of a second, I considered collapsing on a couch in a private room that was part of the bridal suite and happened to be empty. But then I thought, “No, I need to be around people right now. If I’m alone I’ll crash too hard.” So I chilled with my and Fox’s friends who were sitting around the main room talking. We went back to the hotel and went in the Jacuzzi for a bit, which was excellent for my sore muscles and helped me calm down while still feeling happy. I felt motivated to interact with my family members as much as possible that evening and the next morning and was able to connect with them and that felt fantastic. I loved being surrounded by people I love who love me and were saying things that made me feel so wonderful! Like my uncle saying he wouldn’t have missed this for anything.

I really shouldn’t have been driving around on Monday because I was too tired, but I was happy to spend time with Banji and her family. Yesterday I was so exhausted I decided to Skype in for my session with Wakana. I told her all about the wedding and she was just beaming to see me so happy. She said she thinks I’m an extrovert and being around people is what gives me energy – not to say that I don’t need or can’t enjoy some alone time, just that being with others is what makes me feel the most alive.

I thought about my life and realized she really has a point. Just being surrounded by people isn’t enough, I need to feel like I’m connected with them – otherwise I might as well be alone. (Actually, it’s worse than being alone. It’s lonely.) But when I am able to interact with others and they respond to me and we feel a connection, that is how I feel like a person who exists in the world and matters and can be expressive and creative and free. That is when I feel the most joy.

Even when I’m enjoying my time alone, it seems I want to socialize. As a kid I would play pretend and make up imaginary characters to interact with. My thoughts have always taken the form of at least two people having a conversation. I spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook and checking email or other social media. I socialize vicariously through the books I read, video media I watch, and how I play The Sims 3. My favorite video games are RPGs in which the player gets to run around talking to a variety of characters; even when I’m traveling or exploring a dungeon I like to have a companion with me. Blogging is a great opportunity for introspection, but I also use it to connect with other people. I thrive on readers’ feedback.

For so long I thought I was introverted; when I realized my experience and needs were different from introverted friends I thought it was just because I was less introverted than they are. But I think the reason why I predominantly preferred to be alone for much if not most of my life was because I felt insecure, out of control, and ostracized in most social situations – particularly large groups. That has nothing to do with introversion; it’s from having an inaccurate understanding of my place in the world as a result of trauma from birth through adolescence.

I still generally prefer smaller groups, or at least to only have to interact with a handful of people at a time. But the point is, I find it energizing.

As long as whomever I’m with isn’t actively draining me, I don’t need to be alone to recover my energy after socializing. Since the wedding, I haven’t wanted to be alone; I’ve actually made a lot of effort to avoid being alone. Today there might not be anyone else in the living room with me, but I’ve been hungrily eating ‘likes’ on Facebook. I keep reading people’s congratulations and staring at pictures from the wedding. I’m trying to regain that experience of being surrounded by almost a hundred people who had all come to celebrate me.

Vote Like Your Life Depends on It

For anyone who thinks the major parties are the same, congressional elections aren’t important, or their vote doesn’t matter, please remember the government shutdown that happened last year and cost us $24,000,000,000. It happened because the Republican Speaker of the House chose not to vote on the federal budget in an attempt to undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” – which, by the way, is the reason I have health insurance and can afford the medication that seems to be helping me change my life.

One person should not have that much power, but for the time being we need to ensure that person isn’t in the pocket of right-wing extremists who exist to do the bidding of the ludicrously wealthy at the expense of everyone else. They would rather allow people to starve to death or commit suicide than risk losing a small portion of their profits. (Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Americans.)

The only way we can have a federal government that comes remotely close to representing us is to get a Democratic majority in the House, and the only way to do that is for those of us who can vote to do so – wisely.

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Here’s the relevant part of my post from last year about the shutdown:

I’ve been having a really hard time lately and there’s no end in sight. Sometimes I feel so hopeless, it’s painful to keep breathing.

This government shutdown orchestrated by a small handful of right-wing extremists who somehow managed to take control of the House is such a huge, overwhelming problem. I know one person who works for the government who has been extremely stressed out, and another person who just lost their job – I suspect at least partially due to the shutdown. I’m concerned for them, and for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and for the millions of people who won’t receive the assistance they need for Zek knows how long. The impact on the economy is devastating, and more importantly people could die as a result of this.

It completely and utterly infuriates me that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that they played a role in the shutdown, never mind taking responsibility. […] All we need is for the House to vote on one bill that’s been sitting on Boehner’s desk, but that he refuses to call a vote on. I don’t even understand how or why the Speaker of the House – one person – has that kind of power. I thought our government was set up to prevent one person from ever having that much power.

We can petition them all we want but it’s like they live in a different universe. […] I think the only solution is for the American people to somehow take direct control of the House – at the very least, force them to vote on the bill that would provide funding to the departments that have been shut down (without removing access to birth control or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare for a year, thanks). At least then we’d have some semblance of transparency, a record of who voted to keep this country afloat and who voted against us all.

So far I’ve learned of one way to bypass Boehner and force a vote on the clean funding bill: the discharge petition House Democrats have been pursuing. I encourage readers (especially those in the U.S.) to sign this petition urging House Republicans to join their colleagues in ending the shutdown. Also please consider contacting your representative directly (House.gov). I know I just wrote that petitioning them doesn’t do anything, but I don’t really see any other course of action. People know that the Republicans are responsible; there are several races for Republican seats in the House where polls show the Democrats to have an advantage.

(But only if the people who support them vote!)

And here’s part of another post I wrote around that time, Running Red:

I read an article that said the Tea Party is actually pleased with Boehner and that this shutdown is part of his career strategy. That’s right folks, starving mothers and babies, survivors of rape and domestic violence put out on the street, head start programs ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of people without work or pay, parks and monuments closed, a lapse in veterans’ benefits, etc. etc. etc. … merely the pawns in Boehner’s game of chess. If he’s winning, he’s not going to listen to our petitions – unless perhaps there is a massive outcry by the people in his district, who can vote for his opponent in the next (this!) election. Without their votes, all the support and campaign funds from his party will be nothing.

So please, please vote today, if you haven’t already. If you’re inclined to vote Republican, please look up what your candidate and other Republicans have been doing and think critically about whether they actually represent you, your needs, and the rest of us who aren’t bazillionaires in terms of the practical, this-world decisions they’ve made and the consequences of their actions (or inaction). If you’re inclined to vote Democrat, please stop reading this right now and go vote!

Additional Voter Resources at Vote411.org

Exhausted

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mother lately, mostly doing things for the wedding (or talking about them). It feels good to be productive and my social activities score on the Burns Depression Checklist has been extremely low (which is good). Things are getting done, it’s all coming together, and for the most part I’m happy and optimistic.

On top of wedding stuff, I’m doing my best to be supportive of Fox: giving him massages, making sandwiches, doing my best to be responsive to his needs. It can’t be all I am, but for now I find it empowering because I can make a difference for someone I care about and he appreciates it. (He’s working full time in a job that has him on his feet all day to support both of us.)

The only catch is, all this stuff doesn’t really leave a lot of time for me.

The time with Mom usually starts out good. She gives useful suggestions and feeds me and we talk and we get stuff done (admittedly, more than I probably would if left to my own devices – but don’t tell her that!).

But over time she gets to me. She’s freaking out about every little thing – and freaks out even more if someone tells her she’s stressed and she needs to calm down. From what she’s told me, they send mixed messages: “You have to do this! Actually you can do whatever you want, stop worrying about what people say you have to do.” Something about goodie bags for hotel rooms, I tell her “don’t sweat it,” she thinks I mean don’t do it and gets angry because she’s already gotten all the stuff and I have to explain myself. (It’s great she’s doing them and what she has is overly generous, so she can just do what she’s planning and not worry about it – i.e. please stop talking about it.) This person’s saying this to her and that person’s afraid of that and I don’t have any of the context so I freak out because I want everyone to show up and have a good time and congratulate me.

She’s talking about it constantly and she can do whatever she wants for the wedding, but I can’t do this idea because it’s not appropriate for the type of event I’m hosting or that idea because it’s “too much” or whatever. It’s my fucking wedding, what I want should be law, but that’s just now how it works in the real world (or at least my world). She thinks we should list the buffet selections on the program, Fox thinks it’s tacky, I don’t even know what I want except for him to happy with it. Finally she agreed to make separate menu cards and we adjusted the spacing on the program so now it’s perfect. Let’s move on!

I feel like it’s her wedding and she’s constantly telling me what to do for it. I feel like my life is her life and she’s constantly telling me what to do for it. I say “I need to ______” and she says “You need to ________” like I don’t know or “Well? Why aren’t you doing it?!” – the answer is usually “because you’re in the middle of a sentence.” Planning my own wedding shouldn’t feel like I’m constantly being assigned homework.

There’s so much going on and so much that’s been done I don’t even know what I need to do anymore! I feel like I’m going to forget the most important thing, like writing my vows. By the time she decides to call it a night and stop randomly invading my space to talk about this and that, I can’t think anymore. I’m literally too exhausted to think. I kind of want to… oh please don’t say “die,” I’ve gone 13 days without any suicidal urges and I want to keep up my streak! Have some time when I don’t need to think, especially not about wedding stuff. Time when I can just exist, rest, relax … maybe meditate?

On a related note, my whole experience of life has shifted quite a bit. I’m a lot less depressed, and despite being stressed out about everything above and more I think I’m less anxious and irritable and whatnot, too. Okay, maybe not less irritable, I have been fighting with my mother quite a bit – but I consider that an improvement over being a doormat. Well, okay, I’m kind of still a doormat. I’m a doormat with at least one corner that rolls up and trips people. But I have reasons to fight with my mother, I’m not just angry at the people closest to me for no reason. That’s definitely an improvement.

I used to be depressed pretty much all the time, except for really good days when I was considerably less depressed. Now I think there are times during the day – occasionally, whole days – when I’m not depressed at all. (There might be some symptoms of depression, but not enough or severe enough to be problematic.)

Ironically, I notice my depression more because it’s a significant change in my functioning: sadness I can’t explain or that comes on stronger than I’d expect, feeling like all my energy has drained away, losing interest in engaging with other people and the world, trouble concentrating or focusing (nor not wanting to think anymore because I’m so exhausted)… I can almost say, “at about noon I was feeling happy and I had energy and I was focused on doing this and that and asserting myself and knew I could achieve what I was setting out to do, etc. … but at 6pm I felt depressed.” I’d feel a lot more confident saying that – and especially giving specific times – if I were writing down significant shifts in my mood throughout the day.

I still kind of hesitate to attribute the improvement to the Lamictal, but I am pleased to say that I’ve been taking it consistently at about the same time every day. Continuing to do so is important to me, especially with all the stress around the wedding and the crash I expect to happen afterward (based on past experience; multiply that by about a million). My scores on the Burns Depression Checklist in the week after the wedding will be the real indicator of whether this medication is helping me. In the meantime, I’m encouraged by the improvement in my scores since my dose was increased and the lack of significant side effects.

If you’re in the U.S. and you haven’t voted yet, please do so!