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Molly Alexander Darden Headshot

Taking Control During the Shutdown

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Watching our legislators losing it over the last few months -- even, apparently, drinking in public, has generated such feelings of helplessness in many of us! We feel as though we're living on shifting sands, or even sinking in quicksand, not knowing what to expect for our present or our future.

The world is watching our shutdown with disgust. They deride us for our illusion of being 'the greatest country in the world.' What in the world can we do now? Well, for starters, we can show ourselves and the rest of the world what we are really made of. What we are isn't necessarily tied to our politicians and their decisions; they don't define us.

We can't change the political or economic situation at the moment, but we can plan for next year's Congressional election, and who we want to bring in to lead us. We can also make sure that as many people as possible are informed of potential candidates and - so very important - help eligible voters to have needed identification and rides to the polls. That much is certainly in our hands, and we've got to step up for ourselves and each other - no more waiting for 'them' to do it, for someone to pass policies and programs to solve our problems. We've sunk as low, I hope, as we're willing to go so that now we're ready to take our country back and put it on the road to progress.

'Oh sure,' you might say, but, what can we do for ourselves right now? While most of us are not in a power-position politically, we certainly are powerful in the way we choose to face this problem. That could begin with a renewal of our personal and family values; bringing our families closer together and growing closer to our communities. To a degree, we have morphed into a country of physical individualists who rely on social media for our feelings of connectivity. This is a good time to re-evaluate that. Our neighbors are probably suffering and feeling uncertain, too, and we can all pull closer together for mutual support.

When we are closer we feel stronger; with the support and love we give and receive, we don't feel isolated, as we would if we stayed locked in the tech-individualism mentality and constant race from lessons to games to restaurants, etc. with our children. By renewing some of our forgotten values in a variety of ways, we can be grounding ourselves solidly in age-old practices.

And when we feel really discouraged, let's draw on the wisdom of those who've gone before, standing strong in adversity. As my late, oh-so-seasoned Mom (of seven) said when I was stuck in the Tampa Airport during the 9/11 attacks, "We'll get through it, honey. We've gone through so much else, and we'll get through this, too." Mom was right; she went through the Depression, two World Wars, the Korean War and 11 home transfers with some children still in diapers.

So, now it's time for us to pull up our socks and get on with it. Not all of the following solutions will work for everyone but, with an open mind, we can find enough small changes to alter our whole outlook and improve the quality of our family lives. For starters, we may decide to cut down or cut out the cycles of taking the children to lessons, practices and sporting events, and going technologically unplugged in favor of better family time.

Through improved family cohesiveness across the States, we can show the world that, maybe deep down, we're made of the basic values that did, at one time, make America the 'greatest nation in the world'. We did make mistakes in choosing some of our lawmakers, but we don't have to let those mistakes define us.

So, here are some tips; use your imagination to see how they will work for you and your family. Take the ones that appeal, leave the others, and think of your own ways to take control.

For food, we can begin growing winter veggies and herbs - whether we live on acreage, or in a small apartment; we can grow vertically, if necessary. I'm starting my winter garden now.

We can control our own individual circumstances to a good degree by learning to live below our means, so that we build a safety net of reserve funds; if we don't have the money now (for any non-essential), then let's save for it and get it when we can afford it. Often, we will decide we didn't really want that, anyway. I just reluctantly decided to delay re-doing my favorite room - the den/media room/office until I can pay cash for it.

We can also feel grounded by hanging out our clothes instead of drying them in the dryer. I save approximately $400 every year by doing that year 'round.

We can eat potluck with the neighbors, thereby simplifying our cooking and feeling more of a community spirit. No need to feel alone as we grapple with the problems and uncertainties we face. I love getting to know my neighbors better with our frequent, spontaneous eat-togethers.

We can learn to sew again; making our own clothes, curtains, etc. We may have to tackle simple projects at first, but it won't be long before we're confident in following a variety of patterns. And they don't have to be dorky clothes, either. Just take a look at Badgley Mischka's Fall 2013 lineup; one of my favorites, the majority of clothes are in straight lines, with simple fabrics. In a fabric store, we can choose those according to our taste and budget.

An at least once a week family night can involve cooking together, then go in for games, a sing-along and stories. We can create a feeling of continuity in our families by telling the children and each other about our family traditions and how our elders met adversity. Before we know it, we're laughing and crying together, and we identify in ourselves, traits and characteristics of our ancestors.

So, yes, our politicians have let us down but it's up to us to find the positive possibilities, and awaken the greatness within us by responding as our ancestors probably would have - strongly, cohesively, imaginatively and supportively. We can certainly show ourselves and the world that First-Rate America does begin at home.