Rick Santorum and Family, 2006

I have a lot of nice art in my home. Not any thing really fancy, just stuff I picked up over the years thanks to the internet and talented friends. There’s an eclectic mix to be sure: pictures, paintings, prints…

But among them is a particularly prized possession: a print I ordered from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It is from almost ten years ago, when Rick Santorum, a Republican Senator with a history of aggressive conservative politics, lost his seat to a Democrat in a landslide election.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was there. And they captured what might be my favorite photo in all of politics. Behold.


This is Rick and his family when they conceded. The caption reads:

Photo Credit: Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
Eight-year-old Sarah Maria Santorum weeps as her father, Rick Santorum, concedes the U.S. Senate race to Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr. last night. Other family members at his side include son John, far left, wife, Karen, daughter Elizabeth and son, Dan.

There’s a high quality version of the photo on their site here: http://old.post-gazette.com/images4/2006108rr_santorum_concedePJ_580.jpg

Now, as you gaze above, please reflect on the many things that make this photo AMAZING. The crying girl with a dolly in a matching jumper. The disinterested teenager. The grimace on his wife’s face. The bewildered, wide eyed look on his son’s.

It fills me with delight. So I bought it and put it in the gaudiest frame I could find.

I have it in a place of honor in my home.



My odd relationship with Jeb Bush

When I signed up for Jeb Bush’s email list in July, I just expected campaign updates. The first email wasn’t from Jeb himself, but his people, thanking me for contacting them and letting me know we’d keep in touch. Sure. Okay.

What followed was a surprisingly personal relationship that attempted to rival even my own close friendships. In honor of him dropping out of the race, I’ve decided to now reveal this relationship to the public. Here is a series of correspondences I received from Jeb Bush, personally. The following emails are 100% real, though in the interest in not encouraging his behavior, I kept these replies private UNTIL NOW…


Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 3:23 PM – Subject: How are you watching the first debate?

Oh, uh. Hey Jeb. How am I going to watch the debate? I don’t have cable (I know, millennial) so I’ll probably see where I can stream it online. Why?

In just a little over two weeks, I’ll be walking on stage for the first debate of the 2016 Presidential Election, and I want you to be there.”

Woah, Jeb. Dude. That’s really nice of you but I don’t think I can head to Cleveland on such short notice. Thanks for thinking of me though!


Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 9:40 AM – Subject: When I wake up:

Oh god, please don’t tell me about your dreams. GOOD MORNING, JEB.

When I woke up this morning and got started with my day there were two things that came to mind.”

Handcrafting me this email and freedom?

“1. Winning the White House and fixing Washington so every American again has the right to rise. 2. Having the resources to do it.”

Just two little things to start the day, eh Jeb?

“I’ll make you this promise: I won’t yield an inch in this fight. I’ll go everywhere and talk with everyone”



At this point, Jeb was the nice guy that couldn’t take a hint. He was sending me every little email he could:

Two emails from Jeb Bush, subjects are "Wow" and "hey"

And then this happened.


Sun, Oct 4, 2015 at 3:41 PM – Subject: Come meet me and my parents


Putting a face to a name is important, especially with all the emails I send you.”

Jeb, I am so sorry. I’m not sure if signing up for your email list gave you the wrong idea and you’re a nice guy and all… But come meet your parents?! I’m married. To a guy I like. I think your wife would be pretty pissed, too. I just don’t see it working out.


Jeb didn’t take it well.

Emails from Jeb Bush, "Lauren, please" "Lauren, let's meet" "Please Lauren" "Hey Lauren" "Hey"



An email from Jeb Bush saying 'I can't do this alone'

An email from Jeb Bush saying 'I can't do this alone' but slightly larger

Oh my god. Jeb. Oh my god.

I couldn’t reply. I didn’t. I had no words to send. And then, a few days later:

Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 4:05 PM – Subject: I know it’s Friday afternoon

Lauren — We’re $14,628 short of our $250,000 goal, so I needed to reach back out.”

JEB. First you’re professing that you can’t do this without me, Lauren, please, etc. And now you’re asking me for money? Really, guy? Really?!


And then, the next day, I find out from a friend that he dropped out. No email, no nothing. Unbelievable.

Jeb, this relationship has been a wild rollercoaster ride, let me assure you! But you drop out and you don’t even tell me? You’ll email about what you woke up thinking about and that you need $14,000 but you won’t email me when you drop out? Seriously?

Until yesterday. Five days later he emailed.

An email titled "thank you" from Jeb Bush saying 'I wanted to take just a moment to thank you for all your hard work on my behalf. While the result was not what we had hopes, we communicated". The rest of the email is cut off.

Oh yes, Jeb. We communicated. A lot. And while I can’t say I’ll miss those emails, I’ll miss seeing Jeb! all over the place. THANK YOU.



All Trumped Up

This is an article that was published in my school newspaper this week that I’m pretty excited about. About a month ago I had the chance to see Donald Trump at an event he had north of town. I’ll post the article just as it was published, but you get a special exclusive.


These are my memorabilia from the event: one of the buttons being handed out (which I took for academic reasons) and my official media pass. Now, this isn’t a knock on the Republican Party of Saginaw and Genesee County. They were very nice. They just happened to run out of “official” ones since they had so many people attend. Still: it’s pretty funny.

Anyway. Article. Enjoy.

I have to admit, initially I was excited.

I’d reached out to the Republican Party of Genesee and Saginaw County to see if I could attend Donald Trump’s event in Birch Run at their Expo Center. I didn’t expect the answer to be yes. But for an unpredictable candidate, riding on a wave of unexpected popularity, coming to a small town an hour and a half north of Detroit, the answer was yes. On the afternoon of August 11, I found myself driving north on I-75 to see Donald Trump: billionaire and front runner for the Republican party’s presidential primary.

Arriving on site, protesters lined the sides of the street leading into the Expo Center and as we drove in, they were waving signs. “Circus today – SOLD OUT.” One had a quote from Trump disparaging people from Mexico, saying they bring drugs and crime, followed with, “I just brought tacos.” Another: “We will overcomb.” They were a diverse crowd. Young and old, women and men. I’d say they numbered about 50. They peacefully waved as we pulled in.

The signs changed as we approached the front doors. “Donald Trump – SOLD OUT” lit up the large LED sign outside the center. “Vets for Trump”. “Trump for President – All others are apprentices.” Clearly tickets for the event, starting at $25, were not purchased by non-supporters. The people here were on board. They wanted to hear what the man himself had to say.

Once inside, we were greeted by the smell of cinnamon. Roasted almonds were being sold to guests, as well as Trump’s memoir, “The Art of The Deal”. For some reason I hadn’t expected concessions for an event like this, but there you go. We were ushered in.

Grandstands lined either side of the space, filled with what I estimated was roughly 1,500 people. VIP seats, priced at $125, along with the media were seated right in the middle. A man on stage played “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” acoustically, over the din of voices in the crowd. The group was not entirely homogeneous, but I will say that older caucasians dominated the stands.

We shifted to the media area in the back, where Mr. Trump would take questions before heading out to speak with the crowd. My companion and I sat down. We were surrounded by newspeople. I remember thinking to myself that I wasn’t so different from them. I was younger, and my suit probably cheaper, but here we all were. Public radio, local TV stations, another college paper… All crowded into a tiny space, holding our smart phones and microphones. Waiting for Trump to arrive.

And waiting. And waiting. Traffic delays, we were told. I believe Tom Petty may have sung a song about it. The waiting is the hardest part. I idly wondered if the acoustic guitarist would play that next for the anxious crowd.

As we waited, we kept to our seats and made small talk. Well, most of us did.

“Who let these kids in here?” A voice questioned, clearly hearing the chit chat among us college students in the third row. There was Charlie LeDuff, patriotic cowboy boot enthusiast and Pulitzer Prize winner. He was excitable, flitting from person to person, tapping his foot, showing people something on his smartphone. In a room of people clearly growing restless and impatient, he was the rambunctious toddler, unable to contain himself and seemingly unaware of where he was. His energy is slightly uncomfortable, given the mood in the air.

LeDuff shook our hands and asked where we were from. He talked about what he was going to ask Trump. He mentioned his reporting. He jumps up at one point and peeks through a blackout curtain, pondering the barrier. I encourage him to slip through, but he doesn’t take me up on it. A shame.

Finally, murmurs and shuffling as Trump walks in the room.

For a second, it feels like I’m watching TV. Just feet from me is Trump. He’s in living color and it feels surreal. This is the republican front runner. This is happening now. There’s a collective pause before someone with better initiative than the rest of us jumps in with a question.

The topics are all over the place. Trump thinks that China doesn’t respect us and that they believe the U.S. is run by “idiots”. When asked for an opinion on Detroit’s bankruptcy, he doesn’t really give one. In his eyes, tensions in race relations is an employment problem to be solved by more jobs. He’s asked for specifics on his presidential plans and promises we’ll see plans. Then Trump moves on without sharing any details. When asked about his comments about Mexicans and women, Trump says he’s polling great with them.

“I cherish women.” are his exact words.

LeDuff finally gets an opportunity to ask about the wall between Mexico and the U.S. This is a topic that has netted Trump a lot of support. LeDuff explains that the wall is proposed to be 30 feet tall. “Home Depot sells ladders, made in China, 32 feet tall. So how tall is this wall gunna be?” Trump ignores the question and uses it as a jumping off point, no pun intended, to talk about the wall. Later, LeDuff offers himself up for vice president, though Trump isn’t interested in his resume.

And just as suddenly as it started, he’s wrapping up. He’s got a crowd ramping up for him. We finish our notes and head out for the main event.

It’s like a rock concert. Everyone is on their feet and cheering. The speakers are blaring, “You’re the Best Around” from the Karate Kid soundtrack. The bodies and noise makes me feel like U2 should be coming out, but it’s Trump. No remarks on notecards, no prompter. He knows exactly what he’s going to say.

Trump recaps a lot of what he shared in the press conference about Mexico and China. He mentions the wall and the room erupts. There’s clapping of hands and stomping of feet as the room rises and chants “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!” He boasts that if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration. I think there’s certainly people who have been discussing it, even before he was running for president, though maybe he can only see people who make over a certain annual income.

Trump moves on and discusses other candidates and the presidential race. I start to jot down notes about Jeb Bush, when Trump changes topics. “And the media,” Trump gestures to the media area in the center of the room,“They’re scavengers.”

Now there’s booing and wailing at us from all sides. Trump piles on and says, “The media doesn’t tell it like it is”. The room is again filled with the sounds of stomping and cheers. “It’s a hell of a crowd.” He remarks.

I spin around and look at the room. The feeling that I am lumped in with a group that the audience views so disdainfully is suffocating. I am not excited anymore.

If I could, I’d explain. I’d say that I’m a member of a college newspaper. We don’t have million dollar advertisers to appease or pundits to feed. We don’t have spin zones or situation corridors. I’m just a lady in a cheap suit wondering what these people see in this candidate. I was hoping to talk to them, but now that they were actively jeering us with such ire, I didn’t think I’d be able to have a conversation about the nuances of their political agendas.

Trump spoke about his critics. He talked about Iran. He boasted about his wealth, which is something pretty ballsy to say when you’re talking to a room of people who paid to hear you speak.

Someone from the crowd raised up a copy of “The Art of the Deal”. Trump perked up. “That’s my second favorite book of all time. Do you know what my first is? The Bible!” Please try to understand the depth of how impersonal and fake this proclamation felt. Even the sweet, saccharine smell of the roasted almonds could not compare with this manufactured statement.

We began to move towards the exit as he started the conclusion of his speech. Trump mentioned taking care of veterans. The crowd once more rose to their feet, cheering and clapping. I stopped and joined them.

While I might have personal feelings about any number of topics he spoke about, my job was to try to be objective. Observe and report. But what asshole doesn’t clap for the troops? Suddenly, I was with them. My perspective shifted. As a country so deeply divided, couldn’t we all start with this? The one thing we share in common; respect and admiration for those in uniform.

It was on this thought I decided to close my notebook. I chose to leave with that thought. That there were still topics that unified us all as Americans. Over the course of the evening, I observed so many people with strong convictions about topics that fracture the country. To have a candidate that seriously encouraged that “us-versus-them” mentality, separating us into losers and winners, really felt unfair. I liked the idea that even after listening to over a half an hour of that, we could all still agree on something.

We walked out with the crowd into a lovely summer evening. I wish the pleasant feeling could have lasted, but as people moved to their cars, all known traffic laws went out the window. Even Trump’s motorcade raced out on my left, ignoring the traditional flow of a roundabout. His supporters quickly followed suit.

There I sat in traffic, being cut off, waiting with the throngs of cars leaving the event. We passed by a last lone group of protesters, waving a rainbow flag with pot leaf in the middle, and I thought back to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”. A man is tired of his relationship with his lady. He takes out a personal ad, which is answered by (spoilers) his same lady friend. Trump’s appeal is that he’s not the “same old dull routine”. This is why he’s resonated with people. They’re all waiting with high hopes. We’ll have to wait and see what the next verse has in store for his supporters.

With our regrets, The Church Family

January 2, 2015

Future Governor of Texas, Mr. Greg Abbott
Future Lt. Governor of Texas, Mr. Dan Patrick
2015 Texas Inaugural Committee
P.O. Box 968
Austin, Texas 78767

Dear Sirs,

Hello and happy new year! I hope this correspondence finds you both well and looking forward to the promise that 2015 holds for you. Surely you’re as excited as can be about this last November’s election results, especially in your respective positions. Good on you gents! The hard part is over!

Now, to get to the business of this letter. Last week, we received your kind invitation to your oath of office ceremony. And the 2015 Inauguration Barbecue. And the 2015 Inauguration Parade. And the Future of Texas Ball. And the Young Texans Celebration. Kind and generous. I had heard that about you two! We were both just very surprised, given the fact that we:

  • do not live in Texas
  • are not registered Republicans
  • did not and could not have voted for you

And yet, here arrived our hefty invite, with all the sorted “deets” as the young say! But it is with a heavy heart that I decline the invitation to these above mentioned celebrations. While both time and financial resources make up the bulk of our burden in this regard, I felt those reasons were insufficient given the generosity of your request for our attendance. I now share with you the specifics of our regrets that we cannot attend the above events.

Our invitation

The Oath of Office: This is a funny story. It involves a chicken, a Hershey’s bar, a tour bus, and a restraining order that prohibits me from being within 500 feet of the Capitol Building. Oh – the husband thinks I should stay mum on the sordid details, since we are in the appeal process. Maybe we can have drinks some afternoon when you’re in town and we can NOT talk about it. Wink.

The 2015 Inauguration Barbecue: While you might think this is a similar legal issue to the above, we actually don’t eat barbecue anymore. It’s sad, but ever since we left Texas all those years ago, barbecue literally makes us homesick. I actually can’t smell cornbread without my eyes rolling back in my head. Coleslaw? Makes our skin crawl. Mac and cheese? None, please. Brisket? Missed it. But the doctor says that stuff like that will kill us. For a few years there I said I’d be DAMNED IF SOMEONE TREAD ON ME. Tell me what I CAN and CAN’T eat. But then I’d get this tightening in my chest and you have a beer or two to see if it would help but it never would… eh. You know. Yeah. So weird!

The 2015 Inauguration Parade: After that incident with the Snoopy balloon? Please.

The Future of Texas Ball: Now this I really, really did want to go to. I actually immediately went out and bought a dress for this. I mean, a ball! Really! With dancing and dresses and tuxedos and bobcats carved from ice?! It sounded magical. What girl doesn’t dream of going to a ball? And you invited me! But my husband… he has declined your offer. To hear him tell it, you likely didn’t mean to invite us at all. Just some glitch that our name and address in Michigan were added to some list and you didn’t want us to come to a lovely ball and have a grand evening. I showed him the invite. It was addressed to our family. But it’s alright. Balls are stupid and so are dresses and bobcats. Anyway.

The Young Texans Celebration: THIS. THIS was flattering. Despite the photos you have seen and folks y’all have spoken to, a little birdy should tell you I turned 30 this year. I know, I know, I KNOW. Really, thank you, I am flattered. Young! Ohhh, just stop. But you know, I must say, 8 p.m. is late for a Monday, you know? And live music? I just… I’m – we’re – we’re okay. It’s just always so loud! You can never hear anyone and everyone is always on their phones. So, yeah, just let the other kids go on and have a good time.

Despite the above, I hope you will still hold Mr. Church and I in high esteem. While we are no longer living in the state, we do keep Texas in mind as many of our fellow Americans and friends reside there. When serving in office, I am sure that you both will do your best to act in a fiscally conservative manner, saving money by avoiding needless frivolity and pompous grandstanding that would only serve to diminish the impact you two could have in a government that is often bogged down by such unnecessary gestures. Don’t you agree?

Again, our congratulations on the election. Enjoy the oath of office, the barbecue, the parade, the ball, and the celebration. You’ve earned it.

With our regrets,

The Church Family

This correspondence was mailed by the Churches today.