Wednesday, 25 May 2022

We Could Be Done.

America, we could be done with school shootings. A supermajority of our citizens believe in common-sense gun control measures. Our children are certainly more precious than the right to unfettered access to weaponry. 

Other countries have had a single school shooting, and then fixed it. In both the UK and Australia, countries with whom we have an enormous kinship and shared history, they had one--ONE!!--incident each in which children were terrorized and murdered in their schools, and they took drastic action. 

We can do that, too. We have to rise up and demand it, and soundly reject ammosexuals at the ballot box, but we can do it. 

I lived in the UK for over 5 years, and in all that time I felt a relaxation and safety that comes with navigating public spaces without fear of being shot. It's amazing. It's normal. Even the cops mostly don't have guns. It's pretty hard to die by bullet in England. 

I want that for my kid. I want that for your kid, too, and you. I want it for me again. 

We can feel safe like that here in the US, too. It's just a matter of priorities. It's a matter of flipping the table on those bastards with a masturbatory love of the weapons of war to make room for our own children to grow up safely. 

Don't be fooled that American gun violence is normal, that dead bodies are just the cost of doing business, that domestic homicides and rampant suicides can be part and parcel of a healthy society. The 2nd Amendment dictates that this matter is to be well regulated. Regulation is what changed in the UK and Australia, and we can damn well change it here, too.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Some thoughts ahead of Mother's Day...

Today, I spent the whole day dealing with the logistics of thoughtfully and lovingly raising a human child. There are a lot of ways to approach this project, and every day is different. But, today we had: 

- A Dash and Mommy trip to his new school to drop off paperwork. When I arrived, I had to do yet more paperwork. I am actually not done with all the paperwork, and will have to make at least one more trip. I expect more paperwork surprises await me. 


- Immediately afterward, we had a trip to the pediatrician, where Dash got three vaccines and a full check-up ahead of kindergarten. It was a longer appointment than usual, as the pandemic threw our office visits a bit off schedule, and vaccination requires extra cuddles, because ouch. 


- We came back home, ate a late lunch, and then jumped into our suits for swim class. Dash and I have been doing lessons at the pool together since he was in diapers; he can now competently swim across the pool, taking breaths as he needs to. This is both a delightful accomplishment and an important safety skill. 


- After the pool, we had dinner and bedtime. (James cooked, and I did the first portion of bedtime reading before James read a book, told him a story, and tucked him in.) 


And so I find myself, at just past 10pm, settling down for the first time today into my own thoughts, assessing my own to-do lists, and wondering if I have enough time left to devote to projects that are due before getting to bed for an early start tomorrow. 


Days like today are frequent for parents, and especially mothers. Some days, it's easy enough to skate by with doing the minimum, and plenty of others are relay races of meeting long- and short-term needs for a tiny person. 


We had fun today, but we also addressed the legal requirement to educate a child, provide said child with essential medical care, and install some survival skills so the kid is more likely to live through the routine hazards of life--with necessary meals and potty breaks built into the schedule. Of course, since Dash is nearly school age, I have been doing this for years. I have already clocked hundreds of days like this, and there will be many thousands by the time I'm through. 


I share all of this because this is what actually hangs in the balance with the question of reproductive choice. And, honestly, unless you have a child already, it's difficult to really make an informed choice about the matter--it's all instinct and conjecture, with many assumptions proved wrong, learning on your feet and having your heart rearranged by the paradigm shift and its constant shifting evermore. 


About 60% of women in the United States who have an abortion are mothers already. They know, intimately, what the demands of a new human are. While mothers frequently rise to compound challenges at the limit of or even beyond their bandwidths, they are the only ones capable of assessing whether it is possible to do right for the lives in their care, much less any potential others that might arise. 


Or, more simply, whether they want to--because we are not obligated, by dint of being female, to constantly live at the limit of what we can endure because of the obligations others thrust upon us. We can and should choose to live with the commitments that bring us joy, encourage us to grow, and fulfill our own senses of purpose. 


To bring it all home: I am very certain I am a good mother. I have set aside a good deal of myself to cultivate my child in a quality manner, and I see the dividends of that investment nearly every day. (I am also certain I make mistakes, because there is no perfection to be found in this endeavor.) I am far less sure that I would do so well with multiple children, and I'm not at all convinced that I would enjoy that scenario. 


I have had many opportunities to gaze awestruck at myself spread so gruesomely thin as to be nearly transparent, and I can't help but wonder, at nearly 11pm now, if this isn't the patriarchal point: That the misogynistic design of how America handles motherhood specifically praises dissolving oneself into an ever-growing pool of children valued above the women who bear them, increasingly without choice. That we should stay so tired and distracted by the snowballing needs of others that we lack the energy or resources to restructure the whole goddamned scheme so it serves us. 


I'll tell you a secret, though--I'm finding firm footing. I enjoyed today partly because I spent it in a sense of ease that while I was caring for my child I was also improving the linkages of community and support that help both of us thrive. 


And I've had a lot of days lately where I made myself available to my own pursuits. My kid likes my company more when I'm a bit of a rarity, and I'm probably better company anyway because I'm taking better care of me. He sees what boundaries and self-actualization can look like, and it helps him to be a whole person, too. I show up with more energy and creativity for parenting, and he wants to be part of that team. And tomorrow, it's his dad's turn, and there's enough of us to go around to do what needs doing. 


Basically, I'm getting to the point where I can really feel that I have one hand holding Dash's, and the other can free to push back against bullshit. Or maybe hold a fiery sword.




Monday, 2 May 2022

Polishing My Rioting Boots

It's late and I'm tired. The last several years have made me real tired, though over the last year or so I've been trying to really allow myself to breathe, settle, and recover a bit from hurtling through a lot of battles during incredibly turbulent times. 


Honestly? I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of the United States being yanked around by rightwing extremism to the point of insurrection. I'm so goddamned tired of Republicans trying to tie women down into reproductive servitude, trying to criminalize any discussion of families that don't meet their Christofascist standards, trying to keep people of color entrenched in systems of oppression for the sake of white nationalism. 


Trump stacked the federal judiciary with his incompetent nominees, and the Republican party just rolled over and licked his boots while he did it. Moscow Mitch helped steal the Supreme Court, which is about to strip over half of the country of bodily autonomy protections afforded by Roe v. Wade


Democrats have been trying to pass life-changing legislation in this country, and everything is just hitting a brick wall of obstruction because the other major party lacks interest in governing and is completely in thrall to fascism. Frankly, if you're not actively using your votes to resist Republican power, you are holding the door for this oppression. 


The midterms are coming up. Now is the time to pick a Democratic candidate, and knock on doors for them, donate, speak up and use your power at the ballot box. There is a very unfortunate likelihood that the Republicans could take the House and Senate, even as they continue to resist attempts to investigate their recent coup attempt. 


Truth be told, I think we're all tired. And I think Abbott, DeSantis, McConnell and all of the other Republican top brass are completely counting on us being so desperate for normalcy that we disregard how dysfunctional things still are and give in to apathy. 


Please don't. Donate a big chunk of cash to Emily's List. Find your favorite local candidate and get loud on their behalf. Show up to your school board meeting and stand in the way of book bans and pernicious ignorance. 


Women need you right now. So do LGBTQ folks, black voters, native activists, the working poor, and the chronically ill. We need progress, and we all have to fight for it.




Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Russian Assets

I can't stop being angry about this. While Putin has spouted nonsense about Ukraine's Jewish president running a neo-Nazi state to justify his air raids on civilians, scenes from the last five years of watching the Republican party suck up to Putin while sidling up to actual neo-Nazis here in the United States keep flashing before my eyes. 

If Putin felt emboldened to wage war on Ukraine because of an entire chain of "yes men" telling him what he wanted to hear, then let's not forget his man at the top here in the US, those private meetings Trump had with Putin trying to get his Russian hotel deals approved on our dime, nor how Trump dangled Ukraine's military aid over Zelenskyy after the RNC backed down from supporting Ukraine in their platform in 2016. Ukraine has been asking for our help for years, seeing this mess on their doorstep, and Trump tried to turn that into an extortion racket for his own political gain. 

The GOP is a stronghold of ahistoricism, insecurity and white nationalism--and all of those things are inherently related. As recently as last week, Trump was still calling Putin "a genius" and Tucker Carlson was engaging in full-throated Putin apologism. Fascism is on the march in Europe and here at home, and rightwing rhetoric increasingly frames it as normal and preferable to functioning democracy. 

Watching Republicans conveniently forget everything about the Cold War except their feverish, misplaced squawks of "Socialism!!" has been a study in sycophancy and spinelessness. American domestic policy has suffered for it, and now we're back to the most dangerous escalation since the Cold War itself. Biden is left to de-escalate, to refrain from any talk that might inflame the situation further, and to quietly rebuild alliances and diplomatic strength that were gutted in the insanity of the Trump years. 

Zelenskyy isn't messing around when he says that Ukraine is fighting for all of us. If you're inspired by his bravery, and the bravery Ukrainians are showing in this war, make sure you're resisting Putin's allies here at home, too--and I'm not talking about Russian migrants, most of whom fled these horrors hoping for something better. 

The call is coming from inside the house, kids.



Sunday, 30 January 2022

Rocking, Settling

Dash was unsettled tonight. All day, really. Argumentative, heel-dragging, impulsive… While he managed to behave himself hanging out with friends today, he immediately went around the house hooting and bashing as soon as they left. It culminated in him biting James at bedtime, which lost him some portion of their bedtime routine together, a story or a book I think. James left the room, and Dash wailed for a while. 

Around 9pm, he emerged, requesting that his microwavable comfort plushie, his warm owl, be re-warmed. I agreed to do it, and asked if he had apologized to James. He said he had, James said he had not, so I requested that Dash do that while I microwaved the owl. He did, and he and James talked, and then he went back to his room, where I found him crying. His eyes were dry, but he was sobbing, and when I asked him if he wanted to cuddle in the chair he said yes. He held his warm owl on his chest, and I sang for him, rocking back and forth. It’s been a while since we did it that way, as he’s so long now that he doesn’t fit neatly laying down in my lap, nor even across the chair itself, his legs now dangling over the edge and pillow barely nestled in between his head and the arm of the rocker. 


We revisited that old ritual, and he settled. He was so tired. He rubbed his eyes, and then his eyelids got heavy, and then eventually his little mouth opened a little and his body relaxed completely into slumber. I rocked him, and kissed his forehead, and marveled at how much that rocking chair serves as a growth chart, with him now spilling over both sides of its generous seat when he once rested there upon a nursing pillow. 


He’s now definitely a kid. When I kissed him tonight, he was a beautiful boy, no longer a little nursing baby, though he instinctually lay in the same old position. He smells as small children do, freshly bathed and warm from a cuddle, rather than the milky softness of infancy. But when I hold him like that, all moments of Dash are simultaneous, matryoshka moments of growing him up into who he is and is becoming. He has always been there, and yet is new every day, bigger and stronger and more curious as he runs through the world. 


What a blessing it is to be able to soothe him still. I’m not sure he has any inkling what a wild ride we have all been on in the four years he’s been alive. That rocking chair has sat in the eye of a hurricane, a sacred space in the chaos where things are simple in the infinitely complex way that maternity entails. Amid the evolutionary triumph of a human home standing strong against the elements, we are animals nestled together, jangled nerves calmed by the warm assurance of each other’s presence as we fly through time.


Friday, 14 January 2022

Enchanté

Dash just took me on a journey, following our second viewing of Encanto, that was sufficiently deep as to remind me of the psychedelic rendering of Coco that my cousin's daughter treated us to on the way to my Grandma's burial nearly four years ago now.

Dash was sitting in the bathtub, asking a great many questions about Bruno, and what certain things meant in the film. Since Encanto really amazingly explores an incredible range of family issues, connections and disconnections--really, I challenge anyone to not see their family in some aspect of the Madrigals--I had a lot of material on which to riff, and Dash kept saying, charmingly: "You can keep talking about Bruno, or anything you want about Encanto!" A few times, when I paused because he sounded like he was on the verge of having a question, he said, "You can keep going. I'll ask if I think of any questions." 


At one point he clarified that he was hearing everything I was saying, and he was thinking about it all, and he would tell me if a question popped up. I pointed out that this was a conversation, the kind of thing that his Daddy and I have been trying to encourage at the dinner table, where we think and have ideas together rather than interrupting, hooting or clowning around. 


He said something particularly amazing, and I went over to high-five him only to discover he was marinating in a completely tepid bath with clammy hands. I moved to get him out and into a warm towel, to which he protested that he was warm; he wanted to keep talking forever, and we'd made a good honest attempt over the time it took his bathwater to cool. 


While he was standing in his Astro Dash towel, he had an epiphany: "I have everyone in my heart, even people I haven't met, because I have people in my heart who have all of those people in their hearts." We have talked before about how the people we love can live on in our hearts, even if they are not right there with us or even alive anymore, and he extrapolated from there. "The very first person, I have them in my heart, because the people I have in my heart knew them." He expounded on this great connection, and I affirmed that we all indeed came from some early person somewhere, and there is a chain of relationship and love that precedes us and encompasses us. 


He's really an amazing child. Honestly, I think they all are, but this is the kiddo who I get to see developing his heart and mind before my very eyes, reaching out for the cosmic and sublime, and he's just wonderful.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

A Tale of Two COVIDS

"'The crisis from the Omicron peak is not generated by serious COVID illness in regions with highly vaxxed populations,' Noble wrote in an email to SFGATE. 'The crisis we are suffering in the Bay Area is largely driven by disruptive COVID policies that encourage asymptomatic testing and subsequent quarantines. … The vast majority of COVID-plus patients I take care of need no medical care and are quickly discharged home with reassurance.'" 

I read this story last night (linked below), and while it helped put some puzzle pieces together for me--for example, how does San Francisco's ICU bed availability look so good and yet hospitals are overwhelmed?--it also helped me understand the particulars of why I'm finding this wave of COVID freshly exhausting and confusing. 


Omicron is a turning point in the USA's experience of the pandemic because the gulf has widened between how communities are hit. In very vaccinated areas like San Francisco, our problem is not currently that vast numbers of people are very sick, it's that lots of people are testing positive and isolating, and that's grinding the gears of everything from hospitals to schools, public transit to food delivery. 


This is not the case in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, where hospitals are overwhelmed because lots of very ill COVID patients are once again in need of intensive care *as well as* medical staff shortages because of isolation protocols. Those areas are still facing 2020-style pandemic crisis, while high-vaccination communities are entering a new phase of negotiation with this coronavirus. 


Basically, right now, it sounds a lot like San Francisco and other areas that have vaccination rates roughly in the herd immunity range (70-90%) are starting to grapple with whether the policy prescriptions for this pandemic are causing more chaos than the virus itself. And that is basically a complete inversion from the public safety stance we've taken for the last two years to get us to this point. There's a huge amount of cognitive dissonance in that. 


And, yet, the practical approach in this very moment remains much the same: Stay out of hospital right now, because the system is under pressure. Try not to catch COVID, because the knock-on effects are still knocking on. 


There's a nationwide COVID spike happening, but the stories coming out of it vary widely. What's going on in San Francisco is not what's happening in rural Michigan. It's hard to take in how much is going on across the country, how it differs from place to place, how the national news relates to your county, and what that means about what you should do today. 


Risk assessment through COVID has always been exhausting--everyone has different personal health to consider, unequal socioeconomic starting points, wildly variable obligations in terms of caring versus ability to isolate... 


And, two years on, partisanship is a bigger predictor than other demographic data of vaccination status, with unvaccinated adults now more than three times as likely to lean Republican than Democratic, and likelihood of death from COVID far more likely in red counties due to the plague of rampant misinformation. 


For blue urban areas, we may spend the next few months fumbling through how the future looks with COVID largely minimized through vaccination and willingness to use appropriate PPE when called for. Another phase of adjusting our behavior is coming, and it's going to feel weird compared to the dystopian new normal we've practiced thus far. 


Please, get vaccinated, get your boosters, and be excellent to one another. There are signs of hope, though so much uncertainty still. We get through this by taking sensible precautions to protect each other. 


For reference: 


The story quoted and pictured here


San Francsico vaccination data


A rural Michigan doctor's perspective on this surge


Partisanship as predictive of COVID vaccination status


COVID deaths in red and blue counties