Tuesday, 4 October 2022

The Only Constant is Change

Let’s talk about change, what rushes by and what stays the same. 

The past few years have been, at least for me, a study in discomfort about all of this, but bolstered by an innate ability to breathe deep, lean back and survive.


Maybe you, too?


There have been so many false starts, and winter is coming, etc., but over here it’s actually feeling like some rhythmic pace of life that can be called normal, or the new normal, is here. I’m trying to see it for what it is.


My child is vaccinated, as of this summer, so we’ve finally cast off some of that odd holding back that typified most of our pandemic days. We started traveling again in earnest, booking flights and throwing masks on, and a backlog of two years of missed trips somehow got caught up on within a couple of months before school started. Re-entry jitters gave way to the suppleness of bone-deep exhaustion and jet lag, which required some sit-down time.


Honestly, I kind of landed with a thud. We came back, and the whole house was a mess from the back-to-back chaos, months of throwing things into and out of suitcases. Getting ready for adventures kind of forced me to organize the garage, and now getting everything squared away will require that again. The leaves built up in the backyard. The office I tiled for myself prior to departure still needs shelves and a sense of stability to be installed. As usual, we forgot how to shop, and the fridge was full of nonsense, but a few weeks in and we’re starting to make sense of it enough to fit the milk in and find unexpired food when we’re hungry. 


Finally, the rhythms are settling. Dash is in school, James is back at the office, and I am… Here. Nakedly, the rhythms of this new life are still unsatisfying, yet I find myself loathe to take on any more changes. I’m trying to catch my breath here. I’ve found it hard to motivate to attend to any of the millions of things that sat, dusty and waiting, calling for my action.


I find that I’m dwelling in this odd hybrid life. I’m probably the person in this family who most needs to socialize and be out in the world to shine, and yet all of my classes have moved online and my evenings are largely taken up with staring at screens, still. I’m trying to finish a certificate program that has stretched on longer than anticipated, thanks to bereavements, COVID’s interruption and the demands of being a mother, daughter, and wife.


I keep trying to go back home to what’s familiar, and it’s kind of not working. Things don’t mean the same as they used to. I appreciate all of the work that has gone into offering consistency even as adaptation has been required (my own included), and yet there’s no denying that things have changed: My design classes have changed. My appointments with doctors have changed. I can dance every day of the week from home, as long as I’m happy to schedule yet another online meeting. So much of my life is mediated by screens, which made sense during the peak of pandemic danger, but now that the threat is fading the purpose is changing. 


At the same time, the increasing demands of normalcy on limited time in a busy family reframe the screens as convenience. It’s no longer making do, it’s the efficiency of skipping a commute, apparently clawing back a little more space to fit in extras. I should be even more productive, right? I have the space, the time, the demands, the calls to action. 


Yet, like a tortured actress, I find myself asking: “What’s my motivation?” I find myself alone a lot, and struggling to keep polishing the walls of my prison cell. Get dressed, put on makeup for the next Zoom meeting. My beautiful house, which I used to find solace in, kind of feels like a dungeon right now. Would it feel different if I gave it the work I feel it is owed? Or would I feel less soothed, older and more disconnected, more deeply invested in the very place I feel stuck?


Lingering projects, languishing in the midst of a life in transition. At the start of this pandemic, I had a toddler—now I have a kindergartner. I have poured myself into keeping life stable for him, and keeping us all alive. These are victories! But, as I try to recalibrate, to feel for my own desires, the sense that I shouldn’t get too attached to anything I want hovers. It is hard to move from this place. What’s going to happen next? What big changes are coming?


I want to close on a high note, wrap this all up somehow in a way that is motivating. Yet, the world beyond these safe, stultifying walls remains unstable. There’s so much work to do out there, too, and I know I’m not the only one who feels deeply worn out by all of it. A lot of fighting spirit has been required—and delivered—and that comes from somewhere. It’s okay to sit and examine all this, to try to pick out the threads and darn the holes discovered. I feel sure there’s something beautiful to be made from it all, up-cycling this experience into solace or even wisdom.


Still drawing breath, still capable of change. Life will keep changing. Meaning keeps changing. Emotional clutter and physical debris are part and parcel of this human life, I suppose, and I believe deeply in the personal responsibility to attend to them. 


Best put the kettle on, make myself a cuppa and get on with it. The only way out is through, right?

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Where to Act Now for Reproductive Rights

Are you wondering what to actually DO about reproductive rights, right now? 

I've been going to a lot of protests and panels about what to do next in the wake of the Roe v. Wade overturn, and I thought I'd share a rundown of the most important areas we should be applying our attention, according to the experts. Feel free to share!! 

đź’šAbortion funds and providers: If you are in a state that is protecting abortion, please donate directly to your local Planned Parenthood affiliate. Donating to the national organization is important, of course, but directly funding capacity to provide care in pro-choice states where demand is about to surge is essential. Support your local providers financially and volunteer for them where you can. 

Find your local Planned Parenthood affiliate here: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/contact-us

Abortion funds also need you, wherever you are, and are currently the essential link to services for people who can no longer access reproductive healthcare locally. The cost of abortions is going up as the number of providers is cut and the delays to care complicate procedures in the wake of bans (and threats thereof). Travel is obviously a huge added expense as well, and all of these expenses fall most heavily on the most marginalized and impoverished people, who are of course also the most disadvantaged by forced birth and general lack of access to healthcare. 

Abortion funds are counterbalancing these already-existing inequities as well as working to meet increased demand. Help them!! They know this work, they are doing it already, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel—look for the helpers, and help them. 

In California, ACCESS is doing this work: https://accessrj.org/ 

Nationally, WRRAP and the National Network of Abortion Funds are doing this work: https://wrrap.org/ and https://abortionfunds.org/ 

đź’šCalifornia: We are explicitly setting ourselves up to be a sanctuary state for reproductive rights and abortion access, and this means there are actually a lot of opportunities for folks here to take meaningful action. 

The Select Committee on Women's Reproductive Health – the first select committee in the nation dedicated to women's reproductive health—is a group in our state assembly that has already prepared a package of bills that Newsom is set to sign which protect abortion providers as well as those of us that offer practical and material support to folks seeking care here. 

They have also already voted to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot for us in November that explicitly protects not only abortion access but also contraceptives. Very soon, this will have a proposition number and a campaign to join, and both legislators and abortion providers are emphatic that getting this passed is a crucial item for us here. Focus on this—register to vote, register other people to vote, and vote in every election and especially November. 

We also have opportunities to volunteer to care for folks coming in from out of state, check in with ACCESS to get involved. https://accessrj.org/access-rj-volunteer-sign-up-form/ 

đź’šNationally: State legislatures have never been more important, and we need a revolution in so many of them! 

Local elections have been given a whole new importance now that we lack national protection for abortion rights; recently a California Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan stated that she wouldn’t vote for an anti-choice candidate for the Fire Board right now, because local elected officials tend to move up to statehouses or other positions of political importance by using smaller wins to build their careers and platforms. Do not give conservative, anti-choice candidates any support whatsoever, at any level, because it all contributes to a power structure that is successfully stripping women and people generally of our rights to bodily autonomy and privacy (the latter being the structure upon which many of our civil rights wins were gained, and which is openly under assault right now). 

Also: Women, we need you to run right now, for any office you can, wherever you are. School board, city council, state legislature—you can be the revolution, and the book-banning, transphobic and homophobic rightwing extremists have already figured that out. We have to show up, too. (Two of our Bay Area stars on these issues—Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Buffy Wicks—ran for California State Assembly to take action against Trumpism; Bauer-Kahan is the Founder and Chair of the Select Committee on Women's Reproductive Health, of which Wicks is also a member, and both have helped craft key legislation to make California a reproductive healthcare state for all in just a few short years.) 

Fund pro-choice women running for office at every level, and get involved with their campaigns by knocking doors and making calls for them: https://www.emilyslist.org/ 

Also, follow Gretchen's List for monthly calls to action about where best to put your money and time to move the ball forward on these issues. Gretchen is truly an expert in reproductive health and will clue you in to what the state of play is in actionable ways: https://gretchen.substack.com/ 

đź’šDestigmatize abortion: No more of this, “I support abortion in cases of…” talk. No qualifications, no caveats. Support abortion on demand and without apology! This is essential healthcare, talk about it that way. 

Tell your story, if you have one—no one can debate your experience, it is your story and it is yours to share as you choose. Everyone loves someone who’s had an abortion, even if they don’t realize it yet. Our life choices are linked to our freedom to choose when to be mothers, whether or never, and there are deep tranches of data that reflect the better mental health and economic well-being of women who received an abortion when they needed it versus those who were forced to give birth after care was denied. 

Simply being able to choose to not be pregnant is good for us, and very often the choice is a straightforward one. (Mine certainly was!) https://shoutyourabortion.com/ 

đź’šMeetings and organizing: There’s a lot going on right now, much of it pretty spontaneous. Reproductive rights groups have been preparing for this moment, so there are already gears turning, but in terms of engagement opportunities for the general public, things are popping up in events everywhere and with little time to get the word out. 

If you know of Bay Area organizing opportunities, or national events that are virtual, please share them here. If you know of organizing happening in your community outside the Bay Area, share that info and invite others to get involved. We need to be organizing in our communities right now.



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.