Sunday 27 November 2022

May Your Days Be Merry; Of Love and LEGO

Currently, Dash is going through a phase of playing primarily with cardboard, construction paper, and painter's tape. His focus is on crafting, finding treasures on the ground as he walks through the world, and upcycling the ordinary into the extraordinary with his imagination power. 

If anyone asked him what toys he loves, he'd absolutely say LEGO, but he's mostly spending his time building things out of odds and ends from around the house. He frequently revisits his old toys, and plays limitless games with them, even as he looks at toy catalogs and imagines the infinite fun of MORE. 

MORE is fun to imagine, and can be fun to give, but is not the source of long-term joy. 

He's excited about the advent calendar (something that links me to my own Grandma Christmas), and about getting out decorations, and certainly anticipating opening presents once he sees them wrapped up under the tree, but even now a lot of what he talks about in the season ahead is the doing, and not so much the getting. 

Kids are sucked into this capitalist whirlwind as much as any of us, and they get snared by loud advertisements and the promise of novelty with even less framework of skepticism than us adults. We're human, and novelty is appealing. 

However, the lasting pleasures that resonate reveal themselves in excited talk about the rituals and expressions of love, even from very little kids. Momentary infatuation with material things fades very fast against the brighter light of connection, the spiritual power of stories, and the collective act of tending the fire together through the cold and dark.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Tile Choices and Vote Tallies

My thoughts about the midterm elections right now: I just want to redo my kitchen. Hear me out. 

I'm lucky to live in my now not so new-to-me old house, and I'm able to afford it partly because it needed a bunch of work, which was definitely the deal and the plan going in. Housing costs are bonkers, and I am deeply grateful to have a roof over my head, much less one that comes with antique architectural details and opportunities to learn about traditional building. 

But part of me can't help having one foot out the door. 

I've been hovering at the edge of this kitchen remodel for years now, because there's never really a right time to tear an enormous hole into the heart of one's house. Our ragtag, falling apart kitchen--older than anyone living under this roof--was a blessing in the lockdown, and before that the idea of feeding a baby with no appliances and lots of dust and noise seemed crazy. 

Yet, now, the opportunity is here, and I'm looking at the many, many thousands of dollars it will take to get this done, and I'm nervous about investing that into the brick and mortar of a country that seems inconsistently trustworthy in governing itself. Perhaps I know too much. To earn my degree in Development Studies, I've read more than the average American about the impediments to improvement that come with chronic political instability and the looming threat of violence. Thanks to Trumpism, it requires no imagination to see how my university reading applies to the US context. 

It's not all bad. As I regularly remind myself, Trump never had a majority; on a national level, the electorate chose sensibly in 2016--to the tune of millions more votes--Hillary Clinton. In 2020, we swerved away from the Chernobyl of the Trump presidency, and narrowly elected a Democratic majority to both houses of Congress. We have the chance to expand our distance from coup attempts and religious radicalism in this election, right now. A further two Democratic senators with a Democratic House majority paves the way to passing a transformative legislative agenda to restore reproductive choice and take major action for environmental restoration. 

However, our judiciary has been screwed for the foreseeable future by extremist and unqualified GOP stacking of the courts, most evident in a Supreme Court which now favors Christian nationalism over voting rights and bodily autonomy, but also visible in a federal judiciary that was absolutely rammed with Trump appointees. The pipeline is now greasier and grimmer than the Keystone XL hoped to be. To contain that toxic spill, we're going to need to keep flexing muscle on policy that matters in our immediate lives. 

So this is where my consumer confidence is. Holding a bunch of job-creating cash and questioning whether my crumbling kitchen is really the rainy day to spend it on when a shitstorm may be brewing on the horizon. The realness of all this potential expenditure and the tangible risk of the US failing to imagine itself as livable for all humans is hitting me right between the eyes. I want to feel at home here, and safe in the choice to build back better.

Folks, you've gotta vote blue. At every level, all the way down the ticket. Everyday life choices depend on it, and not just my home improvement wishes. Your local electeds are determining whether it's safe to access reproductive healthcare, making choices about our increasingly precious supplies of clean water, and deciding whether democracy means anything at all in this country. This is our home we're talking about, the basic circumstances with which we shelter ourselves and each other against the uncertainties of human existence.

We are not exceptional. America can be a war-torn dump, a bad investment, a backward theocracy, or an impoverished hellscape just as much as any other country. Our deferred maintenance can become collapse with mind-boggling rapidity. Rightwing extremism is an incredibly efficient path to those destinations. 

We are all invested in the outcome here. We vote with our wallets, with our feet, sure, but the ballot box still matters, too. That is not a given. Our franchise is our most direct political statement of our intentions for our shared future. Elections have consequences, the personal is political... We choose to renovate or neglect our government for the people, by the people in every cycle. 

I want to vote for a sustainable life, full of choice, for joy in the present and excitement about what we can do. I want that politics of optimism. I want to build something that's going to last, and get out of emergency mode. 

Really, I want this country to be a safe space for us to dream big and relax into new ideas, to move toward that vision rather than simply away from the worst-case scenarios.

Thursday 20 October 2022

Politics of Optimism

A quick thought: As a cuspy Xennial, I was blessed to be in high school during a time of relative optimism, when the messages were that we were working on environmentalism, triumphing over sexism, and generally progressing toward accepting each other as fully human despite our differences. 

I don't want to pretend it was all okay--there were wars, scandals, and outrages, of course--but the tone was lighter. And I think about how my experience compares to kids in high school right now, or recently graduated. It felt possible to imagine that we were legitimately working on a better world when I was full of youthful enthusiasm, and I'm not surprised that I don't hear much of that coming from our newest adults now. 

I want to bring that sense of possibility back. I know, so retro!! But I think we all need it. I feel that there's a tilt now toward nihilism and despair, born of disconnection and very real crushing uncertainty, but these feelings are disabling. Omnipresent doubt short-circuits action, and the spiral continues. 

I would like a politics of optimism, please. In order to get there, we do indeed have to get ourselves past the immediate moment wherein our basic rights to bodily autonomy and democracy are very directly under attack. We have to breathe deep and shift that obstacle. 

But, then or even simultaneously, we need to hold dear that space to rebelliously dream. That's the arena where human social brilliance thrives, shifts paradigms, and manages to surmount generational challenges. That is when we have the capacity to transcend a status quo that is actively damaging all of us. 

And I think it's particularly important for those of us that have tasted such hope to find ways to cultivate it within ourselves, revive it when needed, and reach past the chaos and distractions deliberately placed in our path so we may gather momentum with others to envision and action on something better. Easier said that done, but eminently doable. 

Start with voting. Do that right now. Bring your friends. Let's first move the boulder of regressive conservatism so that we can get a real look at what our future can hold when we believe in solving the big problems of the day, rather than simply recreating the oppressions of yesterday. 

Actual progress is possible, and is present in our history at least as much as setbacks. May the glowing embers of optimism flare up in our hearts and warm us as we dream.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Blood, Sweat & Selfies

I need to set a reminder to periodically look back through just my photos of myself. It's such an emotional timelapse of... Well, as many years as I choose to revisit, I guess. 

Looking back on recent history, I see a woman who had a fun, adventurous pregnancy through unexpectedly historical times, who fought hard for her happiness and sense of self in the early days of motherhood, who actually accomplished a lot, and who created a delightful, beautiful and nurturing environment for her child where they played and grew together. 

I know this from the perspective of having done it all at the time, with intention and perseverance, but wildness of these years has condensed it all in such a whirlwind that it can be hard to see myself in it. It's different to follow the pictures, with their thousands or probably millions of words, and be carried along on the story they tell. 

I feel I'm at a junction in life where I can reach back and grab a little of my youth to carry forward, maybe in my body or perhaps just in my heart. That energy and optimism has been easy to forget in the last couple of years. Honestly, I long for naiveté and enthusiasm that I fear is never coming back. I feel anxious to conserve what I can, to stabilize just what I have in a world that has rocked to and fro far too much, and right at the time I had more to lose than ever before. 

I felt my child's soul calling to me to come to Earth. I reached up into the stars, and we danced back down together. A paradigm shift transpired, and I wondered at the great mystery and deep knowing of my baby. I was left alone far too often, and I gave profoundly from myself. 

The vulnerability I felt scared me, maybe too much to ever go back to that bewildering, primal state of early motherhood. I discovered new beauty, and I lost trust in the world around me. I slept little and felt the tension of the few strings that held me where I had hoped a fabric of society would offer warmth and protection. Often, the loss-averse nature of my own humanity dominates the emotional view, and I hold the growing independence of my now-kindergartner in a loving embrace that feels like there's room for both of us to thrive without excessive sacrifice. 

But, the photos somehow don't convey the exhaustion or the fear. They are triumphant, and only mildly curated: self-portraits in moments of tenderness and laughter, me and my silly baby, learning and growing together in the big miracle of life's longing for itself. The toddler dances and goofy smiles, clumsy hugs and dimples, naps in wraps and international stroller adventures... These are the reward for that raw vulnerability, and tasting the honey alone is sweet indeed. 

I have been stronger and more beautiful than I have known. When I castigate myself for what I failed to accomplish, I need to reach back for that younger version of myself and hold her dear. 

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!! 

💚Abortion 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:

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: 

Nationally, WRRAP and the National Network of Abortion Funds are doing this work: and 

💚California: 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. 

💚Nationally: 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: 

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: 

💚Destigmatize 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!) 

💚Meetings 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.

Friday 14 January 2022


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

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Suppression and Sedition

Before the noise starts tomorrow, I want to get something out. In the early days of last year, we watched Trump’s attempted coup penetrate Congress by force. Shots were fired in the Senate chamber. Police officers were assaulted and killed. Insurrectionists broke into offices of our elected officials and were talking murder. 

The acute episode occurred on January 6th, 2021, but the insurrection is still unfolding. The party responsible for it has doubled down on anti-democratic language and policy, and our country is dangling at a precipice. We still need to take action, however tempting it may be to pretend we are back to business as usual. We are not. 

For a few days, having had their lives threatened by the invasion of Congress, some Republicans spoke out. Shortly after, they mostly quieted their criticism of Trump and the violence they had witnessed. Within months, the armed riot was being reframed as tourism gone wild by almost all GOP congresspeople who were—and still are—more afraid of speaking the truth than the consequences of The Big Lie. 

We currently have one of the largest investigations in history transpiring with regard to the January 6th insurrection. Some 700 people have had charges brought against them. About 20% have plead guilty, and have cited Trump’s call to action as their impetus to invade our government and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. A lot of little fish have been snared, and today Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about this being the routine way to start, to settle the shorter sentences first and gain cooperation to build bigger cases. This is nowhere close to done, and for something of this immense scale it's actually working quite quickly. 

But at the end of his speech today, Garland specifically called upon Congress to take action to protect voting rights. January 6th of 2021 was about Trump overturning an election result he didn't like, and the attempt to do so involved everything from Trump directly pressuring state election officials to treat democratic results unfavorable to him as fraudulent to the former president’s inner circle conspiring to delay congressional certification of results so that Trump’s preferred electors could be put in place to override our votes. 

Since the 2020 election, Republican states have introduced a slew of laws designed to make voting less accessible to Black people in particular, for communities of color more broadly, and for Democratic-leaning urban areas especially. The entire Republican apparatus has abandoned the American experiment, and is instead setting up the dominoes to fall in their favor despite demographic changes that make it otherwise unlikely that they would be able to win elections. This is happening from the bottom to the top; state and local Republican officials are carrying water for another attempt at authoritarian rule. 

It is very telling that, in the same breath as the Attorney General is reporting on the state of an enormous investigation into an attempted coup, he is imploring the legislative branch to secure our voting rights. But you have a role to play here, too. 

Firstly, tune into what is happening with the January 6th investigation if you have not already. Heather Cox Richardson is doing an incredible job of generating a nightly précis on the day’s news and how it fits into our nation's history. Donald Trump brought us into a state of Constitutional crisis, and his hold on the Republican party is keeping us there, because they are actively eroding our ability to meaningfully vote in this country. This is happening now. 

Secondly, stop voting for Republicans. If you ever have, now is not the time. The entire party is in thrall to Trumpism, they are engaged only in obstructionism and solidifying their power in the minority forever. Currently, Senate Democrats represent some 40 million more Americans than Senate Republicans, and the Democrats are trying to put through policy to protect children from living in poverty, ensure universal access to preschool and childcare, help make care of our elderly more affordable and comfortable, prevent cities from drowning and burning up due to runaway climate change, and invest in housing and healthcare so we can live healthier, more stable lives. Despite the widespread popularity of these ideas, not a single Republican Senator will back them. (They were all happy enough to offer tax cuts to the very rich, however.) 

The midterms will be coming up, and when they do it is very important that you get out and vote all the way down the ticket for Democratic candidates. Please, do not give an ounce of power to the insurrectionist Republican party. The stakes are very high. Vote with the fervor you showed in rejecting the mania of Donald Trump, because his madness is still pulling the strings. Call your Senators and press them to vote for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act; the pressure is on to eliminate or carve out the filibuster to get this done, with Chuck Schumer having set a deadline of January 17th to take action. Call them today; the Congressional Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121, they can connect you to your state’s senators. 

I’m stating all of this not because I love the Democratic party, but because they are the only thing we have right now in terms of a normal political party at the national level. For the folks out there that long to vote for a third party, that can only occur with widespread changes in how voting in this country works, and we are currently on the ropes about having our votes matter at all. Literally every vote cast for a Republican candidate at this moment contributes to the erosion of our democracy. We have to be a bulwark against this anti-democratic slide. 

In 1981, the Republican National Committee used their “Ballot Security Task Force” to harass and intimidate voters of color from participating in elections. Back then, we had the Voting Rights Act, and a federal lawsuit tied the RNC’s hands until 2018. The Republican party is continuing to employ voter suppression strategies that have their heritage in massacres of Black voters in the 19th Century and poll taxes in the 20th Century.

What happened on January 6th is part and parcel of the violent history of voter suppression in this country, and the GOP is so afraid of Trump and the armed, angry terrorists they have cultivated that we can expect them to continue to walk in lockstep after their mad king. With precious few exceptions, Republican politicians will not protect this country from falling into a future of meaningless elections, and rightwing talking heads have indeed convinced a shocking number of Americans that this has already occurred--all the better to disguise the threat in front of us and disempower us from pushing back. Experts are now watching the United States much as they would any country that appeared poised to fall to dictatorship. 

Fix up, look sharp, and stand ready to block rightwing extremism. History has its eyes on us. 

For reference: 

Intelligence analyst Malcolm Nance on the current state of Trumpism, and how it relates to the likes of Timothy McVeigh

A detailed look at the scope and speed of the Justice Department's January 6th investigation and prosecutions

AG Merrick Garland's remarks today

A recent history of Republican dirty deeds to suppress votes

A brief summary of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act with links to contact your congresspeople

Link to full text of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

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