Live

Recently, I traveled to Washington, DC, to see Lorde. I stayed with my cousin Kathy, who was a perfect host. (Seriously, fam, if Kathy asks you if you want to go to a concert with her — especially if it’s at The Anthem — go. She and her family are lovely hosts.)

In an ironic twist, I wore an Afghan Whigs t-shirt to the show. I had brought two outfits to choose from to wear, but neither one turned out to be weather appropriate. So I went with a concert tee, long black sweater, jeans, and combat-style boots. It was the right call.

As we were eating a little dinner and having a drink at a place next to the venue, Kathy asked, “What do you like about the Afghan Whigs?”

Readers, I had an answer easily to hand. “They capture a darkness in their music that I recognize.” (For a longer version of this answer, see here.) I think we are attracted to the artists to whom we are attracted because we understand them, but we haven’t been able to express ourselves.

Going to see Lorde — for that matter, listening to Lorde — is a different experience than listening to the Afghan Whigs, to be sure. While there is a bitterness to Lorde’s themes and music, the darkness of Dulli is not there. She captures a youthful, hopeful, pained romantic vibe in her songs. Dulli is betrayed and betrayer, and he relishes the pain of both. Lorde is the injured party, and she owns her pain, holds her head up, and carries on.

I enjoyed the Lorde show for the energy that thrummed throughout the entire venue. When I go to see the Whigs, I tend to focus on the stage and on my own enjoyment. At Lorde, I felt very caught up in the hopeful enthusiasm around me.

It was clear that Lorde was feeding off her audience as well. This tour had been a series of arena shows until The Anthem stop. So she and her entourage were coming off a lot of shows in front of tens of thousands of people to an audience of about 6,000 people. “I can reach out and touch you,” Lorde said, delighted. “I can see your faces.”

I think the artists we go to see feed off of us as much as we feed off of them, truly. Else, why do it? Being on the road for months on end has got to be grueling. The reward must be more than financial.

Anyhoo, Lorde played all her hits, and chatted with the audience. I had a wonderful time, not just at the show, but also visiting family. It was my two favorite things put together.

Less than a week later, I was seeing the Afghan Whigs live, right up front, and bellowing the words to “Honky’s Ladder.” (It’s my favorite AW song. In four tours, this was the first time I had seen them play it.) And before, during, and after, and to this day, I think: Go find you some live art to take in, be it rock music, a play, a gallery opening. Art keeps you young. Find your people, and go.

On a final note, “Writer in the Dark” is my song. I’ve lived this. As many an ex-boyfriend and current husband can attest.

I love ya, babe.

Two rally banners: Books Not Bullets and Protect children not guns

March

Saturday, Dan, the children, and I went downtown to the March for Our Lives rally.

(We missed marching from the City County Building to Market Square due to work [him] and child logistics [me]. But we got to the rally as it began.)

It was the first real political action we had taken in general (aside from voting, writing letters, and/or making phone calls). It certainly was the first time we involved the children in action.

It won’t be the last.

I hope the grownups are paying attention. These children — my children — are growing up under a cloud of possible violence. Many of the children who spoke at the rally on Saturday had already been directly impacted by gun violence in their communities. Their friends were dead; they were living with fear and anxiety.

Many of these children will be able to vote in November. And any politician who is not actively seeking to make a difference when it comes to gun control laws is going to find himself out in the cold, and deservedly so.

I know it gave me hope. I hope it gave Flora some hope. She and I walked the square, and we bought some pins (Flora’s: Fight Like a Girl), and M4OL bracelets. (Flora, yesterday: “Do you think I should wear my bracelet to school?” Me: “I do. I think you have supportive friends. Some of your friends participated in the walk out.” Flora: “I’m going to do it!”)

It was extremely moving as well. The politicians who spoke were politicians. But the children and non-politicians who spoke owned the crowd. A number of 17-year-old girls had time on the stage; the Pittsburgh March itself was organized by two sisters from Shadyside Academy, a 16-year-old and a 15-year-old. Parents and siblings who had been traumatized by guns spoke up and spoke out. And there was a HUGE call for intersectionality. The children are reaching out to children of color and communities of color who have been under assault from gun violence for decades. They want to make a difference for those communities too.

The NRA and people who oppose gun control can hurl insults and invective at these children. They can scoff. They can choose to believe that come November all this passion will have died down. That young people will continue to eschew voting and activism.

I say, let them have their denial. I believe in these children, in their passion and their voices. They are tired of the deaths of their peers, they are tired of the do-nothing politicians and their thoughts and prayer, they are galvanizing us adults to be the people they believe us to be.

Also, they have no illusions. They aren’t calling for guns to disappear, they understand the Second Amendment. But they also know that they have the momentum and popular support on their side. That the tide has turned.

That Enough is Enough. Never Again.

++

Another first for me this month: I created an entire “Irish” meal for St. Patrick’s Day, which was a Saturday this year. Corned beef, mashed potatoes, Irish soda bread, and cabbage (sauteed, not boiled). Dan and I had Guinness as well, naturally. I was kind of proud of myself. I also learned that Dan loves corned beef (Michael and Kate enjoyed it too). So that will be something that maybe I’ll cook more than once a year.

Image of corned beef and cabbage on a plate, and some Irish soda bread.
Corned beef and cabbage, and my first loaf of Irish soda bread.

Did you do anything for the first time this month?

Election

After several months without an anxiety attack, I had one yesterday.

And I know exactly why.

Yesterday was a special election for my district in Pennsylvania. You may have heard. As of this writing, Conor Lamb, the Democratic contender, has declared victory, but there’s been no official word.

So now I guess I’m just going to have anxiety attacks every election day? Thanks, 2016. You were a real peach.

It’s a ridiculous thing, to have post-traumatic stress disorder about an election gone more wrong than I could’ve imagined. But here we are.

And I’m happy that Lamb won. He had my vote. He’s a young guy, 33, former Marine, former federal prosecutor. He ran on an economic platform — shore up Obamacare, protect Medicaid, Medicare, and social security — that simply won over many of the voters who went for T*ump in 2016. He’s white. He helped his grandmother vote.

Safe. Kinda boring if you ask me. Lamb is a Pennsylvania politician in the mold of almost every PA politician that’s come before him.

So, let’s not get too excited. He’s not a fiery progressive. He’s not going to lobby for universal basic income, single-payer health care, or paid family leave. Twenty years ago, Lamb could have run as a Republican in Pennsylvania — pro-gun, pro-choice, willing to work with the other side.

That is one thing that gives me pause. Lamb is going to work with the GOP in Washington if he can. He’ll work with T*ump. Don’t be surprised. I voted for him because I’m not sending the guy who bragged about “being T*ump before T*ump” to D.C. I voted for him because I figure the president is too much of an idiot to actually bring good policy to the table. So Lamb won’t be tested.

The Democratic party will come back into power by running a lot of safe, white, boring candidates. With luck, there will also be enough progressive, POC, and women candidates to keep things moving in that direction for the party.

I guess that’s the best we can hope for in 2018.

Placebo

As the daughter of pharmacists, I fully embrace the adage: Better living through chemistry, especially as it applies to medication. I will take the Advil for aches and pains; gimme the antibiotics for infections (not for viruses!); and my children are fully vaccinated.

However, my experience with antianxiety meds have not been the best. Xanax is great for derailing an anxiety attack, but it’s contraindicated with alcohol, and we all know I like my nightly beverages. I tried Lexapro, and it was bad news.

Last November, I started taking passion flower supplements, two a day. My husband recommended I try it at the recommendation of one of his patients who takes it for anxiety.

My anxiety and insomnia were at an all-time high, and I was starting to feel like prescribed medication was not a good option. I would’ve tried just about anything.

When we traveled to see my sister at Thanksgiving, she suggested a supplement called L-Methlypro. It’s the metastasized form of vitamin B (basically, I think). I believe, if I have this right, that some chiropractic research has turned up evidence that certain ethnicities don’t metabolize vitamin B well (think Irish). So I started taking one of those a day.

My anxiety has mostly been under control since I started these supplements. Are they working because of the chemical reactions inside of my body? Are they working because I believe they work?

Do I care? (Spoiler alert: I do not care.)

As I documented recently, sleep has been a problem. I picked up melatonin over the weekend to try that. I took it Sunday night, and slept fairly well — one wake up to go to the bathroom. However, Dan fell asleep on the couch that night, so I didn’t have him breaking into my sleep. I took melatonin again last night, and Dan and I were in bed together. Two wake ups, although the second one was at 5:30 a.m. I wanted to go back to sleep, but Dan was snoring, which made it challenging.

At the same time, of course, I must have finally dozed off again because I hit snooze until 6:40, and thus ran late all morning.

Tonight, I am going to try to sleep without melatonin to see if there’s a difference.

Do these supplements work because we think they work? Or are they “medicine” in a non-traditional sense, natural drugs that are kinder and gentler to our bodies because they are less-synthesized than prescription medications?

Either way, I am willing to give them a try. If the anxiety or the insomnia get out of hand again, I am willing to turn to a prescription. I am okay with trial and error. But I am also okay with going with what is working for me, regardless of WHY it works.

How about you? Do you take supplements to help with health issues, or rely on a prescription medication? Or both?

Sleep

It eludes me.

This isn’t the insomnia of the past. It seems that some mix of nutritional supplements, exercise, and deep breathing are working to keep true wakeful insomnia at bay.

If anxiety brain tries to turn on at 1 a.m. or 3:30 a.m., some deep breaths and counting backwards from 100 usually get me back to slumberland.

But I sleep and wake and sleep and wake.

Falling asleep: Not a problem (usually).

Staying asleep: BIG problem.

I am a light sleeper. I wake up when Dan comes to bed. I wake up to go to the bathroom. I wake up if Dan snores too loudly or moves too much.

Sometimes I abscond from our bed and go sleep with Michael. He sleeps in a double bed; I just push him over to make room. I bring my leg pillow — I have a leg pillow. Michael is quiet.

I wake up sweating. I wake up with my right hip feeling like it’s on fire.

I wake up.

I wake up at 4:15 a.m., and doze and wake and doze and wake.

Even with earplugs I hear: Someone’s alarm goes off at 5 a.m. The girls’ radio plays. Dan snores. Birds chirp. I doze and wake.

My alarm goes off, and I snooze, but I am awake. I am groggy. I do not want to get up.

Sleep. It eludes me.

Bomb

The high school in my district has received two bomb threats (at least) since the shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Yesterday, they sent the high school children home early in “an abundance of caution.” Today, they told all the high school and middle school students to not bring backpacks or gym bags to school. The middle school is separate from the high school, but on the same campus. At the middle school, everyone was to be dropped off at one entrance, and children would be searched as they entered the school.

Delays were expected. The message from the school specifically asked that parents dress children for the weather because they were likely to be outside for a while.

Dan and I elected to keep the girls home from school today. (Michael’s school is not near the high school and middle school campus. His bus was so late today that Dan ended up driving him to school. The middle school and elementary schools share buses.)

The girls had asked to be kept home from school, as well, although Katie did miss a test. It was all very anxiety provoking.

On one hand, the likelihood of anything happening was very small. The threats were deemed “non-credible.” The administrations of both schools were taking every precaution they could. The schools had a police presence.

On the other hand, what used to be unthinkable is something that happens with some regularity now.

Part of me struggles to have sympathy for a child who feels the need to threaten to bomb his school. Clearly, someone acting that way has some issues, and is doing the only thing he can do to be heard and noticed.

Some of me wonders if it’s a child’s idea of a prank.

Some of me wonders if the child is simply a sociopath, enjoying the chaos and fear his actions are causing.

In those latter two cases, my sympathy shrivels.

I am not here for the debate on guns, although you can find plenty of my thoughts on them elsewhere on this blog.

I am not here for a debate on mental health or school safety, either. Do those things need to be addressed? Sure. In which case, fund them. Give people the resources they need to get mental health care, and to secure their schools — not by arming teachers. That is not the solution. Heck, give teachers the resources to actually TEACH, including basic supplies, in-classroom aides, and a supportive administration and board.

How much closer to home does it need to get for things to change?

I admire the passion and activism of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We are still talking about this a whole week plus later, which is a change. I am here for the change.

If you are interested in making a difference, find a March for Our Lives event near you.

Listen

The girls and have been watching Queer Eye on Netflix, a reboot of the Bravo channel show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It is *highly* entertaining — and surprisingly moving.

These five gay men meet the men they are making over exactly where they are, with no judgement, and with nothing but encouragement and love.

They are better people than I, without question.

We watched Episode 3 last night. Titled “Dega Don’t”, it sends the guys to an Atlanta cop’s house to get him cleaned up, dressed up, and out for a date night with his wife and daughters.

Karamo, who is the culture guy, is a black man. At one point in the show, he and Cory, the cop, are riding somewhere in the car, and they start having a conversation. A real conversation. About black men and cops, about stereotypes, about the deep divides in this country.

And here’s the thing: They really listen to each other. You can see it. Cory is turned toward Karamo, and he doesn’t jump into the conversation. He doesn’t look like he’s thinking, “When is it my turn to speak?” And Karamo opens up to Cory. He admits he started off the makeover totally closed off to Cory — gay black man, white cop? In his words: “Nah.”

But instead of becoming more entrenched in their positions, they have a dialogue. Cory says he hates when police use unnecessary and deadly force, too, that it is especially problematic when it’s a white cop and black person. He doesn’t defend himself or people in his profession; he doesn’t justify the murder of unarmed black men. And Karamo is moved. They talk about their upbringing, and find out they have a lot in common. And by the end of the conversation, Cory says something to the effect of: I know that it’s going to take a lot more than two guys in a car, but if more people would talk about this, if more people would listen about this, it would be a big move toward uniting this country.

It gave me a lot to think about. Because I completely understand that I am part of the problem. I don’t know that I can overcome it when it comes to the political divide. I don’t know if I could open up and truly listen to a Trump voter: where they are, where they come from. I have a huge problem with our current administration.

I don’t know how we get back to being open and truly listening to each other, instead of shouting one another down. (Social media is no good for listening in general. There are rare exceptions.)

Maybe we admit, like Karamo does, like Cory does, “This is wrong.” Maybe we admit we are vulnerable and scared, and after that, find a way forward together.

But I don’t know how to make it happen. There are people I don’t talk to because I don’t trust them with my vulnerability, and I don’t trust them to listen to and hear me. It’s like writing to my representatives, and either getting a long letter full of GOP talking points — or, worse, being scorned and dismissed. I don’t want to take the risk.

Maybe more people need to listen to the cultural messages that exist out there in our pop culture — I am thinking specifically of the first post-credit scene in Black Panther, as well as the message the Fab Five give us each episode — maybe those kind of things are what we need to hear. Maybe there is common ground — hope? — from which we can step toward a prosperous and successful future together, rather than divided.

1 Kings 19:11-13 King James Version (KJV)
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.

Maybe we all need to be a lot more quiet, so we can hear.

Yoga

About two years ago, I discovered Yoga with Adriene and her 30-day yoga practices. I finally found my way into the practice of yoga, and I’m very glad I did. It has benefited me in so many ways.

Now, I’ll also be totally upfront here: I haven’t set foot in a yoga studio to date, and I don’t have any plans to do so anytime soon. I do a home (or work gym) practice for the following reasons:

1. It fits into my schedule. It’s just a lot easier for me to decide when I’m going to do yoga, rather than find out when classes are, and then see if I can get there.

2. It’s free! Der.

3. I don’t have to be self-conscious about my yoga poses. Not that I would be necessarily, but a home practice is super low pressure.

4. I can take off my glasses. My glasses were not made for yoga. 

Although yoga has many physical benefits, it is not the primary reason I’ve added it to my fitness routine. Increased flexibility is merely one of the side effects I’ve enjoyed.

Yoga helps me decrease anxiety and increase focus. I have learned to relax and, as Adriene says, “connect to my breath.” One of the problems I used to have with the idea of deep breathing for yoga and/or meditation was that I would actually get tenser. Through practice, I have figured out how to drop my shoulders, and truly breathe out tension and distraction.

The other thing I like about Yoga with Adriene are the mantras she brings to each day of the 30-day practice. The one I did recently was Self-Love, and she simply asked that we think of one thing we love about ourselves that day.

Yesterday, my answer was that I am a good parent, which kind of surprised me when it came into my head. But I had had a good experience at the doctor’s with Kate earlier this week. She is struggling with a few things, and in talking with the pediatrician, issues were raised. The PA we were talking with said, to Kate, “You obviously have a good relationship with your mom, and you can talk to her about this. That’s really good.”

That made me feel good. This parenting gig has many challenges, and they evolve from the physical and logistical into the emotional. The care and keeping of tweens and teens is not something to take for granted. My current strategy is to listen more than I talk, to make them feel safe, to lead by example (another way yoga and exercise in general is important; my children see me taking care of myself), to answer questions, and to give them the tools they need to be confident.

Yoga reminded me that, in this instance with Kate, I am actually doing a pretty good job. 

Copyright for featured image: tatom / 123RF Stock Photo

Gerrymander

In case you don’t know, Pennsylvania is divided up in rather ridiculous ways for voting purposes. The GOP in PA drew up the voting districts in 2010 (I believe). Democrats sued, the PA Supreme Court said, Yeah, this isn’t fair or constitutional; try again. And now the Republican representatives want to impeach the judiciary.

Here, Tony Norman of the PG does a good job of talking about the issue.

Because I am find the idea of impeaching some judges abhorrent, I decided to send an email to my representative in the PA General Assembly. This is what I emailed.

Email text protesting the GOP gerrymandering in PA and their desire to impeach the court.
My email to Rep. Mustio

And the very next day, this is what I got back from Representative Mustio.

Mustio sez: Cut me a break.

Me: Oh no he didn’t.

via GIPHY

Yeah.

I cheerfully responded:

Oh, sir, no.
Respectfully yours.

Now, it turns out the Rep. Mustio is retiring and isn’t going to run for another term (boo hoo). I certainly will be paying close attention to the people who decide to run to replace him. And I am curious what reaction his fellow Republicans to Mr. Mustio’s response to me. Do they care? Can they be made to care? I bet with a new map they sure will!

The Republicans have lost their GD minds. Pennsylvania is not the only state with the GOP thinks that they can do anything they feel like; see also Wisconsin and North Carolina.

I honestly don’t know who these people think they are.

via GIPHY

If you think the election of the Great Orange Cheeto was going to take the wind out of Democrat and progressive sails, you have another thing coming. Listen up, GOP: There are more of us. And we are on fire. We are energized to vote in 2018 and beyond. Enjoy your petty little responses now. At least you have constituents for the time being. That won’t last with attitudes like Mustio’s.

Discouraged

I wrote a book.

I edited and redrafted and had other people beta read the book I wrote. And did another rewrite.

I went to conferences, and did Pitch Wars, and sent chapters to two critique partners (CPs) and a handful of agents.

I thought of a way to redraft my book, again, which includes a rewrite to get to the action sooner, and relocating the setting, and I haven’t touched my book in, like, eight months.

Writing a book, while it does take a lot of time, is a process I can understand. You put aside the time, and you write (and rewrite and edit and rewrite a couple more times).

But publishing? Publishing is a different beast. And, frankly, not one I feel qualified to undertake.

Query letters, shopping agents, conferences, more queries.

Publishing, it feels like to me, is another full-time job. And I don’t have it in me to undertake another full-time job.

I love my book (and I want to write more). But I cannot get my brain around how to publish – or even how to participate in writing groups / be a CP. I open a website of agents, and my brain bails. Like, “Nope, I don’t have time for this today.”

One woman (now a successful author) talked about writing for 10 years before she found an agent.

Ten years. She didn’t work outside the home during that time. Her husband worked, and presumably supported her/them. (I don’t recall if she had children or not.)

Maybe there is a layer of privilege or luck to becoming a published writer. Being able to take the time somewhere in the schedule.

Maybe that’s just envy talking, I don’t know.

I joined two groups of writers on Facebook. I follow people and hashtags on Twitter. It looks to me like everyone is writing MUCH more than I am currently. I dither about doing another month of writing (there is NaNoWriMo as well as month-long NaNo Camps).

Am I wrong to think I don’t have time to get a book published? If I am wrong, I am willing to listen to ideas to pursue that dream. Because I don’t see how to do it at this time.

In the meantime, I do need to reopen and rewrite my manuscript (again). And then write the next one.

I don’t have writer’s block, I have publishing block.

Words of encouragement welcome. A push from a writer or writers who work full-time AND have still gotten an agent and gotten published also welcome.

I like my job, a lot. I love my family. Taking on the task to land an agent to get published feels like a luxury I cannot indulge.

Correct me if I’m wrong.