Boys

A few lessons for boys on life, and how it works sometimes.

1. Keep your hands to yourself. From horseplay and wrestling with your friends, to the bodies of potential romantic interests, ask for and receive consent before reaching out to touch someone.

2. Girls and women are people too. Your mom isn’t your maid or nanny. Your sisters aren’t punching bags. And, again, potential romantic partners don’t owe you anything. Women are human beings with their own agency. They (we) don’t exist to make your lives better, easier, or more pleasurable. We got our own stuff going on.

3. Feelings are okay. Even feelings that hurt. Being sad or disappointed isn’t going to kill you. Crying tears doesn’t make you any less of a person. No one needs to protect you from feeling bad. Learn to experience your emotions; learn how to express them constructively. If you aren’t getting these lessons at home, get some therapy to help you figure it out.

4. Keep your eyes on your own work. Do not buy into any school or workplace policy that polices girls’ clothing or body for the sake of YOUR learning. You can redirect your thoughts to your work even if you do get distracted by a leg or a collarbone. Save it up for bedtime, my dude. (Oh, and start washing your own sheets.) Girls are in school to learn (and at work to work), and don’t need the bullshit of being pulled out of class because someone got a little uncomfortable in their pants. Think of cold showers, and do your algebra.

5. Do. Not. Interrupt. Or. Correct. Girls. You don’t know everything about everything. You will never know everything about everything. Stay in your lane.

6. I’m going to say this loud, because this message isn’t getting through to some of y’all. YOU ARE NOT OWED SEX. NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING SURE YOU GET TO FUCK. If you have a little voice in your head telling you that it’s unfair that Stacy is sleeping with Chad, and that Becky wants to sleep with Chad, but she’s not because Chad is sleeping with Stacy, but Becky won’t sleep with you, either — guess what, buttercup? Life isn’t fair. Also, stop lumping women into two groups, either Beckys or Stacys. That’s gross.

7. “No.” is a complete sentence. Learn to accept that, and move on with your life.

8. Violence isn’t the solution to any of your problems. Hitting other people isn’t going to make you bigger or your life better. Taking a gun to school (or church, or the movies, or a nightclub) and killing people isn’t going to change your life. It’s going to destroy or end it.

9. Being bullied isn’t an excuse for violence. Being told no is not bullying.

10. You are responsible for yourself. If you take no other lesson into adulthood with you, take this one. (Well, this one and “Women are people.”)

  • YOU are responsible for your thoughts and your actions. No one can make you feel anything, and no one can make you do anything.
  • YOU are responsible for the consequences of your actions. It’s not someone else’s fault that you got a bad grade, or were reprimanded by a teacher, or cannot get a date. If you are constantly blaming other people for what is wrong with your life, you need to step back and search your soul.
  • Mental illness and/or strong feelings are not excuses for your behavior. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, if no one ever taught you to express your anger constructively, GO SEEK HELP.

Aside: I swear, men learned the “blame someone else” from Genesis in the Bible. “The woman made me eat the apple, God,” sez Adam. God should’ve ended that nonsense right there: “No, my child. You wanted the apple for yourself, so you took of it and ate it. And now there are consequences for all y’all.”

What else do boys need to know?

Accomplishments

This is what my week looked like:

Monday

Monday morning, I woke up tired. I did not want to get up at all.

I said to myself, “Self, if you get up today, I promise you can sleep in a little bit tomorrow.” Because Tuesday was a work from home (WFH) day.

So I got up, got the girls out the door and on the bus. I came back home to shower and dress, got Michael on the bus, and went to work.

Tuesday

“Sleeping in” on Tuesday consisted of getting up around 8 a.m., which on a weekday is a luxury. I had an egg and toast for breakfast (and also made eggs for Michael), and settled in front of my computer for work around 9 a.m.

Tuesday was primary election day in Pennsylvania, and my children’s schools are polling places, hence WFH. I am fortunate to have an employer and a manager who support flextime and WFH. I wrote and posted a blog post, revised two video scripts, dealt with the usual volume of work email, edited another post, and scheduled Twitter posts. A nice busy and productive work-from-home day.

Once I finished working, the children and I had dinner (shout-out to Flora for preparing the mac and cheese). Michael and I went for a walk/ride (I walk, he rides his bike). Michael had played in the backyard with a hose earlier in the day, so he had also showered. On his bike ride, he wore: a bike helmet, his pajamas, and his rain boots, because his sneakers were still wet.

After we got home, I piled the children in the car (my three, one neighborhood friend of Katie’s), voted, and then we all got ice cream.

Tuesday was a good day.

Wednesday

Normal morning, normal day at work. Due to a lost game piece (which is a long story in and of itself), when I got home from work and after dinner, Flora and I completely cleaned the front room. We pulled up couch cushions, and vacuumed under them, turned the couches over, vacuumed there — suffice to say, a lot of furniture moving and vacuuming. I had the girls hunting through the cardboard we had put aside for recycling; I cleaned out the pantry.

It was a lot of work. The game piece remains MIA. I have resorted to daily prayers to St. Anthony to find it and lead us to where it’s hiding. (It’s a game piece from The Generals, which is a game Dan remembers fondly from his childhood, and he’s just torn up that a piece has gone missing. He and Flora had played the game Monday night.)

Thursday

Driving home from work, I realized I had no dinner planned, and not many options at home. So I grabbed the children, went to Burger King (I know), dropped off plastic bags for recycling (Big Bird curbside delivery, could you not with all the separate blue bags?), dropped Kate off at her youth group, and went to Aldi. Shopped with Flora and Michael, got gasoline, went home, unpacked groceries, picked up Kate, read to Michael and tucked him in, had Flora empty the dishwasher, and then cleaned the kitchen (there wasn’t much since we went out). Planned meals for the week. That was a productive Thursday night!

++

How was your Monday through Thursday??

Mom

When my brother was a child, he was a somewhat fussy eater. Not picky, as in he absolutely wouldn’t eat certain things. He ate nearly any type of food. We were all like that; the only food I clearly remember refusing (and still don’t like to this day) was lima beans. “Little bags of sand,” my dad called them once. Accurate. My mom didn’t serve those often at all.

What my brother was picky about was how he ate his food. He would eat one food at a time, and he always ate his favorite part of the meal last. So, for example, if we were having chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes, Dr. Bro would eat his peas, then the chicken, then the mashed potatoes. Food was carefully arranged on his plate (by him) to not touch. He did not like food mixed up — well into his teens he was like this. To poke his buttons every now and again, I would mix my food on purpose, because I loved flavor combinations of certain foods. For example, I would put my peas on top of my mashed potatoes, and eat them together.

The look of disgust on his face was priceless.

My mom cooked almost every night. We ate dinner as a family much more often than not. Dinners were always simple — a meat protein, a starch, a vegetable, sometimes a salad. Food was usually prepared from fresh (or, in the case of vegetables, fresh frozen). Mom is Italian, so a dinner of roast, pasta with tomato sauce, and a green vegetable was not out of the ordinary.

Of course, by Friday or Saturday, Mom had had enough of cooking, and would make a casserole of leftovers. Meat, potatoes, and veggies, maybe throw some cheese in there; or pasta, meat, sauce, cheese.

Whenever Mom made a casserole, my brother would carefully separate it into separate piles: a pile of pasta, a pile of meat, a pile of veggies. And then he would eat each pile, one at a time. He was so opposed to mixing up his food, he literally would wait until each bite was done before digging into the next pile.

I don’t remember huge fights about this, or about food and eating in general. But this habit of food segregation used to noticeably bug my parents. Another Dad classic that I remember from my childhood is, “Why separate food? It’s all going the same place!”

And this is how it went for dinners throughout my childhood. My mom provided healthy and delicious meals; we ate; my brother had his weird picadillos. Mom and Dad would talk shop; they worked together for most of my childhood. They asked us about school and sports teams and I don’t know what all. Half the time I was probably trying to read a book.

Eventually, we children left the nest. I went to Duquesne University, where the cafeteria turned me into a vegetarian. I liked mixed up food, but I wanted to be able to identify the components. I survived on ice cream, french fries and grilled cheese, the salad bar, cereal, and coffee. Dr. Bro spent a year at Miami University in Miami before transferring to Johns Hopkins University. Sis traveled; she tried school at a University of Maryland campus; went home; went to Florida and other places; and she usually worked in food service (i.e. a server at restaurants). (She’s a doctor of chiropractic now.)

At one point, my mom was taking classes in Pittsburgh. I had graduated college at this time, but Dr. Bro was still at Johns Hopkins. I remember one week, my mom came down and attended class, then she and I decided to go visit my brother in Maryland for the weekend.

My brother was happy to have us visit. He gave us a quick tour of his dorm apartment: four small bedrooms, two shared baths, and a shared living area and kitchen. In the kitchen, he got super excited.

“Oh, I have to show you something!” he told us.

“Do you cook?” my mom asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s what I want to show you.”

My brother opened a cupboard, and took down a box of…

.

.

.

Hamburger Helper.

“Have you ever heard of this?” he asked eagerly. “It’s great! You get a pound of hamburger, brown it, then add this stuff with water. I have it a couple times a week.”

The look of pure incredulity on Mom’s face is hard to describe. My mom wasn’t much of a yeller, but I’m pretty sure she thought about shouting, “Are you kidding me?”

Honestly, if she had whacked him over the head with a frying pan, a jury of her peers wouldn’t have convicted her.

++

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thanks for all the meals, and so much more. I know my own choice to be a vegetarian was irritating for awhile, and I do want to thank you for adjusting to that. You taught me how to read a recipe, and the value of home-cooked meals and family dinners. 

I hope you get a break from cooking today, and get to do something fun and/or relaxing. I love you. 

Marvel

This post contains some profanity, as well as SPOILERS for Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, so read at your own risk.

That said:

What the ever-loving fuck, Marvel??

I am not a movie buff, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even a frequent movie-goer. I don’t watch Oscar-nominated films on purpose. And I’m not much of a critic. I just want to be entertained.

To that end, I do like a big-budget blockbuster. Many of the movies I have made an effort to see in theaters (not counting animated movies; see: children) are movie franchises with million-dollar budgets and special effects galore: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars films. I went to go see Jumanji on the big screen because it looked hella entertaining (it was).

When it comes to superhero movies, I am a Marvel girl (as opposed to DC). The only DC film I’ve watched is Wonder Woman. And, I will add here: I am not a comic book reader. I have no idea how true to any of the comics these movies are. It doesn’t overly concern me.

It’s shorter to list the superhero Marvel films (since the first Iron Man) that I haven’t seen. My favorite so far has been Black Panther; second on my list is Guardians of the Galaxy. Still, I wouldn’t have said that I was invested in the Marvel movies (and not a few of the television shows as well), but then we went to see Avengers Infinity War, and I’m still upset.

I started getting nervous about the outcome of the film when Vision and The Scarlet Witch/Wanda were attacked in Scotland. Thantos and his alien band of terrorists seemed quite unstoppable. And the Hulk wasn’t appearing to wreak his usual, unbeatable brand of whoop-ass.

But: It’s a superHERO film! No one dies in superhero films (except for Phil Coulson, and he gets resurrected for Agents of Shield)! No matter what types of marauding hordes are attacking Earth, or Asgard, or the galaxy, our heroes were there to save the day.

That proves very much to not be the case in Infinity War. Loki and Heimdall get offed in the first scene (so mean, killing Idris Elba); Thor certainly appears to perish in the cold reaches of space.

But I should have sensed we were in big trouble when Thantos tossed Gamora to her death. Aside: GURL, HOW DO YOU NOT SEE WHAT’S COMING? RUN!

Infinity War is an entertaining and fun film for the most part (except for that Gamora thing). It’s so great seeing each of the heroes get their moment; the appearance of Peter Dinklage is inspired; and it’s FUNNY. General Okoye to T’challa right before the final battle scene, “When you said we were going to open up Wakanda, this is not what I imagined.” T’challa, “What did you imagine?” Okoye: “I don’t know, the Olympics? Maybe a Starbucks?”

And then the final two minutes of the movie happen, and I am still not over it. I was too stunned to even fucking cry. I hardly believed it when Black Panther — what, disintegrated? Like: No fucking way that just happened.

And it kept happening: Scarlet Witch, Bucky, Spiderman, Dr. Strange, all the Guardians except Rocket — apparently Groot’s last word, directed toward Rocket, was “Dad.”

via GIPHY

Of course, we sat through the credits — we’re very familiar with the Marvel easter eggs, after all. And I still don’t know what’s going to happen next (because I didn’t recognize that icon on Nick Fury’s special decoder signal call thingie — which, who even knows if that call went through before Fury, too, disintegrates).

We know there’s a Guardians of the Galaxy 3; we know there’s an fourth Avengers movie. DO THEY ALL COME BACK? DO THEY FIND THANTOS AND USE THE TIME STONE TO FIX WHAT’S WRONG? I NEED TO KNOW!

Okay, I don’t really need to know, but man. You can’t just *poof* Black Panther like that. Even Flora, who is less of a movie buff than I, was quite upset.

Walking out of that theater was like walking out of a funeral (h/t Dan). It was so quiet. I can’t decide if I’m too mad to ever go see another Marvel movie again — I know, it’s fiction, but you just don’t expect evil and madness to WIN like that — or if the suspense is going to be too brutal to think about.

I guess in the meantime, I’ll go watch season 2 of Jessica Jones. Oh, Jessica, hold me.

Did you see it? Did you hate it? DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S NEXT?

Copyright for featured image: olehsvetiukha / 123RF Stock Photo

Handmaid

If I were writing a review blurb for The Handmaid’s Tale (the show, streaming on Hulu), it would look something like:

“…terrifyingly relevant! Five stars!”

I don’t remember how old I was when I first read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It remains one of those books for me that changed me, left a mark. I reread it from time to time, mostly to remind myself of what I’m fighting for when I talk about feminism, and the right to choose, and women’s autonomy.

If you are unfamiliar, The Handmaid’s Tale imagines a dystopian future society called Gilead, which is a theocracy ruled socially and politically by white Christian men — Matt Walsh’s wet dream, basically. Women have zero rights; they aren’t even allowed to read. Because of environmental factors, the birthrate is very low. Women who have proven themselves fertile are conscripted to be handmaids to the ruling class. They lift this idea (and most of the laws of the society) out of the Christian Bible. Each time the commanders have sex with (read: rape) their handmaids, they read a passage from Genesis, the story of Jacob and his wives, sister Leah and Rachel:

“And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.” (King James Bible)

The story is told by Offred, the handmaid of The Commander (in the show, Commander Waterford).

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

If anything, the show is more terrifying than the book. The camerawork is almost uncomfortably intimate. Joseph Fiennes as The Commander is creepy af. What happens after her “transgressions” to Ofglen/Emily is horrifying. In short, LGBTQ people in Gilead are viewed as ‘gender traitors’, and punished, usually by hanging. But because Ofglen is a fertile handmaid, her life is spared; other parts of her, not so much. It’s truly shocking.

In one of the bitterest of twists, the show reveals that Serena Joy/Mrs. Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) came up with a lot of ideas for Gilead’s rule of law. The show gives her a depth of character that the book decidedly does not. She’s *almost* sympathetic. The casting in the show is younger than in the book, or at least that’s my impression. As a result, Mrs. Waterford seems to be in much more direct competition with Offred for the commander’s affection.

The show also gives us some back story for Nick (Max Minghella). It reveals Luke’s fate after the escape attempt. The show also gives us a very diverse cast, which I liked. When I read the book, I pretty much pictured everyone as white (duh), but the show is cast much differently.

Some of the most chilling moments from the show:

After The Commander’s first handmaid kills herself, which is shown in a flashback, as they are taking the body out, Mrs. Waterford looks at her husband and says, “I told you.”

In another scene, after an illegal game of Scrabble with the Commander, he tells Offred that they created the system of handmaids “for your own good…. You’re free now, to fulfill your biological destiny.” Offred says, “What about love?” and he dismisses her as if she’s a child.

This is the part of the show that scares me the most, probably. Because it’s not fiction that plenty of men (and not a few women) do believe that a system that takes choices away from women is actually freeing them for what they should be doing. Women don’t need to work; they don’t need access to reproductive health care; they don’t need to read. They should just submit to sex, conceive babies, and be happy.

*shudder*

The casting of Handmaid’s Tale is extraordinary. There is not a weak character. (Look for a cameo by Atwood in Episode 1.) Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia is amazing. She captures the zeal of the Aunts — women who have been chosen to “train” the handmaids in their new roles. Aunt Lydia is a true believer in Gilead. The comparisons comedienne Michelle Wolf made between Aunt Lydia and Sarah Huckabee Sanders weren’t about SHS’s looks. They were about SHS’s willingness to be a mouthpiece to the powers that be. I don’t know that SHS is as much of a zealot as Aunt Lydia — who is also quite the sadist — but both women are willing participants in the culture of lies and oppression, one fictional, and one very much not.

But all the credit goes to Elizabeth Moss who plays Offred/June. She manages to capture the surrealism of her situation while also recognizing the horror of it. Her facial expressions, and her voice as she speaks in the voiceovers, starts as incredulous — “How is this life?” But as the story goes on, she finds her core and her power. “They shouldn’t have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army,” she says in one of the last episodes of Season 1.

The show ends exactly where the book does (sans epilogue), so I am curious to see where Season 2 takes us.

If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, but I will warn you: It’s not easy. It wasn’t easy to read twenty-plus years ago when I first discovered it, and it sure isn’t going to be easy now. The show is also quite difficult because it pulls very few punches. The characters in the show are not as one dimensional as in the book — which is scary. These could be real people in power; arguably they are. Don’t tell me VP Pence and his wife wouldn’t be perfectly content in Gilead.

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale, or watched the show? What do you think?

Copyright for featured image: prasongtakham / 123RF Stock Photo

Arts Fest Umbrellas

Tuesday

When the 13-year-old comes out of her room and says, “Hey, let’s play a game!” you forget whatever else you were doing, and you play that game!

This is actually true of any of my children, but especially for Flora. Recently Michael asked to play the board game Sorry!, and so we did. Last night, Flora wanted to play Apples to Apples, so we did. Random requests for family together time should be delivered if at all possible!

One of the challenges of continuing to blog is that I started this when my children were babies. I needed a repository to complain, to write about babyloss, to capture the cute and frustrating things that my children did. From infancy through about age 4, I found parenting to be physically and logistically challenging in ways I hadn’t expected.

The tween and teen years, of course, are challenging in different ways, and ways that I cannot always share here. Because it’s not just about my parenting any more; it’s also about making sure my children’s privacy, safety, and dignity are also respected. Each of my children give me challenges every day — why won’t Michael do his homework; what can I do to get Flora out of her room; how do I help Kate navigate a drama-filled relationship? — and while I can allude to these challenges, I can’t always dive into them in depth.

They aren’t my stories.

Navigating the tween/teen years as a parent are challenging for me in the following ways:

1. Emotions run strong. I think the tween years are proving to actually be more fraught (although my teen isn’t far into the teen years, so everything is subject to change without notice — I think I’m going to make this my new bio). The hormonal, physical, social, and emotional upheavals that start around the ages of 10 and 11 are harder to deal with. Once a young person going through puberty starts to figure out what is up, they can temper their reactions. Mileage varies, of course.

2. “Your feelings are valid.” Even as the emotional roller coaster of puberty appears to turn already irrational creatures (i.e. children) into even less rational creatures with a side of eyeroll, this is something I find myself telling my children often. I think I’m doing the right thing by affirming my children’s emotions, the positive ones as well as the difficult ones. I do this in part to help them navigate the difficult ones. Anger, anxiety, sadness, grief — my children’s reactions to things that happen in their lives are appropriate. It’s what they decide to do after that needs to be examined and dealt with accordingly.

3. I want my children to DO stuff. At this point, none of my children are involved in any extra curricular activities, and while I think part of that is my responsibility, I also want them to be like, “Hey, Mom, I’m really interested in XYZ, can I take this class, course, sign up for this sport?”

And that’s not happening. Flora and Michael played soccer last fall, but neither was interested in soccer this spring. Flora doesn’t want to do anything extra (although there was one club at the library she was interested in, which never got off the ground due to a lack of interest); Kate was in drama club, but the faculty member running it had to drop it this year due to health issues. Michael wants to take karate or similar martial arts. But I haven’t taken the initiative to get him signed up for those. I don’t count playing instruments because that is part of their curriculum.

4. I want my children to just do what I tell them to do. My children know what I expect of them: homework, chores, practice instruments. I want them to come home from school, and be done with their “work” before I get home.

This does not happen. I get home, and I am ordering them around. It’s not very fun. I’m not sure how to help them develop these habits.

Anyway: Tuesday, we played games. It was good. (And, no, I don’t “let” my children win.)

What did you do Tuesday?

May

One third of the year is already gone. *poof*

I feel like I haven’t done anything, and yet I know that I’ve actually been very busy, which is why I’m looking around myself in May wondering where the time has gone.

But I guess that is part of the problem: I (we) have been busy with things, day in and day out, plus weekends. And thus, nothing has gotten done. It’s a conundrum. Plus, of course, dealing with my own anxiety and sleep issues.

So. May.

May-be, it’s time for me to slow my roll a little bit, and instead of focusing on busy-ness, focus on projects I want to get done. Flex different muscles than the ones I have been flexing.

1. Writing: What the heck, I’m going to try blogging every day this month. No idea what I’m going to write about. I’ll figure that out as I go through it.

I am also going to set a goal of finishing my next rewrite of my original WIP by the end of June. I may try Pitch Wars again, but in any case I have another project I’d like to start. I may try to do NaNoWriMo again for that one. I NEED TO WRITE I MISS MY CHARACTERS. I spend a lot of time up in my head with them. I need to get them elsewhere.

Plus, I have other stuff I need to write.

2. I don’t know what Two is. I want it to be my house. We just ended our car payments on one car, so maybe that can go toward the house.

I hate my house. Too much shit, and no time, no place, to move it.

3. I want to have more fun with my children. I suppose this in some ways gets in the way of 1 and 2.

All right, anyway. I’m going to get myself together here, and try to distract myself less. Wish me luck, and see ya tomorrow.

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.