A Month In

It is a little, teensy bit over a month into 2017 and how are things going?

Did you make goals for yourself this year? Did you do some soul searching on items you wanted to tackle or places inside you that you wanted to rearrange?  What did you come up with? And how has life been tweaked to accommodate those things? Have their already been some successes (I think: yes), have you run into some roadblocks?

How has the political climate impacted your life? Has it changed you?

I had some pretty broad goals for myself this year. I wanted to get outside more, even in these winter months. I spend a LOT of time indoors. If I didn’t have to drop off the kids at school or pick them up I could easily go m-f with never leaving my house. I didn’t like this. I love walking outside and when I was in an office I would always walk during my lunch. Being at home there are always other things I COULD be doing (laundry! netflix!). So since the New Year I have made an effort to get outside during the day at twice a week. I would prefer 3 times, but… life. I’ve been able to get the kids early a few days and taken them to the park. And I’ve been able to step outside for 40 minutes here and there, which as been lovely and made me appreciate my new neighborhood even more. I would call this a success but still a work in progress.

I wanted to drink less. Even though I really do enjoy a beer while making dinner, I felt like it didn’t totally allign with my health goals and can make me sluggish in the evenings with the kids. I’ve reduced my daily beer to 3-4 times a week and reduced the amount of alcohol in my beers, which has been great! I always feel like I could do better with this, but having a beer during the week is also one of my small joys – so balance.

I wanted to get more sleep and though some of that is out of my control because children, I feel like I have created a very calming nightly routine, especially with reintroducing reading to my evenings. I have hit a good rhythm. (Though still so tired.)

The world of politics can be incredibly exhausting for me. I think that’s true of most people. But I can get incredibly hopeless. I’m impatient and I feel a large gap between me and the people who have the actual power to DO things. This administration in particular doesn’t see me. And if they do, I believe their outlook is one of disgust or aggressive indifference, if there is such a thing. The positive thing is that it has spurred me, and many others, to put our beliefs into actions. I’m not actually any different than I was before this whole election crap. I believe all the same things I did before, but I feel less like a impostor when fighting for the things I believe and showing up. I also have to balance the health of my family, the health of my mind, my stress and anxiety levels, with being an active voice in this big big world. Sometimes I need to go swimming with my kids or see a movie with my friends instead of marching on the streets. That sounds so dumb to say because I have a lot of guilt about that. And I am always feeling pulled in all of these directions. But, if I do not sometimes take a break from the relentless news cycle, the bad news cycle, then what am I even fighting for?

I’m in need of some community today. Tell me how things are, tell me where you’re at. Tell me where you’re succeeding and where you need a hand.

January: My Life On the Road, Gloria Steinem

Here we are! The first review and discussion in the BIRL Book Club! YAY! I have to say, My Life On the Road was perfectly timed and it had absolutely nothing to do with current events. Whoops. The reason I chose it first was because I already had it from seeing Gloria Steinem speak, and in order to get this review out on time I couldn’t wait for the rest of the book list to get to me. Happy accident, though, because it was exactly what I needed to be reading at this exact time.

I started reading it the week before the March on Washington and this book filled me with incredible purpose and incredible drive to keep going on and on and on.

The books speaks on many levels, lest you think this is killjoy feminist drivel. It’s a memoir of Gloria Steinem’s life and career through all of her time traveling the world and the United States. The book is one of those that demands to be read from cover to cover. Don’t skip the dedication, don’t skip the appendage. It’s all good. Every last drop.

The paragraphs that I keep coming back to in my mind are some that I’m going to share here. (And for anyone who has read this book, please tell me what you keep chewing on. There are so many moments that Gloria has lived and thought about and bared witness to and I’m sure you are all chewing on something.)

[When speaking about her mother]

If I pressed and said, “But why didn’t you leave? Why didnt you take my sister and go to New York?” she would say it didn’t matter, that she was lucky to have my sister and me. If I pressed hard enough she would add, “If I’d left, you never would have been born.”

I never had the  courage to say: But you would have been born instead.

As a mother I have to work to still have a self. I have to work to not be swallowed up by my children while still doing my best by them. This part breaks me. It is too common that women are trapped by children because they have no choices. Because they have too many. Because they didn’t know there were any other options.

But where this book was its biggest educational win for me, was in explaining the history of intersectional feminism, and how second wave feminism was largely intersectional. BUT that getting the media, at the time largely run by men, to GET IT and run with it, was incredibly difficult. Second wave feminists have been pushing for intersectionality for decades, and our love of boxes has been making that message muddy. Betty Friedan didn’t help either.

I finished this book on the plane home from DC. I read the majority of it in flight, as I think it is best digested. It frustrated me just how much I did not know because women’s issues don’t make the news. It frustrated me how much what we’ve been pushing for we are still pushing for. It made me love Gloria Steinem even more for her ability to talk about her regrets, her mistakes, her personal shortcomings while also paying homage to the many women who helped her along the way. It made me want to listen more. Listen and learn and offer assistance.

If you haven’t read this book, you should read this book. If you have read this book, talk to me about it in comments!

Friday Happies

I actually tried to write this post earlier in the week and I felt like everything I was saying was a lie. So, let’s try again. Also – I went back and tried to find the last time I had done this and it has been a very, very long time. This needs to be weekly. We all need to be remembering and focusing on the small joys every week.

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Hot tea and my yellow tea kettle from my Sisters In Law. Literally before they bought me my kettle, I was boiling water in a little (non-stick for all your cancer needs) pot, and then dumping it into a mug. This seemed like a totally reasonable activity… until I got a teapot.

Mint soap is back in my bathroom and I love it beyond beyond.

I bought some new clothing staples for the kids as we get through the long days of winter and the oncoming spring. They arrived this week! And it really is one of my favorite things to open up boxes of kid clothes.

Fae calls for her brother, but she doesn’t say Gabriel. She calls, “Hermanooooo! Mannooo!!!”

We had a parent/teacher conference for Gabriel this week and it went really well! He can count continuously up to 29 and if you remind him that 30 is after 29, he will keep going! In English and Spanish! Who knew!

We are doing lots of fun social things in February! This includes: A grownup trip to Miami to meet our niece, Lola! Our Oscar party! My goddaughter’s first birthday! Going to a food and wine event (which always makes me feel like a judge on top chef)!

This weekend I am having a girl’s night to see DIRTY DANCING in THEATERS. WHAT. This is ridiculous and fantastic.

The YMCA near us has remodeled and they have a brand new pool and lots of open swim hours. I bought Fae a bathing suit and this weekend it’s a whole-family-in-the-pool event. Gabe has been talking about it for 2 weeks.

My hair is almost all caught up with itself after the great exodus post Fae’s birth. Getting ready to grow my hair long long long AND dye it dark again. I’m not feeling very sunny and blonde lately, you feel me?

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What do you have that is giving you hope/the warm and fuzzies/small moments of secret smiles? Please share. We all need it.

My Women’s March Think Piece

…because there needs to be more of them, right? I actually think there does.

I woke up at 3am to catch my flight. I had my bags mostly packed and I grabbed a lyft to the airport, leaving my husband at the door and the kids asleep. I was happy that I would be on my second flight of the day during the inauguration so that I wouldn’t have to see it on CNN in the airport or watch the responses live on social media. I was not exactly excited when I got to the airport, I was mostly nervous and sad. If I let myself, I could pretend like I still lived in a vacuum where Trump wasn’t peacefully becoming the President, but the entire morning felt like the end of something.

In the security line I kept my eyes out for pink. Every single woman wearing any kind of pink I happily assumed was going to the Women’s March. That was probably untrue, but you’ll never prove it to me. I kept my pussy hat in my purse. This is where I’m going to admit to being a little bit too cool for school. It’s not a proud thing to admit. It runs through my whole life. I don’t like looking silly or standing out in public. I feel safest as an anonymous person. I don’t want people to see me.

When I made it to my gate there was a gaggle of women in pink hats over to one side. I went over and sat near them, I smiled. I still didn’t take out my pink hat. I watched as it became clear that they didn’t know each other, but it seemed like they did. They were taking photos together and sharing swag. Another woman came and sat near us. And another. And another. I saw one sheepishly take out her hat. “I’ve never knitted anything before,” she said. She was apologizing for the hat mess. But everyone just encouraged her and cheered. Literally cheered. Another woman took out her hat. And another. I took mine out and set it on my lap. I undid my pony tail and fluffed my hair. I slid my hat on and kept my eyes to the floor. I was a little embarrassed now that I had waited so long. One of the women in the original group asked all of us if we could take a group photo. On several women’s phones there is a group photo with me in it and a bunch of strangers.

One of the women, who said she was a teacher, started passing out stickers.

“Do you want a sticker?”

“YES!” I said.

“I have others that don’t have swear words, if you don’t like swear words,” she said.

“I love swear words,” I said.

As I walked on the plane I started out confident. But very quickly wanted to shrink away. Many men stared at me, glared at me. I heard whispers and hisses of “feminist.” I saw eye rolls and sneers. I stood straighter. The feeling was awful. I realized that the rareness of this experience is white privilege. I get to live anonymously, while many people of color never ever do.

On my second flight out of Denver there were so many hats. So so many. There were only a few people who were not going to the march on my plane. The flight had a buzz running through it of excitement. We were asked to all stand up (if attending the march), and turn for a photo. These photos ended up on a Buzzfeed list later that day. In my row all three of us were headed to the march. A 70 year old grandmother (who liked like she was 50, if I’m being honest), a 24 year old grad student, and 31 year old me. I got choked up when the older woman told us we had to keep fighting, that it would be ok, that we’d get through this, but that it was going to be hard. All three of us chatted for three hours.

I also want to talk about how I was afraid. It seems stupid to say now, but as I was headed toward DC no one knew how this would turn out. Would someone try to hurt large numbers of us to make a statement? Would violence break out? There were so many possibilities for something to go wrong. I had taken photos of my kids the night before I left. Purposefully. I looked at them before my flights. I was afraid, but I kept going. There were times,even though I could see the other travelers with similar purposes, where I felt like a lone soldier.

The morning of the march I was really excited. I wanted to get there, I wanted to see the people, I wanted to be in it. Walking over to the rally point the streets were absolutely filled with marchers. Women of every age, of every color, of every background were pouring in from all sides. As we walked close and closer the amount of people overwhelmed me in the best way. All of these women, on some level, had been gutted like I had been. All of these women, on some level, had decided to say NO. I had been fairly isolated in my fear/anger/despair. The internet is there, yes, but I mostly sit in my office all day, or sit with my children, or cry to my husband and pull at my hair, and worry that I am yelling into a vast empty hole. But this… tears fell out of my face as we walked by hundreds and thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people. I am not alone. We are not alone. There are many people who were there for a variety of reasons, but the uniting aspect was: THIS IS NOT OK. There really are more of us than there are of them. That has to matter.

OK, now I’m going to touch on a subject that is controversial. Hold on to your butts. I posted the photo of my coat as I was walking onto the plane and then turned off my phone. When I landed in Denver and checked my phone, I was beyond flabbergasted by the amount of support I was seeing. Comments and shares and likes and messages. Text messages, DMs, Facebook messages. I audibly gasped in my seat. The gasp caught in my throat. It is a very rare day where I feel so many people lifting me up, so many people proud of what I’m doing, especially because I initially felt the expense of going was selfish. I worried it was selfish to be doing something I felt more than ever called to participate in – even though it took me away from my family, inconvenienced Kamel, caused me to take a day from work, and cost us money we don’t really have. And then to have all of this support was just… a shock.

Now it has been a few days past the march. And though it may have been one of the biggest demonstrations nation-wide the country has ever seen, it is becoming really trendy to tear it down. Should we talk about why there were less POC? Yes. Let’s talk about it. Does it de-legitimize the purpose and the large show of resistance? No. I am now feeling immense pressure to apologize for the fact that I am a white woman and attended the march. I am feeling pressure to feel shame for attending an event that more POC did not attend. I wish I could have made the march feel more inclusive. I am resisting the urge to talk about how many Black Lives Matter signs I saw, I am resisting the urge to talk about how many POC their were, because it sounds a lot like saying “I HAVE A FRIEND WHO’S BLACK!” I struggle with how to talk about this because I am WHITE and I have FEELINGS and so I feel like those two things make any opinion I have either a cry of “you’re so privileged!” or “Stop putting your discomfort on the shoulders of people of color!”

But here is my truth: Maybe this march brought together people who had never had a political awareness before. Maybe it introduced them to what it feels like to be part of something bigger than themselves. Maybe it inspired them to donate money to causes that help everyone. I think those things are true. What I think is really unhelpful are comments like: “I better see all of these white people at the next Black Lives Matter protest.” How does shaming people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, who are asking questions, who are willing to learn, who are not career activists help the liberal agenda? And yes, white fragility. So sad, white people with their hurt feelings. But no one likes to feel like the thing they did that was hard for them was worthless. My truth is to have more compassion. Holding a person’s hand and helping them towards a path with more awareness and activism and woke-ness is way more effective than yelling at them and telling them how they still are wrong and uneducated and bad. Should POC be in charge of holding the hands of white people and leading them towards truth? No. And I am definitely not saying the experiences of POC should not be shared regarding the Women’s March. But instead of looking back and saying the march was meaningless, we should be encouraging everyone who participated on that day towards the next event. Towards the next call for social change and resistance of the Trump administration.  Tearing it down, writing think pieces about it’s holes, and turning the viewpoint on itself is on ONE HAND important but an ANOTHER only benefits those who are most afraid of a united women’s movement. Proceed with caution.

Things I Am Terrified Of

Scalding hot tea, precariously in my hand and wily children that want to climb up my leg and take me off balance.

Regret. Especially about the big choices that take you in different directions.

The world flooding and burning and mass death because of greed and it happening in my lifetime. In my children’s lifetime.

Dying for perceived selfish reasons in the eyes of my children. (Why did mom have to go? Why couldn’t she have stayed with us?)

Dying and breaking my kids.

Water damage and mold in the house.

Secret house catastrophes that you don’t find out about until it is too late and it’s gone on too long.

Head wounds in children.

2017 Book Club Revealed + Winner!

So! Here we are. A list of books and the promise of 1 winner to win them all! My plan is 1 book a month and one instance of two books in 1 month. We start…now!

I grabbed from everyone’s suggestions except for me adding an Atwood into the mix. Because of course. Plus I have a goal of reading them all and it’s been a while. So here we go!

January: My Life On The Road by Gloria Steinam. This one first because i already have it, haven’t read it, and I feel like this is the month for it.

February: I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. This is a short month, so a book of essays is fitting.

March: America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray. This is a long one, so we need a long month. I am ridiculously excited for this one. I love historical fiction(y) things.

April: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood. It’s my birthday month, so Atwood for all!

May: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I love Colson Whitehead. This will be the third book I’ve read of his. He is so masterful. Plus he has a really lovely sense of dry, self deprecating humor and when he used to be more active on twitter it made my whole day.

June: Orleans by Sherri L Smith. June is for dystopian YA. Obviously.

July: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson AND The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley. The days are long in July. Enough daylight to read two books. Plus I just feel like we should fully understand how to survive massive disaster. I just think MAYBE that might come in handy this year and into the future.

August: Station Eleven. I have heard nothing about amazingness about this book. I was writing when this was all the rage and therefore not reading, so I’m so very late to this party. If anyone else is late to the party, come party with me.

September: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I was ridiculously obsessed with A Secret History and again, missed the boat on reading this when it came out. So, back to school time equals back to Donna Tartt. Heart thump.

October: The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits

November: Homegoing by Yaa Gynasi.

And nothing in December because that is a coo coo bananas month and no one can be held accountable during the holiday hubub. Will you join me on this reading journey? If you see something you want to read, mark it in your calendar and then come hang out in comments at the end of each month. If there is something on this list you have already read and have strong feelings about, please please come and share your thoughts. Talking about books is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.

Oh, and before I forget…. the winner of a box of books courtesy of me (and random.org), just because I love to share the beauty of READING is…..

MADDIE!

So Maddie – you will get a box of books delivered to your house. 🙂 And if you’ve read some of these (I know you have) – share them!

It’s Done, It’s Over

… that’s what I said to Kamel after I watched President Obama’s final speech. I know he meant to inspire action and civic duty, but this was my imperfect Camelot. And we’ve been defeated by the troll army. I’m watching a poised and graceful leader bow out to make way for a genuinely bad person who will represent us all.

“Why are you crying, Lauren?” Kamel said to me, with concern. Because how could I shed anymore tears? (How am I welling up just writing this?) How could I be holding my hands to my face and really crying, yet again?

“Because…” I stammered, choking back sobs, “…because this is it. It’s done.”

“No it’s not,” he said.

Sometimes I just want to scream at him that he doesn’t get it. YOU DON’T GET IT. How do you not see?

“Yes it is. It’s over. That was it. And now… and now it really is going to happen and it’s all bad things.”

“It won’t be that bad,” he says to reassure me.

“Yes it will,” I say as I walk to the bathroom to get my toilet paper because we’re all out of kleenex in our bedroom.

“It will be that bad,” I reiterated as a fresh wave of tears sweeps over me.

Because somehow, even if I don’t agree, even if he never had my vote and never will have my vote, we have ALL allowed him to be the leader of this country. He will represent us in foreign affairs, he will hold the pen that signs new laws, that takes away freedoms, that declares war. His stupid little fingers will spew nonsense on the internet that will mean more because he will very soon have the title of President of the United States behind his name. And everything he says and everything he has ever said will be immortalized because he will hold that office.

I know that President Obama wanted to inspire hope and action with his final speech, but I do not feel hopeful. I feel sad and tired.

There is a game being played and the players are too far away for me to reach. The outcome happens and I can’t change it or stop it or influence it. I’m not rich enough, I’m not powerful enough, I’m not important enough. My dissension is an annoying gnat on a hot summer day. I am David and the giant is so big that I am squashed by his giant foot before I can even load my sling shot.

I want to be proven wrong. I want to prove myself wrong. But the run away train seems too far ahead for me to catch.

I am the lone woman screaming in the gallery of Congress while they drag her away. The conversation pauses on the hearing floor. And Senator Graham chuckles under his breath before saying, “At least we’re clearing the room for you…” before continuing with his buddy-buddy questions to Sessions. Because they’ve known each other for years and who the fuck am I?

Episode 32: Chores: We’re, Uh, Doing it Wrong?

It has officially been a year of podcasting! What? I feel like it’s been 5 years of podcasting. Ha. Not that I am an expert, but I haven’t I been doing this for way longer? Crazy.

On this episode we hear from YOU! With a Kamel and Lauren commentary track plus tangents. Things I learned:

  • We are apparently immature babies about doing chores and there is clearly a more elevated system we are not capable of.
  • Some of you have some SWEET setups!
  • I want in on that.
  • Everyone needs a house husband.

If any of you are also immature chore losers, or of the elevated variety, please discuss in comments! I am genuinely fascinated by how others manage to do the dirty work of life.

BIRL Book Club is Back!

Hello! It is a new year and I am ready to get back on the horse of READING. Do you want to join me? This time around I won’t be having anyone writing up posts for me, but if you want to read along with the list I am looking for a hearty book club discussion in comments.

First, though, I need to build the list! I am looking for book recommendations. Anything that you highly recommend that you have read recently/semi-recently, please tell me about it! Some of you have already left awesome suggestion on instagram and twitter! This means that you are already entered to win this year’s book giveaway! Surprise! 

If you haven’t left a suggestion yet and would like to win the full reading list, please leave a book recommendation in comments! One lovely winner (chosen at random) will be receiving a big box of books from Powell’s! 

All kinds of books are welcome! YA, Non-Fiction, Genre, etc. I want it all. books written by POC and women are especially welcome, but I guess I can read a few books by the mens too.

I will be posting the list and an estimated schedule in the next two weeks. I hope some of you will join me in reading along!

Weekending 44: Holidays Part 2

This is a week late because the holidays were happening and I wanted to live them and THEN report back on them.

The kids have started doing this thing where they just yell at each other during bath time. They think it is the best and funniest activity.

We were an hour late to Christmas Eve because naps did not happen when they should have and there was wrapping to be done and showers to take and food to buy and it was a giant race to the finish line. But we made it!

There was family and presents and food and joy.

Grandparents and Great-Grandparents and Uncles and Aunts and Cousins. And cookies. So many cookies.

And Kamel is in basically none of these photos because he rented a fancy camera for the weekend and it was manual only and … I can’t be trusted with such things. I do not have time for manual cameras, ok? It’s just not going to happen for me.

I really really love the mantel at my parent’s house.

Christmas morning started at about 730. Kamel brought Gabe into our room without him seeing the tee-pee that Santa had brought. And by Santa I mean that my grandmother had made me when I was little and we now have for my kids. *Magic*

Fae was appropriately WOAH about it.

Gabe now lives in there. We see him for meals.

And then we all went downstairs to scope out the tree!

And all the gifts my parents had brought over a few days before, along with Kamel’s parent’s gifts that were shipped and wrapped by us – like magic!

My parents were such good sports and came over right away in the morning so we could all do presents together!

Fae was a little overwhelmed, so for a while she just stayed on Kamel’s lap just like this, clutching a christmas tree cookie.

Both the kids were super into creating present piles!

(Oh! This was Kamel’s christmas present from moi.)

We got Gabe a Sofia The First amulet. I wouldn’t allow Santa to take the glory for that one.

Tia Regina and Tia Lara got the kids an outdoor picnic table! So of course, lunch had to be al fresco! Fleecies and coats and boots for all!

It wasn’t raining, just cold. So we played outside most of the afternoon.

A+ parenting.

Then we went to the beach! And stayed there, throwing rocks into the water and watching Gabe ride his bike, and saying hello to all of the dogs, and playing on swings until it was very, very dark.

(Epic toss into the water, Gabe. Epic!)

Oh look! Kamel let me take a photo. It isn’t completely in focus.

On Monday, the kids were out of school and Kamel and I had the day off from work, so we went over to Claire’s to terrorize their cat, Nala.

(And love it unconditionally) GROUP HUG.

And then we ended the weekend with dinner at my parent’s while Kamel helped my dad set up his new computer!

The end!