Dear Millenial-Haters: Say Thank You

My middle daughter, at the locally-owned cidery, brought to you by the millenial-driven market.

My middle daughter was home for a precious 48 hours. She’s graduated from college and working two jobs to meet her obligations and save for a trip she’s planning next summer and so her availability to be home is limited, but while she was here, her attention was caught by yet another article “blaming” her generation for the death of an industry.

What cracks me up is that the millenials aren’t killing anything that wasn’t going to die off anyway. Helloooo? Market-driven economy, anyone??

Remember how we used to have Mom & Pop stores? Remember how the Boomers killed them with their craven desire for more options in one place? Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Grocer, hello Walmart, Target, and Costco.

Remember when we had milkmen (and, yes, I am purposefully using gendered language because history)? Remember when we had horse-drawn carts that brought bread, fruit and vegetables to the city? Remember when people lived in cities and small towns rather than manufactured neighborhoods remote from both?

Millenials aren’t doing anything to this world that generations before haven’t done. They are poorer and more creative than any other living generation and if they are killing things from our generation we should accept that those things were on life support by us older, richer. lazier, and less creative generations.

This generation will save us and, hopefully, the world.

They are less tolerant of bullshit and “the way it’s always done,” and are interested in history being taught in inclusive and factual ways (i.e., recognizing how the economy was built on slave labor and fear and on stolen land). They understand that America is not less great when we recognize the brutality of our birth—a brutality that lingers in the treatment of people of color at the hands of a modern institution of policing that was born from the fear of free black people and continues to carry that history forward, as do most modern institutions.

They are not afraid of being “politically correct;” they are interested in being kind, fair, and polite, even though they grew up in the shadow of the missing twin towers. You can call them special snowflakes, entitled and lazy if you like, but that says more about your tolerance for cruelty and incivility than it does of their commitment to seeking justice in a society that has made them the scapegoats for all that is wrong with America today, as if the seeds of all that weren’t sown in the 1970s and 1980s.

I believe in my daughters. I believe in their generation. I believe in the creativity and passion that keeps them going in the face of all the hate they have engendered for simply growing up in our houses, with our values, and in a society and economy that taught them to suck it up and accept less. And then they didn’t.

You don’t need to love everything about them (could we be done with sriracha and kombucha?), but you need to give them respect. They’ve earned it if for no other reason than the world we have given them to make their way in.

Next time you take an Uber to the local farmer’s market to get your locally-sourced greens for your Vitamix shake, remember to thank your youngers for pushing the market to provide you with what you never knew you needed in the first place.

With love,

Tina

Dear DCCC: It’s over, with love

Dear DCCC*,

We need to talk.

I mean, like, talk talk.

You haven’t gotten the hint that it’s over between us—I’ve been ghosting you since, I don’t know, November? You keep emailing—and, really, who does that anymore. If I haven’t given you permission to text me, shouldn’t you have understood that to be a clear sign I’m just not that into you anymore?

It’s not that I don’t agree with the core principles and understandings that drew us together in the first place. I’m still all about that, but not your constant emails that scream things like “DEVASTATING blow,” “Trump FURIOUS,” and the ever pitiful, “We’re BEGGING.”

Seriously. I know you are begging, but, it’s over.

Here’s the thing: you want to create a grassroots campaign from the top down and that’s just not how it works. And, while I appreciate your efforts to defeat candidates with an R after their name, I’m really not into that kind of slap-dash, knee-jerk response right now.

I need something positive to hold onto. I just can’t keep going down this road of being against things All. The. Time. Give me something to be for. I know, I know, we can’t do anything until we have the congressional numbers and that is your job. I get it. I do. I get it.

But here’s what I need right now: I need someone to write up the fixes to the ACA that the Democrats are proposing and get that information out to the wider populace. I need someone to say: This, this is what we want and we have, in our hot little hands (as my mother used to say, not as any indication of the size of your, you know, hands): and it is ready and workable and it doesn’t provide everything that we can do, but did we mention it is workable?

I need that. I need to see you prepared to govern as it is now obvious that many in Congress do not understand the concept. Show them how it is done. Slap those fixes on the table and tell them to show you what they got.

 

Stop telling me that money is going to fix this. I don’t believe you anymore because you keep telling me that and then you tell me what a disaster everything is.

You need money? I need a plan for governing. Even if you aren’t in the position of leadership within Congress, you need to be in a position of leadership for the people who vote for Democrats to lead and for those who voted against the status quo who are now getting even less governing than they did before.

And maybe you are doing all those things and I’m just missing it because your email subject lines TURN ME OFF. Darling, if you want to be in a relationship with me, you have to stop begging and demanding, in turns. We want the same things, but when you yell at me all the time, I just stop listening.

So, please, take the hint and either change or leave me be. We both know there are more and bigger fish in the ocean to fry (to mix a metaphor or two). So let’s get on with the work in an adult-like fashion, and if our paths cross again some day, I hope we are glad to see each other because we have both moved on in healthy, productive ways.

In peace and grudging love,

Tina

*P.S. I knew it was over over between us when it took me three clicks on your website (and no where in those frantic emails) to find out what your acronym stands for: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But that’s just a weird habit I picked up from working in communications for decades.

Dear Senators Murkowski and Collins: Thank You!

Thank you Senators Murkowski and Collins, for your unwavering quest for a healthcare bill that is not cruel. I’m sorry your work is being upstaged by Senator McCain’s come-to-Jesus moment of understanding, but he could not have gotten there without you or the Democrats who stayed true, even those who represent pro-Trump constituencies. But you two, you get my huzzah and thanks for the day.

I’ve tried to tell my Senator, Todd Young, what the ACA has done for my family, but he’s not interested in listening to constituents that don’t agree with him. As one public figure might say, SAD! But I also know from friends who are solely self-employed that the ACA is not perfect. Premiums are too high because of the complete coverage offered. I get that. I understand that. I understand that the ACA is not perfect.

But I also understand that the ACA has solved more problems than it has created. My daughters, all diagnosed with chronic conditions as young women and/or teens, were guaranteed the option of coverage throughout their lives under the ACA and that is huge.

Five summers ago (or was it six? the crush of time of ushering three daughters through high school and into college has made my mind a little mushy), my eldest daughter and I went downstate to Bloomington, IN for her freshman orientation at Indiana University. We were separated from the start and my mind was not nearly as engaged by the people telling me what to expect in this first year of my daughter’s college experience. I was enmeshed with my phone quite a bit–work required me to be present in a way that was distracting, but so, too, was the news cycle. The Supreme Court was about to rule on whether portions of the ACA were constitutional.

On the second day, my daughter and I reconnected in the little room she shared with another young woman. We were alone in the room when the verdict came down, and I started weeping as i read it–a rush of relief washed through my body and came out through my eyes. Just then, the other young woman came into the room.

“What’s going on?” she asked as she saw me wiping my eyes.

I tried to explain. My daughter intervened and finished the explanation because I truly did not have words. It was visceral.

I had carried my dread in my body and I didn’t know it until the news broke. This morning, when I woke to the news that the two of you stayed true to your convictions that this was a bad bill and that Senator McCain finally realized that you don’t vote for a “fraud” or a sham, I was grateful and relieved in a similar way.

We don’t choose to have chronic illnesses. The doctor visits, treatments, and medicines that we take help mitigate the discomfort of physical illness and alleviate the stigma and isolation of mental illness. Not to put too fine a point on it, the mental health care that I received through my husband’s insurance literally saved my life and thus forever impacted the life of my husband and daughters.

Thank you for taking the time to be considerate through this whole mess. Thank you for taking your responsibilities seriously and not as a game to be won or lost. My faith teaches me that we are all here to take care of each other. I appreciate you taking that role seriously. And I think my family does, as well.

With love and gratitude,

Tina

Dear Hair: I Love You

I know, I know–there are more important things to say today than what I am about to, but this is helping me exist in these awful and awe-filled times–but today I am totally in love with my curly hair.

See this pic? That’s my hair after sleeping on it after washing it yesterday and letting it dry it’s own self how it wanted to.

And it has only taken me 55 years (okay, maybe 44 conscious years) to get here where I love my hair. I love the gray in it, I love the curl in it, I love the way I never, ever look professional because my hair knows more about me than I do. And of course, when I say “professional” I mean “polished.”

I grew up in the time of Marcia Brady, that dastardly time when hair was straight and blond and swung more than her hips. (I actually think her hair swung because she didn’t move her hips–did you ever notice that?) Anyway, my ideal of beauty was reinforced with the girls I grew up with who had mothers who instilled in them a sense of duty with regard to their hair. Like, it had to be brushed or something.

I was like a feral child at that time–no brush was going to tame me, until my mother took me to a place that cut off all my hair, my unruly, curly hair. And I came home and my lovely sister (she really is, now, though at the time neither of us was all that kind to each other) said, “You look like Groucho Marx!” The unfortunate thing about that was not that she was being mean, but that she was right. I did.

And so began my hate-affair with my hair that almost culminated with me shaving my head completely in order to just stop fighting with it. Then I met my current hair stylist, who listened to me tell her how low-maintenance I am and how much I don’t want to fight with my hair anymore and so she worked with me, with the curl, and helped me to reconcile with the natural me that is reflected in my natural hair: a little bit loopy and a whole lot of substance. (And if you look at my photo in the sidebar, you can see how I tried to dry the character out!)

So that’s one fight I don’t have to have today so I am able to help slay not the dragons, but those that tether them to old norms, old notions, and ideals that were never attainable in the first place.

So ends this love letter to my hair, who loved me even when I couldn’t love me back.

 

Of Trees, My Body, and Joy

I was just at the podiatrist, and while I waited in the exam room, sitting high up on a table, I had a view out the window of a stand of trees. The wind was blowing something—not fierce so much as persistent. In the forefront of this stand of trees, were the group with all their new leaves on them, and the wind was tossing them about and it made me think of two things in rapid succession: First, of the exuberance of young girls wearing flowing skirts for the first time and how they twirl and bend and thrill at the feel of the fabric making them feel bigger and lighter and full of joy.

The second thought was of young women, joining in a circle dance for the benefit of the much taller trees that stood in the middle, but further back. All I could see from the narrow window were the leafless trunks of those trees in the middle. All phallic symbols aside, in my little reverie, they were the men and the young women were dancing for them, full of joy and desire.

And then, as I watched the leaves like skirts, blowing about in the breeze, I began to think back to my own childhood, and being that young girl, infatuated with breezy movement, when the wind would tickle my legs with long grass or the hem of my own skirt. How my body was my own and every day I was kind of excited about what new thing I found it could do. Bend over backwards, yes. Run fast, like the wind, perhaps in my own mind. Skate? Throw a basketball? Twist and bend? yes, yes, yes and yes. All these things. When I finally figured out how to swing my leg up to the crook of the small tree in the side yard, and pull myself up into the tree, I marveled at myself, up there with the big kids who each had a tree of their own, calling to each other like monkeys in the jungle.

And then, I grew up. At what point did I stop marveling at the abilities of my limbs to work in conjunction with each other to propel me up, over and forward. Or even backward. At what point did I lose joy in my body because it wasn’t “her” body. How old was I when self consciousness took over and I lost the ability to even dance like the leaves of the trees.

When I looked at those dancing limbs on the trees, I felt the newness of them. They had only recently unfurled themselves and they had the bright green color of youth about them. Untamed and delighted, they reached for each other as if across a trapeze and I felt myself new again in the watching.

I felt myself engaged in a joy I projected on them and I began to wonder … is it possible to not just project it on them, but feel it for myself? Is it possible, in these days when everything is so … ugly … to reclaim the beauty of a young leaf’s dance and sway in the wind, with the music, under the stars?

I want you to read this book

I inhaled Hunger by Roxane (one n) Gay. I don’t mean it in the food metaphor way, I mean it in the breath-way, you know, the normal way we think of inhaling. I took it all in in three long breaths, filling not only my lungs with it, but my heart, my brain, and my body.

I want you to read this book if you are a parent, or a child. I want you to read this book if you have been in a family and that family dynamic has left you unable to tell the truth about you, about your body, about what you do with or has been done to your body. I want you to read this book if fat* makes you feel ashamed, or if you feel like fat is who you are. More, though, I want you to read this book if you think fat is a character flaw, a moral outrage, or a thing that only slovenly, lazy people become.

In a nutshell, I want YOU to read this book.

It’s an easy read, offered in 88 chapters, which may sound like a lot, but she serves it up in pieces that range from a paragraph or two to five to seven pages.

It’s an easy read more so because Gay is a gifted writer who tells the story as she needs to—going in and out and around an issue as she would if she were sitting next to you telling you the story.

It’s an easy read because the words are chosen carefully and provide you the exact words you need to understand her life.

And it is a hard read because the truth is never easy.

This truth, this memoir of her body, is both personal and universal and when I tell you I want you to read it it is not because I think you are fat, but because I think you are as afraid of fat as I am, even as I am swaddled in the protection it provides, keeping me from doing things that thin me would have done easily, recklessly, harmfully.

I want you to read this if you are thin and especially if you are parenting a fat child. I want you to read it because maybe you will see that what looks like laziness is actually fear, or horror, or a protective body response. I want you to stop trying to fix your kid’s “fat” and find out who they are and what they are hiding and how your family dynamic might be creating a distance that may, one day, be hard to draw back.

I was particularly moved by Gay talking about her family dynamic, about how her parents were persistent in changing her body, but not entering into a conversation about the why of it. Maybe her parents thought they were doing that but it isn’t how it was registered for Gay. How horrible to carry trauma around for decades—and how many of us do that?

I came away from this book wondering all the ways I used shame as my children were growing up—shaming them, shaming myself, amplifying the “bad” behavior. It’s only recently, as my children have become women, that I recognize all the signs of ignoring the why while focusing on how that why manifests. I remember a very hard conversation with one of my daughters that switched on a dime when I said “what’s really going on? This is not about a five dollar hamburger?”

Translate “fat” into drug or alcohol abuse, or self-harm, or perfectionism and ask yourself how am I really parenting this kid? What am I doing or not doing to find out the root of the behavior rather than responding only to the behavior.

I want you to read this if you are afraid of your body—of owning it, of expressing it, of loving it (just as you are), of being it.

People sometimes say that we are not our bodies or that our bodies are just a container for who we are. Hunger may make you rethink this. Who I am is shaped, in large measure by my body and while I could change my body and work harder to make it lean and then maybe fly more comfortably to a foreign land, my body is also shaped by who I am.

I want you to read this book.

I want you to read it for it’s lyrical nature and for the insights it might give you into your own body, but mostly, mostly, I want you to read this book because it will change you from the inside out.

I want you, too, to inhale it, deeply, and then exhale love and understanding to the people you know, but more so to those you don’t: the woman on the train, the homeless warrior, the mother who yells at her kids in Target, the people whose lives don’t fit your mold. I want you to wonder why you are the way you are and others are the way they are. I want you to consider that our culture offers only a limited number of “acceptable” or “normal” standards and how much you miss when you limit yourself to those few options, too.

I want you to read this book.

Really.

*I use fat here as a descriptor, not to denigrate. I use the word fat because it is the correct word. What you bring to that word may be your work to do.

The bad foot and the good fight

The sky is threatening a storm. Earlier, as I woke, the thunder rumbled and rumbled like a cranky old person who isn’t quite sure if they want to get up out of their chair or not. No, that wasn’t the thunder; it was me.

I’m waiting to go to a doctor’s appointment about this bone spur on my foot, one I must have had from years of walking up and down hallways, standing in doors as I watched the real action going on “inside” the room I was watching; from years of walking on Michigan Avenue while wishing I could blink my eyes and be transported home, where my feet could be up and my eyes could be closed. A bone spur aggravated when I thought I could march and march and march some more with a million of my closest friends, joining together to be seen and heard before the impending rollback of what rights we thought we had.

I just looked at my phone from that day: 9.2 miles on a body that hadn’t walked further than from the couch to the kitchen in many months leading up to that march. I remember standing on the Metro because there were so many of us, jamming ourselves in, and welcoming the next group with hurrahs and groans, and standing up straight because there was no other way in that crowd.

I winced with every jerk and buckle of the train because my foot hurt so godd@mn bad and my eldest daughter looked at me and said “you don’t have to look at me like that every time I look at you” because she didn’t know I was holding on to that strap with every ounce of my body shrieking from a pain that emanated from the ground up.

But it was worth it, to march when we felt there was nothing else we could do in that moment. And now, finally, all these months later, I’m getting my foot looked at (again) while that man travels abroad, embarrassing me, my country, and enraging the world with his dreams of a resurgence of the 1950s policies without the tax rates that fueled that economic stability and dog whistling a brand of white nationalism that is so regressive and hateful that it has ripped apart the dream we thought we had of America. I remind myself as I type that that perhaps that is not all bad. Perhaps shredding a dream that left out more than it let in is the first step.

Alas. The sky lightens a bit and it appears it may not rain on my head as I hobble nobly to the car, back straight and hopes realigned with the truth that good will not win on its own, as this foot will not heal on its own.

Watermelon Days

It was a chilly day for summer, but still I sat on the deck as the wind ruffled the pages of the book I was reading and tried (and failed) to keep the watermelon juice off the pages.

I had cut the watermelon the way my mother always did: in half, then halving the half, then halving the fourth, so I had a wedge that contained a part of the sweet heart of the fruit. That’s why she cut it that way, she used to tell me–so that everyone could have part of the very heart of the melon. Though “everyone” in our family turned out to be my mom, me, and an eldest sister who left the house when I was 12.

She taught me to start from the point of the wedge, to use both fork and spoon: one to scoop and one to flick the seeds onto the plate. Start at the back, she said, and then lift the heart and eat it last.

Sitting on the deck yesterday afternoon while my youngest daughter napped and my husband worked, with those pages doing everything but laying flat while I tried to eat that watermelon, I remembered afternoons doing the same with my mom. Now, there are no seeds, though, so no reason to use a fork and no scary tales of how if you swallow the seeds, fruit will grow out of your mouth and nose and even your armpits (among other places).

I savored the sweet and juicy slice of memory that crept up on me like the big orange cat. It was a small memory, but one that stood in for much more:

  • A flash of the table we gathered at when I was quite little and my father was still a minister and the story of the seeds and how they would grow became an even bigger tale when relayed by older siblings.
  • As a long, lean teen, stretched out on my belly on a towel, with the plate of watermelon and a book splayed out in front of me–still a challenge to manage both fruit and page at once.
  • As a mom, sitting on the deck and spitting seeds out into the lawn as my daughters clamored on the swingset, only one of the three even remotely interested in anything but the spitting.

Here’s maybe what’s best about lazy summer days: you go where the memories take you. Or, maybe, you start with a familiar and simple thing and find yourself following the memory the familiar brings. Then the wind and the sun and the lazy orange cat who nudges at your hand and prods you into putting down the book or the phone to pet him allows you to remember the details that may or may not have been true: the table you gathered at and the yard out the sliding door that was really just the parking lot of the church where your dad worked. The tricycle your brother always stole from you and then whipped around that parking lot, his foot on the back step of it, his hands on the handlebars with the long white streamers that flew back as the peddles spun rapidly round, footless, because he was using his other foot to push himself with all his might and speed, because he didn’t care for watermelon, only for constant movement, as fast as he could go. And your other sister, the one closest to you in age, wearing the matching, though slightly bigger, romper your mother sewed for you in the 1960s when sewing was less expensive than buying and every town had a fabric store that became the place you went to most with your mother, second to the grocery store, and how you know, now, how hard that must have been for her, and still she went.

I think summer is the time we invent ritual, both in time and in memory. The days without structure that seemed endless and full of hula hoops and skip rope and forts made in empty lots of dirt clods, tumbleweeds and forgotten brick, or in living rooms made of blankets and pillows. And reading. Lots of reading and watching television shows over and over and over again.

Summer is a lazy and relentless opening for creativity and possibility.

And watermelon. Always watermelon.

 

What to Learn from a Murder of Crows?

Photo courtesy of free downloads from Pixabay.com.

The crows woke me up this morning, yelling at each other from trees in my yard to those skimming the branches in the next door neighbor’s yard. It came to me, in that moment while I was waking, that this must be why a group of them is called “a murder.” I was certain they were in the midst of committing such an atrocity and for a fleeting moment, I worried that the victim was the big orange cat.

My husband was away golfing, having left very early on a lovely Father’s Day to enjoy time with other men. With two daughters in the house, both sleeping, I got up to investigate both the noise outside the house and the quiet within and then started the ritual of streaming through Facebook to see what I have missed.

The name Philando Castile came up in my feed, as it had through the last two very busy days, and murder came up in my face for the second time on this very lazy morning.

Murder isn’t always noisy, like those crows. Sometimes murder is loud like the bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang of shots being fired into a young black body. But sometimes, sometimes murder is quiet, the low tones of a cat, sluicing through the tall grass, capturing the mole or the vole or the tiny baby rabbit. Or the quiet of the single voice saying “not guilty.”

I don’t know murder. I’m a middle-aged white lady who was zipping down the Interstate last night and saw a white Trooper with his gun drawn on a car, stopped, with one black arm stretching out of the driver’s window, fingers splayed. It didn’t register what we were seeing until we were beyond the blue car with the black arm. The white arms steady, with a squared off rod at the end of it.

I don’t know what happened there, but I assume there was no murder because when I search the interwebs, there’s still nothing there. And yet, there was something there. And perhaps the man in the blue car attached to that black arm was a bad man who did something beyond driving fast while black. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

But the murder of crows called me out of my sleep this morning, wondering what’s all the fuss, while the Baptists gather in the church behind my house, and a food truck waves a blue lives matter flag and I work in a place where there are signs that tell people how to dress for respect (read: white) and a white man walks in with a t-shirt with the confederate flag and the words “it’s heritage not hate” and it is okay because it has sleeves but I think you can’t have heritage without knowing history, and the history may not be hate, but it sure isn’t about respecting black lives.

Crows are symbols of prophecy, I read on the google. What prophecy did they bring me this morning in their insistent call to wake up?