#Resist

We’re having another go at potty training. It’s just as exhausting as last time. I’ve solicited advice from near and far. From a stranger at a Christmas party over the weekend. From my dear friend, a Special Education teacher in Santa Fe, who has potty-trained four of her students this year. (She was quick to say that peer models make a huge difference.) My mom has offered encouragement rather than advice, and one quiet observation, maybe she’s not ready. Another friend suggested taking a break and then trying again, which brings us to today. Trying again. What I can’t help but see clearly in this battle of wills is how incredibly effective resistance is. Raising one’s voice. Saying no again and again and again. Lying on the floor. Flat refusal. Holding ground. My two-year-old protester demonstrating her rights. If I search beneath my frustration, I find a deep well of admiration. I have to sit here while she naps and write-think my way through it in order to access that admiration, but it’s there. The resistance takes other forms, too. After all of her tactics, she will reappear with a smile and say, “I want to hug you, mama. Squeeze me!” I kneel on the floor and we embrace. Still she resists that damn potty.

After nap we make Christmas cookies. It allows me to accomplish something on my list and provides us with an interactive indoor activity. (Yes, I tried this two weeks ago, but here we go again.) There’s a baked butternut squash cooling on the stove, and while she pours and stirs the flour for the cookie dough, I chop an onion and toss it in a pot because I may as well get some squash soup done, too. And the timer is going off for potty and the timer is going off for cookies and I’m negotiating with a single chocolate chip and it works once, twice, and then never again. Then there is her dismay that the cookies are not for us but for friends and neighbors. Three hours of this kitchen dance and potty dance, and still she resists.

At 5:00 p.m. we head out to make a few cookie and soup deliveries to family and friends, and I say, “We’re spreading Christmas cheer!” (Also, I’m feeling caged and must leave the house before my brain combusts.) I need to escape and then return in order to appreciate the warm smells of vanilla and ginger and cinnamon and sautéed onion, the tree lights twinkling. I play Christmas music in the car and she sings along. She can pick out “Silent Night” even when it’s the old-timey Bing Crosby version and “Frosty the Snowman” when it’s the Ronettes. I drive slowly past the houses with lights and tell her, “Look, look!” She gets bored during “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and asks, “Where’s comfort and joy?”

Parenting is challenging in that it requires every part of you, every version of you, every bit of your energy reserves and resources. You must constantly shift gears. Be inventive.

I’m grateful that she wore me out today, that there wasn’t a minute to glance at Twitter or read a news article. We all knew it would go down like this. And while I’m disgusted, I refuse to be disheartened all over again. I am drawing on my daughter’s example for the days ahead. What does resistance look like? How many different ways can I resist?

An editor in my network posted a call for writers for the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s forthcoming project, Teaching Tolerance, which will highlight educators’ and students’ lessons and/or actions of compassion, respect, and inclusion. I immediately thought of a story and someone I wanted to interview, and I reached out to her as we were driving to a Christmas party on Saturday night. In less than 24 hours, 200 writers had already responded to the editor’s call, so I emailed my bio and pitch in a hurry. This morning I received a response and was added to the list. The project will roll out in February or March. They may want the story I pitched, or they may give me an assignment. Either way, I’m excited about this new story idea and I can’t wait to write it. It has me thinking about these positive forms of resistance, the small acts of compassion and inclusion we can practice every day. It seems more important than ever to move through our days with our eyes open and our hearts open.

If you’ve been thinking about ways to resist, here are are some resources I’ve found helpful:

On Facebook, follow Rebecca Solnit who has basically transformed her page into social media headquarters for the resistance. From the new introduction to her new book Hope in the Dark:

“The analogy that has helped me most is: in Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of boat-owners rescued people—single moms, toddlers, grandfathers– stranded in attics, on roofs, in housing projects, hospitals, and school buildings. None of them said, I can’t rescue everyone, therefore it’s futile; therefore my efforts are flawed and worthless. They went out there in fishing boats and rowboats and pirogues and all kinds of small craft, some driving from as far as Texas and eluding the authorities to get in, others working from within the city, refugees themselves rescuing others. There was bumper-to-bumper boat-trailer traffic—the celebrated Cajun Navy– going toward the city the day after the levees broke. None of those people said, I can’t rescue them all. All of them said, I can rescue someone, and that’s work so meaningful and important I will risk my life and defy the authorities to do it. And they did.”

If you’re on Twitter, I recommend following author and journalist, Summer Brennan, who is live tweeting the resistance. Also, Sarah Kendzior, an anthropologist with expertise in authoritarian regimes.

Sign up for Talia Lavin’s Tiny Letter and you’ll receive an email every day with a new action you can take to affect change.

Become a member of the ACLU.

Feeling exhausted? Make a cup of tea. Pet the cat. Hug someone. Bake cookies and deliver them around the neighborhood. Drink plenty of water. Write. Read a poem.

Like this one.

Kindness

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

(Post 334 of 365)

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A Restlessness

I’m trying like heck to get a few short pieces submitted. I get tripped up by cover letters. I wonder if the piece is ready, really ready. Then I wonder if I’m waiting too long. I go to submit and end up hopping around the journal. I see names I recognize and start reading their work. Like this flash piece by Steve Edwards at SmokeLong Quarterly. “Love is a mess.”

It was not a great day of potty-training. I couldn’t seem to dig up enough enthusiasm to counter the resistance. I wasn’t patient enough. I tried to accomplish other things, and none of it really worked out. The days have been grey and confining. I wouldn’t be pushing it so much if preschool acceptance didn’t hinge on her being fully potty-trained. In a way, it’s like the weaning experience, a big change, and I’m trying to gauge readiness. The weaning process taught me that a child can be both ready and unwilling. It’s mostly a matter of being gentle. And sometimes it’s hard to be gentle when the day is grey and you’re trapped in the house thinking of a hundred other things and you realize you’ve got nothing but black to wear to this weekend’s Christmas parties and goddamnit is that unnameable idiot really, really going to be president and the paperwork needs completing and the car needs to go to the shop but for god’s sake no one’s dying and everything is fine and why can’t I just be happy batting this balloon around the kitchen with my kid? Yeah. Some days it’s just harder to be gentle. And you have to find a way to trade the guilt for forgiveness, surrender what’s passed, and look ahead to the fresh new unmarred day.

(Post 323 of 365)

Truth-Bomb

We’re coming up on a month since the election. So, where are we right now, today, right this minute? PEOTUS tweeting about Saturday Night Live’s parody about PEOTUS tweeting. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson now in the running for Secretary of State. HRC now up 2.6 million votes and 2%. Everyday I ask, what is this unreality we’re living in?

I need truth-bombs like this one from the brilliant mind of Rachel Federman at Last American Childhood. It’s an essay that beats like a drum, that rises off the page like a warrior cry. It is the necessary, urgent art of our time.

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Apple Pie

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Today we bought apples. Lots of apples. For eating and for making pie. Apples are my daughter’s favorite food.

On the way home from the store, she asked, “Can I have an apple?”

“Sure, bug, when we get home.”

“Do you want an apple, mommy?”

“Yeah, I should probably have an apple, too. I haven’t really been taking care of myself.”

“That’s okay, I’ll take care of you.”

Oh man, right in the heart.

I hadn’t meant to say that part about not taking care of myself. The truth just unconsciously rolled off my tongue. I keep vowing to quit sugar. Then I click on The Atlantic and see a bunch of white nationalists gathered at the Reagan building in D.C. doing Hitler salutes, and suddenly I need sugar in my coffee and a piece of buttered toast. I make phone calls and sign petitions and struggle with a helpless feeling in the swirl of this madness. None of it is okay. Bigotry will never be the new normal. I will continue to resist it with my entire being.

I will make a beautiful apple pie. I will love my family. I will resist the fascists. It’s holiday season 2016.

(Post 307 of 365)

Marigolds

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Another bright November day. Blue sky. The last red leaves clinging to the maple. The toddlers wandered off to the garden, now littered with ash and brown leaves. Somehow Isabella found one small ripe tomato and popped it into her mouth, deeming it “delicious!” She and her friend picked at the marigolds, still blooming bright yellow. They yanked at the lavender and perfumed the air. They tasted the parsley, now bitter, and spat it out. My mind is still very distracted, murky. But I tried to be in the moment with them. See it all from their perspective, those small, new humans inspecting the acorns, eager to scoop dirt and chase the cat.

My mind is tired from the news. Weary. I attempted a Flash Nano prompt tonight. My writing was sludge. I went through the ones I’d missed. I’m not as far behind as I thought. I’d begun with such gusto and excitement. It’s incredible how transformative last week was, how crushing. But I pushed through. I will keep pushing through. The marigolds hold up their stubborn yellow blooms, impervious to the frost and whipping winds. They stand small but strong. Unwatered. Seeking only sun. Offering their optimism.

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Day 4

I’d forgotten to mention yesterday that my poem “Autumn Garden” is up at Mother’s Always Write.  It was a little ray of light this week, receiving an email from the editor with the news that it would be the first feature of their November issue.

All week I’ve been turning to the words of writers I admire, trying to make sense of this dark time, coping with feelings of shock and despair, looking for a way forward. People sharing their stories is what’s gotten me through this week.

The fallout from this election is huge, the losses staggering. But the most immediate and concerning consequence is open racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. The president-elect has legitimized hatred. We, the people, have had to petition him to denounce bigotry. Many of his supporters claim they are not bigots; they refuse to own their racism and hatred. This is something I can not reconcile. If you voted for him, you are complicit.

From Teju Cole’s stunning piece “A Time for Refusal” in today’s NYT:

In the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, the winner of the presidential election was declared. As the day unfolded, the extent to which a moral rhinoceritis had taken hold was apparent. People magazine had a giddy piece about the president-elect’s daughter and her family, a sequence of photos that they headlined “way too cute.” In The New York Times, one opinion piece suggested that the belligerent bigot’s supporters ought not be shamed. Another asked whether this president-elect could be a good president and found cause for optimism. Cable news anchors were able to express their surprise at the outcome of the election, but not in any way vocalize their fury. All around were the unmistakable signs of normalization in progress. So many were falling into line without being pushed. It was happening at tremendous speed, like a contagion. And it was catching even those whose plan was, like Dudard’s in “Rhinoceros,” to criticize “from the inside.”

Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone.

 

O Happy Day

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The sun shone brightly on the golden foliage this election morning as I drove to my meet my mother at her polling station. We paused to take this picture, four generations, marking the first time in United States history we’ve been able to vote for a woman. We brought pictures of my grandmother, a portrait and a photo of her wearing a pantsuit. She was a woman who never rested, never stopped, and yet she exuded calm. Her spirit was there with us.

I wondered if I would cry today, but I did not. I felt a pure, soaring happiness. I smiled from ear to ear.

My social media feeds have been flooded with positive posts and stories, and not just from that secret Facebook group, but in general. It’s mesmerizing really, all these voices, all these stories. It turns out there’s been a silent majority counting the days, quietly waiting. Today is unrestrained joy.

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Election Countdown

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My election jitters are getting the best of me. I can’t seem to disengage from social media. But here’s the thing, my social media feed completely changed a few days ago when a writer friend, who I haven’t seen in years, added me to a secret Facebook group for Hillary supporters. Every since, my newsfeed has been deluged with beautiful stories, awash in positivity. The range is astonishing, from military men and women to Bernie supporters to lifelong Republicans–all voting for Hillary Clinton. The group was 200K strong when I joined just a few days ago. Today it’s over a million! It turns out Hillary’s camp is very quiet, afraid to speak out because their voices have been met with vitriol. Many people posting in the group have had their HRC lawn signs destroyed. But vandalism isn’t stopping these supporters. One family recreated their sign with sidewalks chalk. Another woman painted her garage door. An elderly man mailed in his ballot just days before dying of cancer. People are canvassing and calling. People are using the name “Hillary” at Starbucks, so that “Hillary” is being said aloud as much as possible. There are hundreds, thousands of “likes” on these stories. A space of kindness and sharing and hope. It has completely restored my faith in humanity and in the election.

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To Everyone in All the World

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A few days ago my birdie girl said, “Is it an owl? Who who! Or is it a mourning dove?” Sometimes I think if I could solve these toddler riddles, we could save the world.

Today she asks, “Are you happy, mama?”

“Yes, I’m happy, bug.”

“It’s going to be alright,” she assures me anyway.

In the car, her current favorite song is Raffi’s “To Everyone in All the World.” A fun little ditty that goes, “To everyone in all the world, I reach my hand I shake their hand. To everyone in all the world, I shake my hand like this. All all together, the whole wide world around, I may not know their lingo, but I can say by jingo, no matter where you live we can shake hands.”

We sing it again and again, “all all together, the whole wide world around” as we drive through the afternoon’s thunder and pouring rain, washing me clean of the divisive language circling through cyberspace.

In the store, she says “hi!” to every single person she encounters. She extends her warmth and kindness without hesitation. And nearly every time, a smile and greeting is returned. There is more power than we realize in our everyday exchanges. No matter what is happening in the world, we can always smile and say hello, we can always choose to be kind.

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Photo credit: Dreamstime