Tuesday, November 15, 2016

not okay

Dear readers,

I'm still going about my daily life, but it doesn't feel normal. This is the case for many people around me, too. I work with college students, some of which are devastated and frightened.

I don't hide my political opinions here, nor do I think I should. In fact, I can't stand it when someone claims to be "apolitical" because the truth is, public policy affects every single damn one of us, and anyone who claims to be apolitical signals to me that he or she is a person privileged enough to ignore it. Which is infuriating.

The president-elect is a horrifying man who represents the worst of America. I will not accept his rhetoric or his policies and I will do everything I can to fight them. Shame on everyone who voted this racist into office and don't even try to tell me it's the economy. The only thing Trump has ever been consistent about in his decades of public life is his disdain for women, minorities and immigrants; a vote for him was a vote for institutional discrimination no matter how you try to spin it.  (I have yet to see a black analyst try to explain away Trump's racist comments, and that should tell you something.)

Thank you, Jamelle Bouie, for putting the above into words so much better than I can.

Thank you, Van Jones, for calling out media pundits for their complicity in this whole mess.

Thank you to Whitney, whose eloquent, beautiful post inspired my own clumsy one today.

Thank you to every citizen who will stand up tall and refuse to accept Donald Trump as normal.

This is not okay. Will we be okay? Perhaps, but only if we face the road ahead of us and know that there is a lot of work to do.

I'm still angry. And if you're paying attention, you should be, too.

Gritting my teeth in solidarity with the struggle,

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

the day after

I'm still reeling and functioning on only a few hours of sleep. Around midnight when things were looking really bad, I gave up and went to bed, but I kept waking up and panicking. 

After watching state after state turn red on the electoral maps as the night wore on, I began to wonder what I'm going to tell my children in the morning. Bullies win. Experience and expertise don't matter. The American electorate is desperately short-sighted and uninformed and frighteningly okay with racism, misogyny, bigotry and threats of assault from its own president-elect.

I can also tell them this: take nothing for granted. Take one day at a time. And - as trite and cliché as this sounds - be the change you wish to see in the world. Today, I would expand that to say don't depend on others to do that for you.

Well, that's democracy. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

I'm with her

So, tomorrow is the general election and like most other voting Americans, I'm kind of tied up in knots about it. Thanks to early voting, I have already cast my vote for Hillary Clinton and I did so gladly. My vote wasn't just a vote against Donald Trump - someone who embodies the very worst of bigotry and narrow-minded fear in our country - but for a woman who has spent most of her adult life advocating for the rights of women and children across the United States and the world. Who else who has run for the office of president can say the same thing? No one in living memory, as far as I know. 

The Bush vs. Gore election in 2000 was the first presidential election I was eligible to vote in (I turned 18 a month after Clinton was re-elected in 1996). I was so nervous I screwed up the first ballot and had to redo it (it was the kind where you fill in the arrow, so confusing!) but it was a big deal. 

That fall was hard. My grandpa, a Kansas farmer and lifelong Democrat (yes, they do exist), had hernia surgery on Election Day and stopped to vote on his way to the hospital for surgery. The next day in recovery, when he asked the nurses who won, he didn't believe them when they told him they didn't know who the next president would be. He never found out because he passed away the day after Thanksgiving, before SCOTUS gave Florida, and thus the presidency, to George W. Bush.

As nervous as I am about this election, I do feel reasonably confident that come January, we'll be referring to Hillary Clinton as Madam President. This means my kids won't know a white male president in their lifetimes. It means that they might even think that someone who wouldn't have even had the legal right to vote less than 100 years ago can now be elected to the highest office in the land. That's pretty amazing. As flawed as the two-party system is, as flawed as the candidates are, I'm glad that my kids are seeing this piece of history happen.

I'm with her.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

screen time and wanderlust

Remember those bumper stickers that said "Kill your TV"? I get that now, only in my house it's not about the TV, it's about the computer. Since when did daily screen time become a God-given right that should not be sacrificed for any reason whatsoever? This evening my 10yo complained that he didn't get enough computer time because his homework took too long. So unfair and unjust that he was limited to less than his usual time watching gamers on YouTube and playing whatever scrolling video game is the latest because his math took an extra 20 minutes.

My kids have limits on screen time and they're not allowed to have it until certain tasks are complete (homework if they have it, cleaning out their lunch box from school, setting the table for dinner, general pick up of their crap on the floor, and they also help with clean up after dinner), but still, I feel like I am failing as a parent in this regard. Like maybe they (the boy, especially) wouldn't be so insistent on getting screen time if they had more hobbies, or played more sports, or had lots of friends to roam the neighborhood with. Alas, I can't force them to have hobbies, I'm not a big fan of organized sports, and all the neighborhood kids are similarly busy or spending their time playing computer games, too. 

Taking away screen time would seem like a punishment, and that's not what I'm after. I just wish I could find a way to draw their interest to more productive activities in a positive and organic way. The first thing that comes to mind is that they should help more with dinner, but my late afternoon schedule is so crazy Monday through Thursday that we're lucky I haven't resorted to take out yet. If I had to allow even more time to have them help, we wouldn't eat until bedtime. 

Another thing I've thought of is just sending them outside. But that doesn't always work, like when it's raining, or when it's dark by 5:00 (which will be the case soon enough.) Much as I would like to have more or less free range kids, that just doesn't always work.

You know what I really want to do? Take off on a road trip. Spend a couple weeks driving someplace completely new, maybe out west. Go camping or rent a cabin (bears kind of freak me out), hike up a mountain, paddle around in a kayak, huddle around the campfire on a chilly evening. 

It seems I've got a touch of the wanderlust and I think it's a natural reaction to feeling bogged down and emotionally drained (not dangerously so, just a little spent) with daily life and the election and the more gnarly issues of parenting a soon-to-be teenager.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

snapshot: cello

5th grade strings started a couple weeks ago, and Daniel is enamored with the cello. Yes, my heart is a puddle. This is an opportunity I never had, and even if he's over it by the end of the year, I'm glad he got to try it and is enjoying it so much now.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Snapshot: I voted! (And a PSA)

I popped over to the library this afternoon and saw a huge sign outside that read: "VOTE HERE!" It turns out you can vote early - any time between now and November 4 - at any library location in the city, no matter what your usual polling place is. Tuesday can be a very busy day of the week for me, and while I always vote in every election, I was relieved to get it done with now. I am happy to see that the city of Madison has made it more convenient for people to vote. It's one bright spot in the scourge of voter ID laws blighting the state of Wisconsin.


In the middle of writing this brief post, I received a robocall from the school district that there has been a shooting in a neighborhood where many students who attend my kids' school happen to live. The shooter is still at large, and those kids can't ride the bus home until later in the afternoon, and can only go home if an authorized adult is there to pick them up. Imagine living in a neighborhood where it's not safe to go home. My heart is heavy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

this isn't easy

I wouldn't say that parenting gets any easier, exactly, as my kids get older. It's certainly true that as Daniel and Anya are more self-sufficient about various aspects of their day (getting to and from school, helping with after dinner cleanup), the other stuff is getting more complicated. 

Daniel is starting to have trouble getting to sleep, which has me a little anxious. Is it because he's ten years old and his internal clock is shifting (he also usually gets up later than the rest of us)? Is it because he's getting too much computer time? Is it because he doesn't get enough time outside? Is it because he's still adjusting to the school routine, even though he says nothing causes him anxiety? All of the above?  

Most [middle class] kids have the problem of being over scheduled, but I fear that in my efforts to keep our lives from being overrun with extra activities, I swung the other way. Daniel's soccer team dissolved last year and he's not doing another organized sport, so other than piano practice and homework (which there isn't much of at all) he doesn't have much to keep him busy. There aren't many kids his age in the immediate neighborhood, and a lot of them aren't available to hang out after school because they are playing sports and whatnot themselves. 

Well, I'm not comfortable saying much more for the sake of my kid's privacy. I probably revealed too much already. 

It's just that I'm not sure what to do. I'd love to see him get on his bike and spend the whole afternoon building a fort in the woods nearby or playing pickup soccer games with his friends but these days that doesn't happen so easily. Other kids are too busy, parents are too protective, or something. Maybe we need more structure after all.