Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Of Tears, Trains, and the Spirit of the Radio

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Of Tears, Trains, and the Spirit of the Radio

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

I went to bed in a cloud of melancholy. I woke up the same. I cried my way to work. (40 minutes is sometimes just the right amount of time to think. Sometimes it is way too much time.) I usually am really good at compartmentalizing, but today I did a terrible job. I ended up crying in the grassy area behind my building, choking sobs back, rubbing at my eyes with my sleeve, pacing, giving myself the pull-it-together talk. I am really good at pulling it together; I was not able to do so this morning.

I somehow made it through the day. I sat in an hour and a half of traffic. I called two friends and two cousins. I left messages for them. I thought of people I desperately wished I could talk to about everything. I didn’t call them. Part of me thought I should. I called my Mama instead. She picked up, just like always.

I came home and I ran 2+ miles. It was my fastest pace in a long time. I must be running from something. It is like a soothing drug. Squats and crunches and planks are not soothing, but I did those too, because I don’t know what else to do with myself.

It was my turn to do kid duty. I took T. and her friend, M., to eat. It was about 8 pm. They were excited to tell me about their day. They gushed about Cars 3, which evidently has a female protagonist. I guess I will have to see it now, despite the fact that I wanted to shoot myself over all the Lightning McQueen stuff R. loved as a little boy. I miss that age now. I miss Mater, that old goofball.

The girls talked about how to pick a college. (My take was go in state, try to get some scholarships, and avoid loans, if possible, but mostly to just learn everything they can now, and make the best grades they can, and seek out the things that interest them. That would give them options, and the rest would fall into place, and that not everyone decides to college and that is okay too, but it is important to give yourself the option.)

Then we talked about financial security, and about how money isn’t about new shoes or how big your house is. It’s about freedom. Money sometimes = freedom. I also had this talk with my first love’s mother, right after we broke up, in maybe 1993. She liked me, I guess. She invited me to lunch. She gave me Gloria Steinem’s “Revolution From Within.” I may have frightened the girls when I told them that being financially stable was important for women, so that they never had to stay with an *abusive man. That they could always take care of themselves. Sorry, Megan and Andy – #notaprofessionalguidancecounselor

I talked to the waiter about his breakup with his boyfriend. He is maybe 21? I told him he’d live, but it might hurt like hell and feel like death.

We paid the check and walked out into the near-dark. It was cool for June, and we sat and listened to the quiet on main street for a minute. Tiller ran around and up and down the ramp and stairs with her arms out like an airplane. She laughed as she ran. She snorts when she laughs.

The train track signal lights started flashing and the crossing bars went down. The girls yelled, “Train!” and we walked to our car, next to the tracks. I gave both a leg up onto the hood of the car, and they sat on top under the quarter moon and we waited for the engine. It parked and we sat. (I stood. I am too old to jump onto a hood and not fall immediately back off and the whole patio of the restaurant was watching; I only made one attempt. I am going to practice that, though.)

And then it started. Just a single engine, alone, pulling no cars behind it. The girls waved. The driver waved back, not 15 feet away. He blew the whistle. Twice. We all clapped and cheered. The crossing opened back up and the bells went off. We got back in the car, now in the dark. We rolled the windows down.

Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio” was on. I’m not a big Rush fan, but I talked to them about Neal Peart and we rolled the windows down and opened the sunroof and they both put their faces out the windows as I turned onto the main road, as we drove past each streetlight, in and out of alternating darkness and light.

And somehow, at that moment, I realized the day had turned out alright. We would be alright.

* Hypothetical. My husband is not, nor has he ever been, abusive. He is the person I respect most in the world.

Living in the Middle Place

Monday, May 29th, 2017

A 6 a.m. bolt of lightning struck me awake yesterday morning. I sat straight up in bed. I got up and looked out into the storm. I climbed back into bed and tucked the covers tightly around, whispering to the shaking, terrified dog by my bed,

“It’s okay, baby. Everything will be alright.”

I fell back to sleep, but in that high-level dreaming state that one has in the mornings, drifting in and out of sleep, where life and dream weave together.

I forgot about my vivid dreaming until I read this article this morning, and the line “Fuck the Patriarchy” echoed in my head. I thought the article was well-written, and it echoes what I hear a lot of women talking about recently. Reading that reminded me instantly of the same words in my dream.

I dreamt I was in a school, maybe a college. I was a student, somehow, and the classrooms looked like the ones in my middle school growing up. Students were assembling in the room for a political debate. I was wearing cut off jeans, and a t-shirt and dark hoodie. In the pocket of my jeans, I stuffed a stack of political postcards. The postcards caused the pocket to poke out below the cutoff hem of the jeans, their sharp corners jutting into my thigh. I sat in a hard school chair, with a backpack at my side, my legs stretched out in front of me, my feet in black chucks.

A man in a suit approached me, his finger pointed at my lap, punctuating the air.

“You can’t have those in here!” I pulled the postcards out of my pocket, slipped them into my backpack. “No!,” he yells. “You have to wear pants!”

Anger welled up in me. I snatched up my backpack, slinging it over my shoulder and went to another classroom to find pants in my closet. (It’s a dream; Yes, my closet was in the other classroom. I don’t know why.) I walked into the room, the whole time muttering, “Fuck the Patriarchy.” I went to the closet, a whole class watching me, as I rolled open the doors, and started rifling through the stacks of pants on a shelf.

I couldn’t find my jeans, the ones with the rip at the knee. There were only men’s jeans and pants. I realized it was my husband’s closet. I couldn’t find any jeans of my own. I angrily put on a too-large pair of hiking-style pants, with zippers that allow you to unzip the legs and make the pants into shorts. Even the sound of the synthetic material rubbing together at the thighs when I walked back to the debate angered me. I guess I woke up, then, to the storms and light getting brighter in my room.

I try very hard to look on the positive side of things, to find joy and exhibit gratitude in my day-to-day dealings. But I also sometimes struggle a bit with a molten anger, just waiting for a crack in the crust to pour up through. Still, I don’t want to be angry. Not being angry is a decision. One I try to make daily. Sometimes I fail. I am not angry at men. I am not angry at my husband. But I am angry at something. Society? As the author, Catherine Newman, wrote:

I don’t always feel just one way. I’m not always sure. And maybe that’s what it is to be a grown-up—living in the middle place, where you can’t decide quickly about everything. A misanthrope, in love with the world.

In my dream, though, I was shaking and angry and sure. In the morning light, I’m just living in the middle place.

Pride, Humility, Change, Gratitude, Acceptance, Truth

Sunday, May 28th, 2017
This kid. Like most people, I post about the good stuff that happens with my kids. Like when he went to the county for the spelling bee. (That’s him with his certificate in the photo.) Or the funny stuff, like when out of nowhere, he asked me about very explicit sex stuff in front of the waiter at a restaurant a couple months ago. Stuff like that. The stuff that entertains and brings joy and laughter and that, for some kids, comes easy. Spelling comes pretty easy to my kid. So does his unabashed open and honest curiosity, and a willingness to talk about stuff people like to pretend don’t exist or at least those subjects that people are uncomfortable talking about. And I want him to be able to talk to me about stuff.
 
But this year is a little different. This year wasn’t all good. This year, he took on a pretty hard math class, and he struggled a little bit for the first time. He said things like, “I’m not good at math.” He also struggled with disorganization. He struggled with motivation. He didn’t turn all his homework in. He didn’t like ELA (that’s English to us old folks) any more. He still read constantly for pleasure, but he wasn’t enjoying school. At one point during progress reports, he had a failing grade in more than one class. (He may have gotten that from his mother, too, admittedly. Genetics are a bitch.) He had been scared to tell us he was struggling and things spiraled and we had no idea.
 
So, we told him he could always tell us anything. And then we buckled down. He lost some privileges and we set guidelines for what we expected out of him. We also, concerned about his motivation about school, suggested to him that he might want to consider applying to a theme school for the arts. We took him to the school to learn more about it. He learned about the academic requirements for getting in and staying in the school.
 
We saw a change in him. He was inspired by the students who talked about school and how much they liked it. He decided to apply. He worked on the application himself. He prepared for the music audition and put together writing samples, and sought out recommendations from teachers and counselors. He auditioned and got a spot, knowing that he could not go to the school if he didn’t get his grades back up.
 
And he did. He got his grades back up. Not all the way to all As and Bs all year, as he’s gotten in the past, but enough to keep him eligible. He worked hard at it.
 
So, it was odd to see him walk across the honors stage and just get the one award for the spelling bee. The one he didn’t have to work that hard to get, because it comes naturally to him. (Not that we weren’t immensely happy with that award too – we were.) But just the one – No Principal’s award, or Cougar of the Year (no laughing), or Scholar’s awards.  And it was actually the proudest I’ve ever been of him, knowing how much he worked this year, knowing that he finally struggled and faced some adversity and he rose to the occasion, even if they don’t give awards for that. Knowing that he wanted something and he worked for it.* (Side note: How many other kids faced adversity and came out the better for it and never got a certificate or accolades for it? Guess that’s a post for another time.)
 
I was proud of me, too. It’s been a rough year for me. The roughest one I have had yet in my life, by a mile. I suspect that I will have harder ones. I’m proud of the fact that even when preoccupied with all of the other work/life/health issues my family dealt with, that we as parents didn’t drop the ball on supporting the kids.
 

I’m proud of what I’ve learned about life and about myself. I’m learning to be okay with getting by, with being thankful for my two healthy children. They don’t need to be child prodigies, Einsteins, stars, best in class, fastest, brightest, anythingest. They just need to know that I will love and support them, no matter what. Heck. I’m an adult and I needed to hear that lately from people I love.

Difficulty can make one stronger, but I was already pretty strong. Difficulty actually brought me to my knees and humbled me and taught me about getting to the other side, and about acceptance. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, less judgmental, to see more than one side of things, to not make assumptions. I’ve learned that even really good, smart, decent, loving, respectful people make mistakes or become bogged down in things they cannot for the life of them figure out how they got into in the first place, and that they are often right there in the muck of it all with other good people, all of them and everyone around them unable to face, much less say, their truth. Instead they can’t figure out how to communicate, so they shut down and numb themselves with the thought that what they’re feeling is normal. I know now that you can bury a feeling with all you’ve got, but it will find a course out into the light.

I’ve realized that the most I can do is try to rectify wrongs and the things I’ve left unsaid, and if I can’t fix them, at least I can acknowledge them. I realize that some things just happen and there isn’t a discernible reason. That coincidence or fate or happenstance are all just words for change and change is inevitable. That some things cannot be prevented; That some things cannot be fixed. That sometimes all you can do is be honest with yourself and those around you, and then hope for the best. That sometimes what you get is not what you might have wanted, but that you might be amazed at and admire how people handle things and what they give back to you. That you end up respecting them more for hearing your truth, and telling you theirs.

I’ve learned that being honest is more valuable than acting out of fear. I’ve learned that fear is often just being scared of hurting those we love, or of losing their love or admiration. That sometimes you find yourself in a mess because you were trying not to hurt or lose others. But when you put honesty out, you will likely get it back tenfold, even if it is painful and scary to hear. And you will know how to proceed. You find a place where you realize that everything will be okay, except when it’s not, and you’ll get through that too, hopefully with some semblance of grace and peace. (And hopefully with more yoga and less wine.)

I’ve learned that all the facades and paths and channels and expectations we are given are just guidelines and that I have to make my own way, because there is no one right way to live, and that my way is truth. When I follow the truth in my head, heart, and gut, the gnawing, sick, churning and burning in my very bones will go quiet and I will know which direction to take.

Truth is, deep down I knew it all along: I just never had it tested in such a complete and totally tectonic plate-shifting way until now.

And so I sat in that gym today, watching my boy walk across the stage and afterwards, I hugged him and told him I loved him, and took his photo out in a sunny courtyard, and I felt a peace and gratitude that I have not felt in a long while. Sure, he’s the best speller. But more importantly, he’s good enough at all the other stuff. And I’m good enough too, even if I am not the most perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, employee. I’m good enough if I actively seek my truth, and support those who seek their own truths, even if they are different than mine.

If you are reading this, and you need to hear it, know this: You are good enough, too.  Just follow your truth.
*Bold, because if he reads this, I want him to see that I was immensely proud of him today, and that he inspired this post, and that I want him to always follow his truth.

Change is Not Always Linear

Friday, January 20th, 2017

This morning, I woke up to so much sadness and shock and dismay all over social media that Yes, this is really happening. A reality TV show star, completely unqualified for the position in too many ways to count, will actually be sworn in as President of the United States of America

I am not one to share every bit of outrageous news that I see on Facebook. I rarely share political items. In this political environment, If I posted every time I was upset or scared or angry or outraged, I would be posting ten to fifteen times a day. (Side note: I respect the right to speak out, but I fear the deluge of shared content contributes to overwhelm, desensitization, and normalization of the outrageous things happening in our world.) As a dear friend of mine said recently while discussing feeling inundated by the constant flood of information,

“I feel like I (we) are in a huge sandstorm, and the source of the storm is the turbulent funnel within. I do better focusing on the funnel rather than all of the sand, if that makes sense.”

Honestly, I am not shocked or depressed anymore. Am I happy about him being president? No. Am I still appalled at everything he has said? Yes. Is my reaction to this president different than it would have been for any other Republican winner? Most definitely.

But there is hope for those all over America (and the world) who are hurt, scared, and angry today. (more…)

I Voted For a Woman. For President. (And for The South & a lot of other things, too.)

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

I voted for a female for President today. Let me repeat that: I voted for a female for President today.

It is huge, absolutely huge, that I had the opportunity, with my daughter by my side, to vote for a woman for the highest office in the country and likely in the world. But that’s not why I voted for her.

There have been many times during this year that I wanted to write about my thoughts on the politics of this election. Every time I felt outrage or dismay, I would put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and dump it all out. But something kept me from clicking Publish. Partially, it was knowing I would probably change no minds. As the season dragged on an on, and the bar got lower and lower, I realized it was futile, because I had no idea the depths to which matters could possibly sink. I would have been writing something new every day and I am pretty sure I would have driven myself and everyone around me crazy.

Instead, I watched a bit, and read a lot. I watched friends and family tear each other apart online. There were times that I left discussions with my own parents in tears, anger, fear, or disbelief. People I loved called me a bigot and told me, publicly, that “I was not raised this way.” They way you are raised is important, and it is a powerful influence on a person. I know that I have tried hard to be true to the teachings that I received, but to weed out the ones that are outdated, deeply seated in fear, ignorance, and generations upon generations of resistance to change and a way of life that is no longer viable, realistic, kind or true.

The greatest gift (of many given to me by my parents) was the gift of education. My parents taught me to read. And once a girl can read, she learns to formulate her own ideas and think for herself. Yes, I read the Bible. I read the WHOLE bible. What a miraculous work of art it is. My parents gave me my bible. They gave my children bibles, with my blessing, despite the fact that I have left the church and will never return to Christianity. There is good in that book, despite it’s flaws, and those of its followers. And I took so many of those teachings deeply to heart. For hours during church, I ran the crocheted lace,  pink, blue, and white cross bookmark that came in my bible on confirmation day between my fingers and thought about Jesus Christ on the cross and what that meant for me, and how it could possibly save us.

But my parents also gave me The Little Engine that Could. And Go Dog, Go. (I took that one deeply to heart. I still love big dogs and little dogs and dogs of all shapes and colors, and dog parties.) And I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. As a child, that book probably affected me as much or more than anything I had read up until that point. That book is my first recollection of thinking about race, and of wondering what my part of the story was.

My grandmother later gave me her original copy of Gone With the Wind. I think that book is a rite of passage for a little white girl whose family on both sides have lived on Southern soil since before we were a United States of America. I wonder if Grandma thought it would make me privy to some great inheritance of what it means to be Southern, or if she saw Scarlett as a woman, flawed, but strong. Or most likely, knowing my bourbon-drinking, chain-smoking, card-playing, Charleston-dancing Grandma Vivian, she just thought that it was a rollicking good read. Maybe for her it was just a cultural phenomenon, like Star Wars or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

She, by the way, was born in 1907; Her mother, Ida did not at the time have the right to vote. My grandmother, as a child in Louisiana, witnessed a lynching. Her grandmother, as a child after The Battle of the Wilderness, wandered around Ellwood Manor looking for blackberries and came across a dead soldier. Both my paternal and maternal lines consist of both slave owners and confederate soldiers. My point here is that sometimes fiction is not just fiction. Sometimes, to a little girl growing up in Atlanta, it is a link to the past. Sometimes it is like reading a story about the people you know. Sometimes it is like reading about yourself; when other little girls the world over read that book, they probably thought, “what an interesting story.” When I read it, I was completely mesmerized and fascinated by the fact that it was set right here where I was born in 1972, and it was based on things that really happened here.

I will never know what my grandmother really took from that book, and boy do i wish I could have an evening to discuss that and much more with her. But what I took from reading that book, was yes, a strong female protagonist, and an example of skillful storytelling, but also my first real feelings of conflict over my families’ parts in the American history of slavery. It spurred in me an interest in the Civil War. Here was this story, based on “truth,” that discussed a battle that was fought on the very soil that I lived on today. It has become for me a lifelong interest in both family and local history and southeastern history. I started asking questions of the older folks in my family. I got a lot of answers about how we were an “old colonial family” and had grand plantations and lost everything in the war. I heard a lot about “state’s rights” and property and the like.

As I got older, though, I continued reading. I read Huckleberry Finn. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Red Badge of Courage. Beloved. Invisible Man. The Bluest Eye. The Color Purple. Their Eyes Were Watching God. I have so many more to read. So many more.

I started to figure out the right questions to ask. And i didn’t always get the right answers, or what i thought were true answers. Or I got whispered answers. When I got older, I knew to ply some of the older folks in the family with booze, and I would get more honest answers. That’s how I learned about my grandmother seeing a lynching. She had told my cousins about it when they were middle aged. She never told me a word about it.

It was the same way with reading about women. Scarlett was fascinating, because she was an agent in her own life. She was the actor, not the acted upon. (Yes, she was a white woman, a slave owner, and that is not to be excused, but she was a strong woman.) And again, i read books about strong women and interesting women. Catherine the Great. Amelia Earhart. Susan B. Anthony. Rosa Parks. The Awakening. “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” Some of the books I wrote about above were crossovers – Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Color Purple come to mind. Powerful books about feminism and race.

Growing up, i was taught to be ladylike (complete fail, obviously). And i was taught to learn to take care of myself: Change a tire, charge a battery, change a spark plug, tar a roof, etc. I was taught to respect my elders. I was expected to get an education. A college education. Looking back, i think that expectation was so that I could support myself.

But I also heard, “One day, when you have kids of your own. . . ” and that was not even seen as an expectation. It was just seen as fact. When I said, “I’m not good at math,” no one said, “You just need to work harder, that’s ridiculous. You are intelligent.” I was built up by having someone tell me, “You are a great writer.” And I think I am a good writer. But I wonder what else I could have been good at, or who else I would have been, if someone had said, “Get an education because it means ‘freedom,” or “you can be anything you want to be.” Or, “women don’t have to get married or have children.”

Those are things I never heard. I also never heard anything except, “No sex before marriage.”

This is not a criticism of the adults in my life. I understand they came to be who they are through a long line of people with strong beliefs and less access to books and diversity of thought than the one I found in my true church (the one whose chapels are libraries and whose cathedrals are lakes, trees, mountains, forests, and rivers). And i am thankful that they gave me the path to find those books and the time to think those thoughts.

Writing this post, I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, except that I have been overcome with emotion all day. I didn’t wear a pantsuit for Hillary when I voted, because . . . well, I’m me. I don’t own one, and that is the sort of thing I hope to never have to wear again. I didn’t wear white for the suffragists who went before me, because . . .it’s after Labor Day. I don’t own “winter whites.” I don’t even have a white tee. My wardrobe is all black, and the darkness of wine, forest, purple, plaid. And then I saw The Bitter Southerner* posted this on Instagram:

bitter

(You can get your own at http://bittersoutherner.com/election-day-2016-a-better-south.)

I was flooded with all sorts of emotion. I am a Southern woman, a descendant of slave owners. I had relatives in the generation previous to me tell me that during the civil rights movement, they hated Martin Luther King, Jr. One of them said he was happy that he was shot. (Try to wrap your head around that one.) I have struggled with issues of race my whole life. I have struggled with religion, and the bible and the hypocrisy of the church. And I have often felt, as a woman, and especially a southern woman, that what was truly expected of me, above all else, is for me to be a reflection of my family, the people that came before me, and in particular, that I was to be a positive reflection on the men who came before me. I should “do them proud.” When it comes down to it, I think there is still a huge belief in the South that a woman is simply an extension of the men in her life. Her greatest achievement is making those men proud, being a good wife, and raising good Southern children. It is difficult to say that out loud, but it is the truth.

I am proud to be southern. I am proud of my husband and my children, and of the people that came before me, even if I disagree with them in many ways. I am proud that in many ways, I have bucked the norm. I would wager that I am the first in a very long line of my family’s generations to openly and publicly reject Christianity. If you think on the long history of Christianity, that is actually quite a feat. I reject racism. I strive towards making my world better for everyone, not just the people who are not like me. And I am probably the first mother in a line of many women in my family that is actively telling my daughter, “Get an education, because it give you the options to be anything you want to be.” I have already talked to my daughter about birth control and sex and that her body is hers alone. That she can do anything a man can do, and if she wants to do it first, she should step up. No need to let the man go first. That if she wants things, she needs to state that she wants them. And if she doesn’t want them, she needs to learn to say no to those things, too. That she needs to speak up when she sees wrongs. That what I hope for her is that she will be kind, happy, and herself. Whether that means being a wife or a mom, or a teacher, or a scientist, or an artist, or a soldier. That she can be any combination of those, all or none of those, or something completely different that my mind cannot even imagine, but that she will see in her own mind’s eye. And that when she achieves those things she wants in life, (while she is achieving them, even) she will help others achieve their dreams, too.

And that’s why, when I painted my nails blue, and wondered what to wear to the polls this morning, I didn’t pick blue for the Dems (I am decidedly an independent), or white for the suffragists, or a pantsuit for Hillary. I decided to wear my Bitter Southerner sweatshirt**. It reads, simply “SOUTH.” I was weepy, trying to explain to my son and daughter about how momentous this day feels. I felt compelled to put down in words what I was unable to speak without seeming like a crazy, choked up, overly emotional woman. I wanted them to know all the reasons that it meant so much to me to cast my ballot today. I wanted them to know the thoughts behind my welling eyes.

You have probably heard by now about the “secret” pantsuit group on Facebook. I think I was first added to it when there were less than 200,000 members. The idea of it was, “wear a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary, when you go to vote.” As of this morning when I looked, it has now grown to more than 2 million members. All of them are not women. There are men, too. But they are all there because they are voting for Hillary Clinton. They are diverse, and smart, and their stories, which i have been reading for over a week now, are compelling, moving, inspiring, and life-affirming. They are from all over the world and all different walks of life. And many of them are posting the reasons that they are voting for Hillary.

There are many of them that feel she is the perfect person for the job. (I tend to be more of the Mark Twain school of thought on politicians – Not really a huge fan of any of them.) There are many of them that are voting because she is not Donald Trump. So many different reasons, from being an immigrant to race, to feminism, to . . . you name it. Their varied reasons for it all were staggering to me. They were definitive, and they were tentative. Some of them were voting for her despite never having voted for a democrat in their life. Some of them were voting for her, despite the train wreck that healthcare in our country has created for their families and their small businesses. Some of them were voting for her despite their devout religious beliefs about abortion. They ran the breadth and depth of the human condition – They are both specific to their own experience and yet they apply to so many of us. So, millions of them have posted their reasons for voting for her.

I have been thinking of my own reasons. I wish I could ask my grandparents about their thoughts on politics. Because I wish the women who are not bothering to vote in this election knew what it was like to not have a voice. Because I hope that one day my children (and maybe my grandchildren) will read it and know that I was a thoughtful person in the midst of history, that I gnashed my teeth over this one, and wept for the future of my country.

Here are some of the reasons I am voting voted for her (there are probably many more, but these are the things I can think of right now, or have been on my mind, and especially the ones that I feel deep down in my gut.)

  • First and foremost, I am voting for her because I think she is the most qualified candidate. Period.
  • I am voting for all of the women that couldn’t vote for so long. For women who had no voice for thousands of years.
  • For everyone who didn’t fit the white, male, protestant mold and was therefore not allowed to vote.
  • For the grandmother who was just dropped off by her husband at a hospital and labored for twenty four hours with a breech baby
  • For the one that went to work to support her family when her husband was gambling it all away
  • For the little girl who had to wear the white tights and black patent leather mary janes and a dress with a crinoline containing a bell.
  • For the little girl who drew a picture at church and they told her they thought little girls in pictures should wear dresses, not pants
  • For the only two little girls on the boys’ baseball team
  • For every girl who was told “boys don’t like loud girls”
  • For every one who was told “children should be seen and not heard.”
  • For my first friend, who always made her Barbies kiss each other, instead of Barbie and Ken kissing, but hid it from everyone but me.
  • For every little gay kid who had to play along while we played “smear the queer.”
  • For Graham, and every other gay or lesbian or bi person i have known since.
  • For the friend whose grandfather wouldn’t stop touching her
  • Because that guy in the neighborhood always whistled at us when we rode by on our bikes
  • For the girl who was pushed into a walk-in freezer, with a hand against her neck, and fought the boy who put his hand down her pants
  • For every jerk who ever groped or thrust his hips at me on a bus or a train.
  • For the boy who took advantage of a very intoxicated just-turned-fourteen-years old girl on a trampoline
  • For every friend one of his who started calling my house the very next day
  • For every person to whom I’ve had to say using the “N” word is not okay, and especially not in front of my kids.
  • That includes the jerk from two weeks ago at the bar who thought it was okay to say about football players on tv, and also the guy two seats down from him that whistled at me as I walked by him on the way back from the bathroom. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. In 2016.
  • For every woman who has been spoken over or interrupted in a meeting
  • For the same women who spoke up, and were called Bitch.
  • For the little Iraqi girl that was in my son’s class. She was 8. She spoke no English. She didn’t need to – The horrors she had seen were apparent in her eyes.
  • For my children and their friends who want to know if some of them will be sent back to the country they came from if Trump is elected.
  • For the amazing people from all over the world that came to this country, love it, and are living right in my backyard and teaching me so much
  • For all the sweet little African American boys that I have been watching grow up and who are in my heart and my prayers as they become teens.
  • For their mothers, who are strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family.
  • For my friends who had access to birth control; for the ones who had access to safe and legal abortions.
  • For my friends who choose to live their lives in non-traditional ways and are becoming more and more open about it.
  • For the things that are important to all of us, and help us achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Love, forgiveness, charity, inclusion, independent thought, education, religious freedom, equality, art, music.

The emotions I felt this morning were more than just a woman voting for a woman. The woman voting this morning was a product of so many years of inequality and hypocrisy and misogyny, of pain and frustration, and watching others suffer. And while I am a proud American, I am an even prouder Southerner. And proudest to be a Georgian, who has had the privilege of seeing gay marriage legalized, and our first African American president, and hopefully our first female president: Three things I never thought I would see in my lifetime, much less in so few years. Three things I had the honor of sharing and discussing with my children.

I voted for her because she is the most qualified candidate. I voted against him, because of the rest of the list. Considering the political climate and the pain and division this election has caused, It was the easiest and most satisfying vote*** of my life. There was no question in my mind. This morning, at the polls, I was a Bitter Southerner voting for a bitter Better South.

 

My hand and four sympathetic kid hands, all in blue polish. 

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Me and my girl. We just voted together. (Sporting our blue polish, our peach stickers, and me in my South sweatshirt.) Yes, I let her cast the ballot. #rebel – Photos by Rollie, who didn’t want to be in the photo because he is 13 and that’s “like, so dumb.” [sigh]

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Hopefully she will never forget this. Or ever think that I regret having her and her brother. (“The” button.)

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*  You need to read Bitter Southerner, especially if you are from a long line of southerners. I am jealous I didn’t think of it first. It is amazing, like reading stories written by your own family and friends, but the smart and enlightened, funny and interesting ones. If you are born here, you will enjoy it. If you have deep roots here, you will feel it in your bones.

** Okay. I have to admit it. About the sweatshirt. I also wore it because it finally got cold here in Atlanta today, and damn it, that thing is so broken-in and well-loved, it is super comfortable.

*** Also satisfying: Voting for two local candidates I really, really believe in: Good luck to Scott Holcomb and George Chidi.

Queen of Wands, Death, Ten of Cups: A Prayer

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

IMG_9685May I learn from The Past, but not let it define me.
May I find strength and clarity in The Present.
May I find peace in The Future.

Hope Springs Eternal: A Prayer

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

I’m having one of those evenings where I feel very lucky, but yet I can’t stop the tears rolling down my face. I can feel lucky and sad at the same time, apparently. My family is happy and healthy. I have my parents and my sister, and my husband and children, and they are all fine.

Still, I find myself looking up at the stars and saying a prayer for an old friend, and for a family member of a friend, and for a few other people I know who are hurting. I pray for our country, because all this hate and yelling and violence is wounding my soul, and I know I am not alone. I pray for all of those people who can’t quite wrap their heads around how seemingly good people can support something so toxic. I pray for the ones that love someone who has changed into someone they don’t know anymore.

Yes, Annelle, I pray. 

No, I don’t go to church. I don’t consider myself a Christian, much to my parents’ disappointment. I do, however, believe in The Universe, and that there are forces of good and evil, and that my prayers go somewhere, and are heard somewhere, even if the impact they make is infinitesimal. I believe that there is something so very Holy in Spring, and the hydrangea, daffodils, azaleas, roses, and daylilies that pop up in my garden today. They are my old friends.

The come back every year, even when the man who taught me to love them is gone. They come back, even though the people I love don’t always come back.

Hope springs eternal.

Or something like that.

 

And So We’re Told This is the Golden Age

Friday, January 1st, 2016

I often have grand ideas about end of year posts, New Year’s posts, the marking of the passage of time, and what it all means. This isn’t one of those posts.

I stayed up until 3 am with friends. I slept late in a bed fit for a queen. I awakened to coffee and bacon, and no hangover. I visited my sister and drank a cup of coffee with our families and dogs. I talked and laughed at a bar and drank a pitcher of beer with my best friend (spoiler: also my sister) while waiting on takeout barbecue, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. It was okay that this year I didn’t make them myself. I met my first stranger of the year, a sculptor named Nate who goes by Hugh, and I hit the jackpot and brought home a brown paper sack full of beer bottle caps for my son’s bottle cap collection.

I stuffed myself on beer, bbq, prosperity, and good luck while watching a movie with most of my favorite people. I am terrible about seeing movies in the theater. I always find other things to do, or to spend my money on. Even when they are on Netflix, it takes a while to get around to seeing them. So, for instance, I saw Grand Budapest Hotel in the theater, but had not gotten around to watching Moonrise Kingdom. Honestly, Lisa, Todd, and I were going to watch Love and Mercy (I was going to invite Kristin to come over and bring Danny Noonan the puppy!), but the sound was messed up, so we settled for Moonrise Kingdom.

Two things: First of all, I love Wes Anderson movies, but I find them completely overwhelming from a sensory and nostalgia standpoint. I find myself constantly distracted by thoughts like “I really need to wear more mustard and khaki,” or “I miss smoking,” or “Holy crap! My parents had that ashtray with the plaid beanbag bottom!” or “That’s totally what Tang packaging looked like when I was a kid!” or “If I were pregnant right now? My kid would totally be getting a Moonrise Kingdom-themed nursery!” Then I have to reign myself back in to even pay attention to what is going on.

Secondly, I had to watch it, because a few folks told us that our son was like Sam in Moonrise Kingdom. We spend a time or two a year yurting with friends. In the fall, we go to Fort Yargo (in Winder, near Athens) and spend a weekend on a peninsula. We have our own canoes. And now that the kids are all older, we slap lifejackets on them, send them off in the canoes, and pour a drink on dry land. This past October, our kids exercised their freedom in the natural world. And my son was a lone trailblazer. He would wake up and before I had finished my coffee, he was out in the canoe, shirtless at times, heading for the beach across the lake, all by himself. He wanted to be in that canoe by himself. He wanted to feel that quiet that you get in the middle of a lake by yourself, and to go somewhere that no one else is, and where none of your people can see you. We hear tell that he beached the canoe and swam by himself. I guess I am a terrible parent for letting my kid canoe out of my sight across an acre or more of lake, and for letting him swim unattended, but I think our kids never have enough time alone exploring nature, so I am willing to chance it. As he headed off numerous times that weekend (I think he may have done 3 or 4 trips out alone on the lake by himself each day), our friends commented that he was “like that kid in Moonrise Kingdom.” I knew enough of Anderson’s movies to know that might be a compliment, but it also meant, well, he’s kind of weird, but then the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. So, I was looking forward to finally seeing the movie to see a glimpse of what others were seeing in my son.

I saw it, too. His curiosity, independent streak, desire to explore, need to be and do things alone, and his innate craving to be in nature. I’m okay with the comparison.

After, Lisa and Dash went home, I decided to write while listening to my new records. Todd bought me a few albums: Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model; Squeeze’s 45’s and Under; U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky; Prince’s Prince; Simon And Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits; Joni Mitchell’s Hejira. (The Joni Mitchell album deserves a post all it’s own, but I’m working up to that one. Still thinking on it.)

I put on U2, because I’m obvious like that. Rollie sat down next to me with his Sherlock Holmes book, and he let me play with his hair. (He’s 12. I don’t get to play with his hair much longer, so I’m trying to take advantage of times like that.) We talked about U2, and we looked at the album cover, and I showed him photos of Red Rocks online.

I wrote some more while he read at my side. He asked if I would play “Cecilia” and I said “Yes, but we’re listening to the whole album.” His two favorite songs right now are Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It is not lost on me that this is fucking awesome. I told him how much my mom loves Simon and Garfunkel, and how much I love them, and how we would listen to Simon and Garfunkel on 8-track, and when “The Boxer” came on, I told him that one made me cry, and he said “why?” and I told him to just listen to the album, and one day it would make him cry, too. I didn’t tell him that it is a sad song on its own, and it reminds me of mom, and makes me feel like a little girl, or about my friend telling me that his father loved the song and one of his kids played it for him on his deathbed, but I thought it all, because I think it’s beautiful in the way that only a classic song can be as it infiltrates our memory and thought and intersects with bits of our lives like a puzzle piece.

Todd has since asked if he can watch Black Mirror, so the music is off and the tv is on. The cat is snuggling up next to me on a blanket and the dog is asleep in the chair next to me, and we’ve cleaned up spilled prosecco by turning over the wet cushion to the ugly ripped side.

All of that is pretty much what life is like in general. We turn over the cushion to the more comfortable side. The less wet and dirty side. It still might be a little torn up. We have to choose which side is better.

This was me last New Year’s Day, early on the beach at Cape San Blas.
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And here is me last night, laughing and giving the finger to 2015. (Okay, I’m actually giving the finger to my friend Jason’s parents while I sit on the toilet, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

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I know nothing of what this year meant. It may mean nothing. Things I know: I know that whatever I think is normal will change. I know that whatever happens, I will be okay. Whatever happens is what is supposed to happen. I know I need to think less about it all, and that I need to put one foot in front of the other and try to enjoy the small, beautiful moments.

I thought that this wasn’t one of those posts, a post about the year past and the year to come, and what it might all mean. But then again, maybe it is one of those posts.

Mossy Rocks: A Dream

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

I just had this weird moment over coffee, where I remembered seeing a flash of mossy green rocks. Something beautiful in the landscape. It felt like I forgot to do something. I paused and thought about what it was I was forgetting, and I realized it was in my dream last night. I rode in a car, face to the window, as we drove by a myriad of beautiful landscapes. The feeling was one of almost a panicked forgetting that I wanted to go back to see something later.

In my dream, we were on a vacation, and driving around on flat roads, with landscapes by the roadside. In my dream, it felt like the beach, but with these cool, emerald green landscapes that were almost vignettes. I’d pass one, and think, “How beautiful. I need to go home with the family, then come back and photograph that when I have time to by myself.”

And that memory of wet green longing is what I remembered this morning.

I think maybe it is partially my mind trying to balance my obligations and the needs of my family with my desire to spend time on my own and explore things. I also think it is my mind telling me I need to reconnect with nature. I don’t get that anymore now that the lake house is gone. I think that is a gaping hole in my heart and my stomach and my soul, and I need to figure out a way to fill it with something else. And I think the photography facet, the fact that I wanted to photograph these landscapes, is my yearning to create.

There’s no story here, no revelation. I’m just writing it down so that I don’t forget the longing, and to remind myself to find and photograph the mossy rocks in 2016.