Posts in Essays with Poetry
Action

What concerns me most about the Stanford rape case: it is but one. It is but one of many, many horrible scenarios that occur on campuses and elsewhere in a culture that does not protect its women. Usually, bicyclists don't catch the rapist in action. Usually, there is no trial. Usually, the victim cannot, for myriad reasons, articulate what a rape has done to her psyche.

I am angry that colleges and universities across the country are not addressing the serious issue of rape on their campuses. It is a serious issue. And we, as consumers of their education, should demand better for our daughters and for our sons.

If you have not yet viewed the documentary The Hunting Ground, please do. If you have a child who does or who will someday attend a college or university, this documentary should be required viewing. If your child is in high school and will be headed to college or headed to visit friends while they are in college, this documentary should be viewed first.

I am angry that the people who have the power to affect change are not, and are, instead, reconfiguring reporting policies so that their campuses appear safe to prospective students. I am angry that, while Brock Turner is in the news this week, next week it will be some other unrelated thing which I cannot predict, and that no change might come from what his victim endured.

I do not care about what his parents write. I do not care about him. I do not care whether he was a good swimmer (though, obviously, not a fast enough runner because he got caught). What I care about is the larger picture which has shown that this will happen again and again, that other women will suffer at the hands of other men just as Turner's victim has.

Knowledge is power. And then, after knowledge, action brings power.

We have a crisis where young women are victimized and then, to make matters worse, if it can even be so, justice isn't served, knowledge isn't provided, nothing changes.

If our universities and colleges are not acknowledging this problem, then let us help them acknowledge it. Let us let them know that WE KNOW, that hiding facts and knowledge is the antithesis of what we expect from a place of higher learning.

I submitted the petition found here:

http://www.seeactstop.org/campussurvey/

to my undergraduate alma mater as an alumna in the hopes that they will listen. Please do the same for any college or university with which you have been connected so that we can start some action.

If we have rankings of party schools, of best academic schools, can we not have a ranking of safest schools? Of lowest incidence of rape schools (where we know the school is fully reporting)? Give me that list. Because those are places I'd like to know about.

To Those Who Show Up and Give Love
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Happy Father's Day to all of those who dad up, who do the work, who cut their kids' food, who change diapers, who rock and rock and rock their babies,

who take the time to explain and to listen,

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who relate to their sons' and daughters' interests instead of forcing their own upon them,

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who do what needs to be done without hesitation,

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who screw up with their kids and say sorry to their kids, who teach,

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who love and love and love some more and who show that love in the best way they can, who get on the floor to play,

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who take the time to give so that their children know what quality time looks like,

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what quality love feels like,

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who teach their sons and daughters to be respectful and who teach their daughters and sons to be treated with respect.

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Your children, my children, and all of us feel everything you do for us as love and as strength and as protection. We feel it in our connection to you and to the world because we know we have you on our side.

To those of you who treat the world and its women and children well, to the ones who are here and to the ones whose physical presence we miss, this day is for you. You make us all better. You help us all feel better about who we are.

To my husband and to so many fathers of children my children's ages, who turn us into chopped liver as soon as they walk in the door, we love when we become chopped liver. We thank you for being dad enough that we cease to exist for those first 30 minutes when you walk into their world again.

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I hope you find five minutes to yourself today... if you read this, your time is nearly up.

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Leave It All Out On The Field

Some day there won't be a baby in my arms and on my hip and my arms will feel funny; my hip will jut out, I'll rock from side to side, I'll bounce – all out of habit, like phantom limbs can give you pain. I'll have to correct my posture and to relearn where people put their arms when they aren't full. I’ll figure out how to converse with people without interruptions and with good eye contact because I won’t be rushing off to stop a little guy from darting into the street. Some day I'll go out for a walk alone and I will walk alone.

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For today, even when I think I've escaped for a walk alone, I find little buddies on bikes catching up to me to ride alongside. For a person who loves alone time like I do, it is sometimes exhausting because they keep plugging into me even when I just want to recharge my own self.

It would be annoying to me except that I just got off the phone with my own mom. When I hung up, I saw that we had been on the phone for 1 hour and 31 minutes and we had nothing to talk about, so perhaps it's genetic; even though he still spends most of the day with me, he'd still like a little more. Perhaps all of us are just plugging and unplugging our way through the whole of our lives.

However you are a mother – through birthing, adopting, helping, assisting, listening, supporting – we all need whatever good you are giving the world. There is not a single one of us who wouldn’t take a little more help and assistance and there is no single way to be a mother; I have been mothered by women who haven’t birthed any babies, who’ve never held a newborn and wanted, or who were never able to have, one of their own. My children need your goodness in this world, too, so for me this day is for any woman who gives of herself and loves bigger than herself.

I'm going with a Leave It All On The Field approach to life and that includes laying it all down with my kids and for my kids. It includes letting him ride his bike next to me, but asking him to refrain from talking because I need the silence. This doesn't mean I'm spending the whole day with them today, though, because I'm not. I'll find a way to sneak away without a stowaway. And then we'll all come back together and plug in again and again and again until forever.

Leave It All Out On The Field

That was mine, and so was that lunch and so was my body before it took all the punches that come from giving life – from carrying from birthing from feeding all through the night.

At the end of this run, it'll all be done no matter what we look like, no matter how we fight to cling to this world, it'll kick us out in the end.

I've decided to go with creases and lines, marks and rolls, too, because we all end up that way no matter what we do. You can see the ones who fight like hell to keep it all together, to make it all look swell. At the end in the box, no matter what they've done, it's over and gone.

I'll go with a life lived well, hard if it must, if it means that all of what I have had goes on to you and you remember that all the way through.

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Ask Her More

My 4-year-old likes clothes. She likes to play dress-up and take her show on the road, which means that often I am wandering around the grocery store with Rapunzel by my side. If I saw her, I would ask her about her dress. If you could see her spinning around in it, you would, too, because it is so clear that she chose it thoughtfully and that she is enjoying herself and the story it brings to her life.

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I see no problem in any of that: her love of dressing-up is entirely her own. If you knew me, you’d know that to be true: I was a tomboy who grew up into a tomwoman, if there were such a thing. I’m usually wearing whatever pants, some shirt, and gym shoes. I hardly have on any jewelry, no make-up – whatever. I’m mostly happy to have showered and I need to be able to run after my toddler: the end. I just don’t think about any of it all that much.

My daughter likes lots of things every which way – clothes, dolls, sports, Legos; I have no idea what she is or isn’t, yet. The same is true for my son. He, too, dresses up in various superhero gear and he, too, gets asked questions about what he’s wearing; it’s hard not to ask when you’re being stared down by a kid in a homemade mask. But, the questions for him are different; the variance is faint, but it’s there, if you’re listening. The comments and questions move on quickly from how he looks to what he can do, which super powers he has, etc.

Whether she’s wearing a Rapunzel dress or some other random outfit she has decided on for the day, the comments and questions towards her stay on how she looks. Generally, they are all sweet compliments that she enjoys, but I’m thinking more about this. Even if I practice gender-neutral parenting – supporting my sons and my daughter in whatever toys, clothes, and activities they choose – there are other factors for them. Nature, sure; and also, the nurture they get from the world.

I’m thinking more about this because I do it, too. I have been catching myself in my comments and questions to both of my children to listen carefully to what I’m asking and saying, to make sure that I’m sounding fair. I literally have to close my eyes and think of what I would say to my son if he were in one of his getups and then I say that thing or ask that question of my daughter. I can’t believe that I have to think that hard. I can’t believe that I have to think at all; I can’t believe that I change what I say and how I say it between my daughter and my son. Some might say that I’m saying and asking different things because that is what you do with different people. You’d be right about that, but I hear myself and I know that that’s not the whole story. I am looking at this little girl and putting things on her – things I don’t even know I’m putting on her and things I thought I’d never put on her.

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Her femininity is a strength; wearing pink doesn’t mean anything more than she’s wearing pink.

I wrote this to remind myself to Ask Her More.

Ask her what you will ask her because she’s a girl and ask her whatever you’d ask any boy; ask her if she has any special powers, ask her if she has a story behind the dress.

Maybe she’ll be a fashion designer someday; or, perhaps she’ll be a woman who loves to get fancied up before she heads into her boardroom. Maybe she won’t be any of those things. I don’t care at all what she ends up doing as long as she knows all the way through that she can be whatever she wants.

We’re about to listen to so many interviews of Hillary Clinton; no matter whether you support her candidacy or not, it’s going to get boring by the end. It always does. In order to amuse yourself, listen to what the interviewers ask her and compare that to the questions asked of her male counterparts. If we are discussing Hillary’s hair and clothes and not his hair or clothes, we’ve done it. If we are asking her about being a mother and a grandmother and not asking him about the same, we’ve done it again. We think it doesn’t matter, but words matter. Questions can limit just as much as statements can.

My girl is as sweet as pie and as tough as nails, the way most of us – male or female – are at our core. I am hoping she keeps on keeping on however she likes.

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Ask Her More

I know how it is when you see her there with her big doe eyes and her shiny blonde hair. How do you not say, “Well, what is that you’re wearing? You’re so cute and such a doll,” and she’s happy to be alluring.

For now, it seems innocuous enough. She’s bright and she’s happy and she doesn’t rebuff.

But we know something happens around age 11 or 12: She’ll start to focus so much on what you’re asking that a part of her dissolves into questions and worries about what she looks like, as if function has nothing over form, and I wonder if it starts right here with these comments and questions about nothing more than what she got in the genetic crapshoot and how she makes the most of it.

Does she learn while answering that her clothes and her appearance mean more than anything she knows or her experience?

She’ll answer you because she’s polite, and she’ll be excited to be noticed because she delights in lots of different things, as does her brother who stands next to her, who gets asked about school and sports and reading and such.

We ask what he likes, what he’s good at, and it’ll be a little bit much for her – not now, but over time she’ll learn that her ideas and her passions don’t deserve a question.

She might have ideas that she learned from a book or that she thought up in her mind, but we’ll never know and she’ll never tell if we ask her only about how she looks and her clothes.

She jumps rope like a pro, she creates stories about the world, she can sing any musical show, but we’ll never know if we don’t ask her more.

Will you ask her more?

She’s like you, like me before. Way, way before we answered everyone.

No One Wins Who Hasn't Lived

Today is the first day of spring.  I have been shuttling my kids around all winter, stuffing them into coats and car seats and hurrying for drop offs and pick ups.  We’ve been running all around, sometimes for something and a lot of times for nothing.  I feel like I've been doing that longer than this winter, truth be told. We did today differently.  We ditched our schedule and we walked where we wanted to together; we ended up at the beach.  I wrote this as they ran around finding snow buried in the sand.

Do you ever feel like you are running a race to nowhere?

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No One Wins Who Hasn’t Lived

I can’t remember when I started running, if it was the gun that sounded to make me begin or if it was the herd that carried me into this race and around the bend.

Here I am having run so fast that I am out of breath and I can see now that there is no finish line up ahead and so, winded, I rest, hands upon my knees, and I look back on what I ran past – I forgot to look before. I forgot to enjoy the running. I don’t really enjoy running; I forgot that I could have walked, at least some of the time.

I walk and look and live.

The Sweet Spot

  It was 7 degrees outside when we walked inside this conservatory.  We saw color, we started sweating, we felt like we were a family of Dorothys stepping out of black and white and into colorful Oz.  We all started laughing for no reason other than, I guess, the happiness that comes from beautiful, fresh places.

New places give us new feelings to try on; they give us a break from whatever we need.  By this point in winter, I start cooking up ludicrous (and expensive) trips that we'll never take and getting great big ideas of moving to St. Barth’s.  I’m over winter and so I start running away, which isn’t all bad really, so long as I find some of those sweet spots in the moments that exist in the right now.

The Sweet Spot

When we’re in the cold,

we long for some heat.

When we’re in the dark,

we long for some light.

When they are needy babies,

we long for some alone time.

When they are aloof teens,

we long for some connection.

 

How rare it is

to love

all of what we are in

today.

 

And, yet,

today,

this sweet spot,

is all we’ve got,

(what a cliché, I know,

but ignored even so).

 

I take their hands

and go to where

we can each find

some heat in the cold,

some light in the dark,

some alone time,

some connection,

 

however we can

so that we can all see in color

together

in this sweet spot of

today.

***

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Rocking On

This little baby boy who’s in pink pajamas has been rocked to sleep for almost two years now.  Every nap, every night night.  Sometimes, I get annoyed while I rock him – “Just go to sleep!” I think.  After particularly long days, I add an expletive or two in there.  I always come around though, to the place where I surrender to how we do it, to how he – the only one of our three – absolutely needs to go to bed.  Do any of us receive enough love, enough kindness, enough togetherness, enough patience in this life?  I rock to fill us both as best I can.  

Rocking On

I start rocking,

a little angry at this situation

we’ve created.

I need to shower,

to eat,

to clean up,

to go to the bathroom

alone.

 

I rock

frustrated and annoyed

until those feelings rock

right on out of me.

He waits for me,

patiently enough.

 

He waits

until the prickliness is gone,

until he’s turned me around,

until the space he’s made

inside of me

is big enough

for the love

to come through.

 

Then there’s room

to let the love in

and back out

into him,

like the tide

as we rock.

 

I love you, he breathes.

I love you, I exhale.

 

I want to lie him down

awake in his bed

and have him fall asleep alone,

so that I can hurry off and

be alone.

 

He won’t or can’t

let me go

or he knows

that none of us

in this life

receive enough love,

enough kindness,

enough togetherness,

enough patience

as we might wish for

so he’d better take it

when it’s free,

when the price is only

a few extra rocks in a chair.

It Feels Like An Assault And It Is Love

 

(Skip this intro if you follow me on Facebook).

***

I come from a long-line of people who like their space.  My Grandma Anne, for whom I was named, was happy to see us when we arrived at her home and then waved excitedly at the door as we left (grandparenting – best gig on the planet).  I imagine now that after our car drove away she ran through her home putting pieces back, wiping up spills, and then getting into her chair, which was the couch for women of that generation because those women didn’t lay (how could you when you had to live with the same hair for one whole week), so that she could watch television and sip a drink with a frozen Snickers bar on the side in order to breath easily again.

We like our space, we like quiet, we like relaxation.  Our children, whom we adore, also like our space, and they like for our quiet and relaxation time to be filled with their thoughts and ideas and hopping and “Did you know that the first thing I’m going to do when I go to college is build a prop plane?”  It is 6:47 AM and he is snuggled up in my blankets and business talking and planning about things like that.

There are lots of people who love the energy and the camaraderie of children all the time.  They make great parents and caregivers.  There are other people, who also make great parents and caregivers, that need more time to recuperate from children’s prolific energy flow.  We are the people who institute quiet hours and, when our children learn to read, we sincerely believe that our life has just improved exponentially.  For those of us in this group, children’s love and affection can sometimes feel like an assault on our senses – the constant noise, the smells, the fingers poking me.

This seeming assault is actually the love of children and their desire to connect – the same desire I once had towards my own mother who I asked to rub my arm every single night as I drifted off to sleep – and it is really special and magical.  I institute the quiet hour where everyone has her own space so that I can survive; it is necessary and fair for everyone.  And then I think, maybe they’re just teaching me how to connect again.

***

Do you feel how they teach us to connect again?

How they need so much touch?

How they talk so often?

How they laugh so loud?

How they connect with us even when we ask for space?

How they are exactly as we were before we learned to separate?

Arc of Life, If You're Lucky

Arc of Life, If You’re Lucky “Did you get what you wanted?”

Age 3: “YES!  Exactly!  I LOVE IT SO MUCH!”

Age 43: “I think so.  It’s all a lot harder than I thought, but we’re doing it.”

Age 83: “YES!  It was work, and there were mistakes, but it all worked out.  I’ve loved it all.”

*** My husband and I went on a date to the fabric store; that is, we had a baby sitter and I needed to look at fabric, so we went together to the fabric store and called it a date.  We went into the city and started talking with the owner of the store.  He has two children, both of whom are teenagers now.  He was talking to us about having teenagers as compared to having young ones.  Then, he said what no one else has ever said to us, but that was just about the most honest thing I’ve heard: “Yeah, so are you guys so tired that you get really mad about little things a lot?  Actually, you [me] probably get annoyed at him because you are so tired.  Is that right?  Because, if you can, just don’t do that.  It’s so bad and it’s just because you are tired right now.  Gosh, I didn’t enjoy those times.”

When my children are in a mood, I commiserate with other mothers who have kids my kids’ ages.  Sometimes, their mood is completely biological (think: a moody teenager); you can only do so much to counteract it.  I try to remember this for my own self.  Although I’d like to pretend that I am so unique that my feelings are individual and specific, sometimes the truth of the matter is that our overall mood is dictated by our place in the continuum of life.  For me, this is both reassuring and a challenge.  On the one hand, I know that this is a phase and that all phases move along.  On the other hand, I believe that I can change my mood, but only if I’m ready to fight the biological imperatives that surround me.  Sometimes, spending a day with a 3-year-old is exactly the mood changer that’s needed for a 35-year-old (and, sometimes, it is TOTALLY not, I KNOW).

Yesterday, I wanted to run errands and get ready so that I could join my girlfriends out at night.  It was raining, and I could see that my kids weren’t up for my errand-running and that my night plans were slipping away because my husband wouldn’t be home in time.  This happens a lot, actually, and I get super annoyed by it.  I like a schedule; he doesn’t schedule.  In all other ways but this one, we are a perfect fit.  On this night, I knew I would be fighting an uphill battle to do what I needed to do and I wasn’t up for the fight, but I was here.  With kids who wanted to play in the rain.  No errand absolutely needed to be completed by day’s end, so I just gave in to my 3-year-old.  She ran and splashed and got soaking wet in the puddles in our driveway.  And she laughed so hard.  When is the last time you’ve seen a 35-year-old do that?  When have you seen a 35-year-old give it all up?  We just don’t, unless we’ve had one too many.  She ran and splashed, and then stopped and hovered over a puddle for a moment.  “Mom, come here!” she shouted.  “This puddle made itself into a heart shape for me.  It knew I would love it!”

There, in our driveway that I’d like resurfaced, attached to our house that I find small was, in fact, a heart-shaped puddle that my 35-year-old mind never would have noticed because it’s too busy working, configuring, planning.  In fact, I would have been annoyed by its presence when I dropped my keys in it while putting my baby in his car seat so that we could do errands.

If you’re lucky, you live long enough to witness the arc of life.  But, not all of us will get lucky.  When you can choose your mood, when you can choose to fight the biological moods that take hold, give it a go.  You might find a heart-shaped puddle just for you.  And when you can’t, when you are just too tired and annoyed to feel like you have any choices whatsoever, know that there is another 35-year-old – maybe even right down the block from you – that’s having the very same feelings at the very same moment.  And, that feeling?  It’ll pass.  The fabric store man told me so.

Before You Give Them to the World

  My kids are doing fine with school.  I, however, am having a harder time.  In general, I’ve never been a very good rule follower.  As a child, I questioned and argued.  As a young adult, I went to law school, which is the place for those who were children who questioned and argued.  And now, as a parent, I’m just like “what the heck?” a whole lot.

Now that my children are in real school with teachers and people that they will be with for a long time, I don’t want to be THAT mom – you know the one –  the chronic emailer, meeting requester, complainer.

But, here’s the thing: I don’t know how to parent acceptably (to others) without helicoptering.  My 6-year-old walked my 3-year-old into preschool last week while I waited in the car with my 1-year-old.  We talked about how to do it; he was proud, she was excited.  I kissed them both and waited for my 6-year-old to come back out to me.  He did, but with the news that he is not allowed to walk her into school alone.  An adult has to do it.

I’m an attorney, so I get the liability thing.  But, at what point do we say enough?  At what point do we acknowledge that the benefits of creating independence outweigh the risks of, say, tripping up the stairs?  Can we expect them to take on bigger, more significant responsibilities as they get older when we won’t let them conquer small tasks as young children?  I don’t want to helicopter, but I also don’t want to get in trouble for not helicoptering.

My goals with my children include encouraging confidence and independence.  I think parents have a hard time with the independence piece.  Even if they say that they want that for their children, they don’t actually want it: they want to be needed forever and ever so they always have some strings (usually it’s financial support as the kids grow into adults).  I want my children to need me when they need me and I want to help them when they need me.  I also very much want them to not need me sometimes.  When they don’t need me, I want to be woman enough to be proud of that, not sad about it.  I don’t want to create a need for myself by fostering an unhealthy dependency between us.

I want to continue to parent according to what I believe to be best for them.  It’s hard to do that once you start to give them to the world.

Before You Give Them to the World

I didn’t even know when I was good at doing this thing called mothering.

By the time I realize I am doing all right, that phase is gone and the next has come to trip me up.

It feels overwhelming at first – what with the feeding, the diapering, the sleeping – and then, suddenly, miraculously, we’re on our way, for a few months at least.

And we do it again and again as new babies come. I get the hang of it; we’re OK.

Suddenly, miraculously, it’s school and forms and fees and deadlines and friends and I’m tired

and thinking back to when my arms and my body were all that we needed to be good.

***

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