June 19, 2020

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My friends the Hails have some of THE most photogenic pets in the universe.

Ahh, there’s just so much I want to share with you, but first, I am so grateful you read my words each week. Thank you so much for your attention in a very loud world.

Also, a little note on how we can all contribute to a better world: This excellent newsletter had a great note on bringing the skills we have to the struggle before us: “Not everyone is useful on the front lines of a given struggle. Sophie, for example, is chronically ill and both of us are built for rhetorical battles, not physical ones. […] Our inventory of concrete contributions we can make is more along the lines of writing, revising, information-finding-and-sharing, note-taking, idea-clarifying, list-making, signal-boosting, errand-running, money-giving, supply-ordering, cooking, and baking. WHICH— correctly applied— are not minor contributions.” I hope you can think creatively and compassionately about what gift you can bring toward the liberation of everyone, especially the most vulnerable in our country!

  1. How to Take Care of Each Other: Community Care In Times Of Crisis, Autostraddle. There’s been a lot of talk about replacing the police with community services and moving from a place of control to one of care, and maybe that’s hard to picture in practical terms. Lucky for us, a lot of Black, queer, and/or disabled people have already been thinking about this, in part because they’ve had to create their own systems of care and found family when their needs haven’t been met by mainstream society. I really like how this piece lays out some steps for how we can start asking each other for help and being there for our neighbors, friends, and community. “Analyze your resources. What do you have? Everyone has something: Large kitchen? EBT (food stamps)? A car? Extroversion? Money? Writing skills? Business skills? Empathy? Art skills and/or supplies? Multi-lingualism? A “fancy,” “official-looking” outfit? Carpentry skills? Some time? Any and all of these can be incredibly useful in supporting someone in community. What do you have to offer? Some of these seem esoteric, but can be incredibly helpful in ways you might not immediately expect.” Lots of great stuff here (check out the Support Card idea halfway down)!
  2. Whiteness Can’t Save Us, Taylor Harris for Catapult. “What is a mother to do, if she cannot save her boy? What is a mother to do, if she fights so hard to save her boy’s body from itself, only to have an ugly man destroy it for his pleasure?” This gorgeous writing will crack your heart right open.
  3. White Women: Stop Pretending We Don’t Benefit From White Supremacy, Allure. An article published shortly after the Charlottesville white supremacist rallies in 2017. “‘If this has you saying, But I can’t personally be held responsible for white supremacy, you are missing the point. The point is not that we are each personally responsible for systemic oppression. It’s that we are each individually accountable for doing something about it. If you are a white woman and you are feeling uncomfortable with our legacy, perhaps right now more than usual, that’s good.” This is the water we’re all swimming in, and I know it’s hard and uncomfortable for white folks to confront that, but the best and only way forward, the most responsible way to be good ancestors, is to face our privilege head on, together. This is also a really good line, and galvanizing to me: “We are not innocent until proven guilty of racism; we are complicit until we are no longer silent.”
  4. The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale. I just finished this book (I listened to it from FCPL’s Hoopla app as an audiobook!) and I really recommend it. I’m definitely not an expert on the topic of policing, but this book is a thorough overview of what’s not working about our current system of policing. For one thing, he points out how the police are not situated to prevent crime, only to respond to it and often escalate the situation in their response. He carefully goes over various attempts at police reform that have been tried in the past (to middling success), and then walks us through some places that we use the police when we really should be sending community aid: homelessness, sex work, and the extremely devastating and ineffective War on Drugs. This book is currently free as an e-book from the publisher, and like I said, available at the Frederick public library as an audiobook with no waitlist. I would love to talk about it with anyone who’s read it!
  5. Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Youtube video from HBO. This is one of John Oliver’s best pieces. If you’re not familiar with the host, fair warning that he uses grown up language, but I have always appreciated that his focus as a late night host has been to do deep dives on topics. I come away from his videos with a greater understanding of an issue (his episode on civil forfeiture gave me a whole new thing to be HEATED about!). He ends with the words of Kimberly Jones: “So when they say, “Why do you burn down the community? Why do you burn down your own neighborhood?” It’s not ours. We don’t own anything. We don’t own anything. Trevor Noah said it so beautifully last night. There’s a social contract that we all have, that if you steal, or if I steal, then the person who is the authority comes in and they fix the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is killing us! So the social contract is broken. And if the social contract is broken, why the f*** do I give a shit about burning the f***ing Football Hall of Fame, about burning a f***ing Target? […] Far as I’m concerned, they could burn this bitch to the ground, and it still wouldn’t be enough. And they are lucky that what Black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.” (PS – her entire speech is very good, here’s a transcript and video of it.)

~New section of the blog alert!~

I don’t have a cute name for it yet, but my idea is to highlight one organization that supports anti-racism or improves the lives of Black people, nationally or locally. I invite you to match my $5 donation each week (or more if you can swing it, but I want it to be sustainable for my budget). This week’s org is The Okra Project, which delivers free, delicious, and nutritious meals to Black Trans people experiencing food insecurity.

  • Donate your $5 here! If 17 other people donate with me, we can fund a single chef-cooked, free meal.

Bonus features:

June 12, 2020

Hi, I just wanna use this intro text space to say I love you all and I hope you’re well. Here’s 5 things:

  1. How Body Image Can Be Affected by Coronavirus Isolation, And What to Do About It, Vice. There are tips in here, and some direct talk about diets and fixation on our bodies, but I didn’t find it triggering. Your mileage may vary, but the tips in here are just suggestions for ways to treat yourself with a little kindness. I’ve always liked anti-diet culture stuff that focuses on the ways our body serves and carries our soul, and there’s a line in this piece like that: “Your body is an instrument, more so than an ornament.” And this evergreen advice: “But think about yourself like you’d think about a friend. […] if they were feeling bad about themselves, you’d build them up, rather than indulging their shame spiral, right? In this case, you are your friend. Try to be kind, warm, accepting of where you’re at. Ask yourself: What does your body need? Is it sleep? Space? Kindness? Water? Let that guide you.”
  2. How to be a good white ally during the George Floyd protests and always, Vox. “When white people show up to protests for the Movement for Black Lives, they are our guests. They are new for this. This might be exciting to them now, but this has been something that we have been living for generations and fighting for generations. So, you are showing up, and we’re happy to have you, you are our guests. A white person’s job at a protest isn’t to spray paint “Black Lives Matter” on a building. It’s not to destroy stuff. It’s not to loot stores. Their job is not to mess with the cops and throw stuff. Their job at that protest, what they are there to do, is to do everything they can in their power to put their bodies between the bodies of black people and police.” I’ve also heard the advice that we should be reading the word “ally” as a verb, not a noun. We white people ally ourselves with Black people, not as an emotional experience (or performance) but as a ongoing action. I also love this advice about focusing on your area, because you can bet there are Black folks in your local region doing the work already: “Give your time, talent, and treasure to black-led organizations and black leaders that are doing front-line work in your area. I don’t even think it’s a matter of looking to other cities that might be more in the news — there are black people, black organizations, black organizers wherever you are that are doing the difficult work of fighting for black liberation and against state violence. You need to find out who’s doing that work where you are and figure out what they need and do your best to meet those needs.”
  3. Black Lives Matter Protests In Small Towns Are Important, Buzzfeed News. “These protests cut across demographics and geographic spaces. They’re happening in places with little in the way of a protest tradition, in places with majority white population and majority black, and at an unprecedented scale. People who’ve watched and participated in the Black Lives Matter movement since 2015 say that this time feels different. And the prevalence of these small protests is one of many reasons why.” I’m proud of the small towns and cities I’ve seen turning out, including Frederick. Don’t lose steam yet, we’re just getting started.
  4. The Remaking of Steve Buscemi, GQ. “We used to joke that he was our generation’s Don Knotts, but he’s more Jimmy Stewart in a way,” says the independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who has been friends with Buscemi for more than 35 years and cast him in several projects. “He portrays humanity.” I loved this profile of Steve Buscemi. What a kind person.
  5. Abolish the police: What does it really mean?, Vox. I’ve been turning to Vox for some explanatory journalism because they will give you an overview pretty quickly but with lots of links to back up their claims. They’ve also got a pretty good Youtube channel with 5-10 minute videos on different topics, if you’re a more visual learner. Police abolition is a new idea to me and I’m interested in learning more. “By “abolish the police,” I mean building a world where we do not rely on anti-Black, white supremacist institutions of order to regulate society. This means that alternative forms of order might be embraced, like community care networks and justice structures rooted in restoration rather than punishment.” Each of the scholars interviewed in this piece take a slightly different perspective, so check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Bonus feature:

  • The Low Road,” Marge Piercy. This is a beautiful poem and it gives me energy. “It goes one at a time. / It starts when you care to act. / It starts when you do it again / after they say no. / It starts when you say we / and know who you mean; / and each day you mean / one more.”

June 8, 2020

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Hey everyone, it’s been a minute since I’ve had time to write, and it’s also taken me a while to know what I wanted to say in this space. The past two weeks of action for racial justice have been devastating, inspiring, and a chance to courageously imagine a future without police violence, without police as our go-to for all community issues.

I hope you read with an open mind and a soft heart. Breonna Taylor was about my age, and that detail keeps haunting me. I’m certainly not an expert on anti-racism work but I want to keep doing it, and I hope you join me and hold me accountable to it.

  1. How Much do US Cities Spend on Policing? (Infographic), Forbes. So this source is a few years old but some of us are visual learners and I found this illuminating. The data came from a report “compiled by The Center for Popular Democracy, Law for Black Lives and the Black Youth Project 100, [which] makes the case that investment in mental health, housing, youth development and living wages would stabilize communities and prove more effective than policing.”
  2. From Michael Brown to George Floyd: What We’ve Learned About Policing, The Marshall Project. Good, short read that will catch you up on policing since Ferguson. Includes links to every story they reference. This stuck out to me: “A contributing factor to excessive use of force by police is the increasing militarization of many police departments. For decades, the Defense Department has been passing surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies—for free and with little scrutiny. Think grenade launchers, machetes and bayonets. Many of the military-grade weapons were deployed in Ferguson, where police used weapons of war against protesters.The Obama administration banned the program after the waves of protest following police tactics in Ferguson; President Donald Trump reinstated it.” WHY would the police need bayonets?
  3. Tear Gas Doesn’t Deploy Itself, The New Republic. “The most egregious offender to date is The New York Times, which is leaning on a tried-and-true favorite: passive voice. Passive voice removes a subject from the focus of a sentence, instead choosing to look at the action or reaction caused by the subject. Effectively, when describing something like the protests, it’s a way to evasively describe who, exactly, is causing the violence.” Plus haven’t you ever taken an English 101 class? Passive voice is WEAK writing. Here’s more from that source: “As both social media and the evening news are staple sources for people looking for real-time updates, it is necessary to ensure that when people turn to these sources, the framing is not just fair but correct. Equating militarized police units armed with tanks, lethal and nonlethal guns, and riot gear with protesters standing against the violence doled out by them is not just cowardice but an intentional distortion of reality.” Her final sentence sums it up: “People are protesting racist policing in dozens of cities and towns across the country, and police officers themselves remain the largest source of violence in these protests.”
  4.  “White Family Facebook Drama Over Police Racism,” Captain Awkward. The Captain always has the best combination of word and deed in her advice. “Hey, look, as a white person who likes to know things, explain things, and be good at school, I know that the catching up we individually and collectively need to do on the subject of racism can feel like those anxiety dreams where you are sitting for a final exam for a course you don’t remember even registering for, sweating bullets over your blue book while the clock ticks loudly down to the time where Everyone Will Be Able To See That You Don’t Know The Answers. […] [Black people] are experts on shit that we just admitted we don’t really understand! We just showed up yesterday! Let’s do it their way! That is our urgent project, right now. Lives depend on it. We have power to help and a duty to fight in solidarity. […] Black people have imagined, articulated, designed, and advocated for multiple visions and concrete plans, adaptable in real time, for what needs to happen next to shift the balance of power away from white supremacy and make their communities safer, happier, freer, healthier, and more prosperous. Right now. Today. The right things to do next are not only knowable, they are known. You don’t have to become the world’s foremost expert on this topic, you just have to listen to the ones we already have and follow their lead.” There’s so much good stuff in this link, I hope you click through and check it out!
  5. We defend ourselves so we can all breathe in peace, Roar. “There has to be something or someone to nourish, protect, bailout, educate, house and provide healthcare for those in need, since the state is clearly more interested in killing those it deems undeserving of care and aid. That someone is all of us. And all of this should be done in ways that directly challenge the capitalist logic of moneymaking and profiteering. These are rights that we are afforded by birth, not something we should have to be able to afford based on the state of a manipulated economy.” And this is another great quote: “We all have to find our place and our purpose whether we are teaching, planning, organizing, caring, cooking or creating art. Not everyone will be in the streets, but some will, and people should not do anything they are not ready, trained, or prepared to do. There is not a single correct way to protest, and authorities will attempt to divide us by trying to shift blame to those who embrace radical tactics, as Black people have done historically. We can all learn new things, but we should be aware that this is not about any of us as individuals, it is about all of us together.”

Couple places to donate, with a Maryland focus:

  • Baltimore Safe Haven, a black, trans-led nonprofit harm-reduction to support Baltimore’s most vulnerable LGBTQ community members. Their Facebook page has the most recent updates on services during the pandemic, including free lunches, syringe exchange programs, and Zoom community check-ins.
  • Baltimore Legal Action Team (BALT), you can choose to direct your funds to a few different categories: advocacy, management of a community bail fund, litigation, and research.
  • I Believe In Me, a non-profit in Frederick focused on mentoring young people “through mental, physical, and social activities that foster self respect and respect for the world around them.” My dad and I ran their 5k last year, and that’s how we heard of them! Here’s their Facebook page, which has more recent updates.
  • The Loveland Foundation, a national organization dedicated to helping fund therapy for Black women and girls.

5 cute or funny TikTok videos as a reward for making it this far:

May 22, 2020

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Found this creek dam while hiking with David for his birthday last week.

Woof, I know we’ve all said it, but these weeks are crawling/zooming by. I’ll be honest that I’m not reading as much on the internet lately, since so much of it is (understandably) pandemic-related. It just all makes me feel so tired. I’ve been thinking, though, that it could be fun to have friends write guest posts for the Friday 5. Inject the blog with a lil life! Gonna try to convince David to write one, to start, but if anyone else is interested in writing a 5, let me know!

  1. My Therapist Says Feelings Aren’t Facts, Medium. “Do you know that feelings aren’t facts?” For a moment, I was more curious than ashamed. I asked what he meant. “Feelings are powerful,” he said. “Feelings give us information, and they can move us to action, but no matter how powerful they are, they’re not facts. You can feel like the worst person in the world. You can feel like taking care of everybody else is the best you can do. You can feel like you’re not worth anything. You can even feel like you’re a human failure, and as powerful as that feeling is, it doesn’t make it true.” And then, I could breathe.”
  2. ‘Iso’, ‘boomer remover’ and ‘quarantini’: how coronavirus is changing our language, The Conversation. “In fact, scientists have recently found learning new words can stimulate exactly those same pleasure circuits in our brain as sex, gambling, drugs and eating (the pleasure-associated region called the ventral striatum).” Interesting piece on how language evolves to accommodate crisis. I like “iso” and I fully hate “boomer remover.”
  3. Trains Speed Through the Swiss Countryside to Techno Beats, Kottke. Would recommend this Youtube video — I’ve put these train videos on in the background when I’m on the couch, hopelessly scrolling on my phone. Then I look up and see a nice train at a pleasant pace, paired with chill music, and it soothes the senses.
  4. Harden Your Zoom Settings to Protect Your Privacy and Avoid Trolls, EFF. I’m only ever a guest on Zoom, but if you’re regularly using it I would recommend skimming these settings and making sure your privacy is at a level you’re comfortable with. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is my jam, they take privacy and digital rights seriously and have thorough resources.
  5. After an illness, walking the dog,” Jane Kenyon. “Soaked and muddy, the dog drops, / panting, and looks up with what amounts / to a grin. It’s so good to be uphill with him, / nicely winded, and looking down on the pond.” Might have shared this before but I don’t even care! In a group chat of dog lovers, I shared another stanza from a different Jane Kenyon poem, “Having it Out with Melancholy,” which has these excellent lines: The dog searches until he finds me / upstairs, lies down with a clatter / of elbows, puts his head on my foot. // Sometimes the sound of his breathing / saves my life—in and out, in / and out; a pause, a long sigh…” The way Kenyon writes about times with her dog feel very true to me. “A clatter of elbows!”

May 15, 2020

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“She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip…”

Oh, hi again. What’s new? Nothing! I’ve found a new park in the area that is longer than it is wide. It’s basically a long trail between two neighborhoods, with water chuckling down one side and occasionally across the path, ultimately leading up to enormous Sound-of-Music hills and ?? I still haven’t made it to the end of the trail. It certainly doesn’t loop back in a circle, like many trails, and I’ve walked at least 1.5 miles and not reached the end. Because, as far as you walk out into this semi-wild park, you have to walk the same distance back. It’s been meditative and exploratory and I’m not mentioning the name of the park because I don’t want spoilers about the end of the trail. Stay tuned, I guess?

  1. Why You Should Wear Inside Clothes During Coronavirus, Refinery29. “It’s understandable that one might associate inside clothes with a kind of ailment or defeatism, a sign that you’ve given up on ever going outside again. An introvert’s badge of honor. Conversely, wearing your street clothes at home feels like a headstart on life, like you’re always up for anything at a moment’s notice. If outside clothes are an opportunity to express your best self, an embodiment of your most optimistic plans, then inside clothes are seen as an admission of your worst inclinations and your dashed desires. There’s probably some truth in that for some, but it’s certainly not true about my inside clothes. I’m more inclined than ever to believe that inside clothes are our one shot at understanding the pleasure that comes from really dressing for yourself. No matter how comfortable you are with your own style, when you’re dressing for the outside world, you’re still adhering to codes and expectations. Not so with inside clothes. In my oven-mitt Korean sweatpants and souvenir T-shirts, I am fully dressed for my own eyes, actions, and plans.”
  2. Cereal In My Mouth, Gawker. “It would be extremely easy to blame this chaotic tableau on the lone individual who was in the house during the hours when the crime occurred. It is very tempting to abandon critical thinking and simply assume that—if there is an empty house with only a dog in it, and you leave that house, and everything is clean and in its place, and then you return a few hours later and the kitchen floor is strewn with a hurricane of cereal, and all of the cereal boxes have been opened not by the easy-open flaps on top but instead by being torn and chewed from the side, and there are tooth marks on the boxes, and you’ve seen the dog on multiple occasions push his nose into the crack in the cabinet door and work that door open because he smells the marshmallowy Lucky Charms within, and the dog of the house is hiding in the corner of the living room upon your return, and in the hairy area of the dog’s snout is a good quantity of bluish-white powder consistent with smashed Lucky Charms marshmallows—then the dog of the house is the perpetrator of the crime. Yes, it is quite easy to make this assumption. But where is the proof?” Okay so this is an oldie, that I found in a Twitter round-up of “foundational internet writing,” pieces that define this time period. I’d never seen it before and it is a delight. I like when people write from the perspective of dogs in a way that sounds clever and authentic.
  3. Yoga With Adriene is a YouTube sensation, Vox. Ah, I’ve been a fan of Yoga with Adriene since a friend recommended her 5 years ago. She made me feel like I could do yoga, and that even if I’m a little clumsy or not quite getting the poses, a “little goes a long way” to “finding what feels good” in your body and your breath. If you haven’t tried her yoga videos and you’re curious, she has 7 and 10 minute videos, as well as videos marked for beginners. I loved this: “Sequences are plotted out, but dialogue, apart from her go-to opener, is not. It’s breezy, conversational. She can get silly. She breaks out into show tunes and ’70s R&B, makes Zoolander references, and amps up a Texan twang as needed. She laughs at herself. Her blue heeler, Benji, is forever splayed beside her yoga mat, and she’s not afraid to pause the flow to marvel at his deep, contented sigh or real-deal downward dog. The Today show likened her videos to “doing yoga with a really nice neighbor,” and, true enough, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood provided the initial inspiration for the channel.” No wonder I like her vibe so much!
  4. A Secret Love, Netflix (trailer). Just watched this last night with my husband and sister-in-law. It’s a story of two women in their 80s, who’ve been a couple since 1947, living together as “cousins” or roommates, and who have recently come out to their family. It turns into a story of aging and weighing independence with care, but as my sister said, “The most powerful thing about this story is knowing it’s true, that they’ve existed all this time.” Plus there’s so much good primary source material — photographs, silent footage of the women on the beach in the 50s, in cocktail dresses at parties, playing baseball (oh, did I not mention that one of the women was Terry Donahue, who played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, aka the “league of their own”?). Loved it. It’s so tender and real and Canadian.
  5. Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown. Been working on this book for a few weeks, going slow to absorb it and understand it (and also because nonfiction digests slowly for me compared to ~novels~). She uses metaphors of change and transformation from nature to talk about the best kinds of community movements and individual efforts at changing the world for the better. Dandelions, who use the wind to spread their seeds and influence wide. Ants, who are parts of a whole. Fractals, patterns that repeat from a small scale to a large, like the leaves of a fern or the structure of a snowflake. It’s really good and the more I read the more I would recommend it to you. “Transformation doesn’t happen in a linear way, at least not one we can always track. It happens in cycles, convergences, explosions. If we release the framework of failure, we can realize that we are in iterative cycles, and we can keep asking ourselves — how do I learn from this?”