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?”

May 8, 2020

Last week I took the week off. It was an accident, the Friday just flew by me, but I never swung back around and tried to squeeze out a late post (a Saturday 6?). Been doing an okay job keeping my mood afloat, but it’s taking all my attention. Honestly, I played more video games than read anything last week anyway. Oops! Thanks for bearing with me:

  1. Pandemic Mental Health Safety Plan, Queering Psychology. This is a SOLID resource. I went through the questions in preparation for this post and ended up taking a break to journal and check in with what my body is needing (the answer? lunch). It’s so helpful to have some questions to prompt me, otherwise I stare at my journal like “Well…I know the feeling is Bad, but beyond that I’m STUMPED.” Highly recommend having this one in your pocket, or just thinking of those check-in questions for yourself from time to time.
  2. 30 Non-Boring Virtual Date Activities to Try From Home, Vice. Saved this one to share for you all because of this suggestion: “My favorite iteration of the last suggestion is an after-practice bar tradition I have with my bandmates called “draw a cartoon character from memory” that I picked up from the comics artist and critic Nick Gazin. You can’t look at the character in question before you begin—you have to sketch them wholly recollectively. Start with Bart Simpson, move to Betty Boop, despair at the impossibility of Mario of Super Mario fame. It’s so stupidly funny and makes for beautiful keepsakes. It’s also really impressive, infuriating, and hot when someone is, improbably, good at it.”
  3. Baopu #72: Working From Home, Autostraddle. Relatable comic. (I’m feeling Day 40 lately.)
  4. “Meditation 17,” John Donne. Written as Donne recovered from a serious illness. There are a lot of familiar lines in it, and power there: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
  5. 33 Moments Where Friends, Family, And Total Strangers Had Each Other’s Backs In This Pandemic, Buzzfeed. This is sweet and did make me feel better. Lots of selfish, defiant people getting a lot of national attention right now, and while stories of compassion and community are sometimes quieter, I do still believe they’re more powerful.

Bonus features:

April 24, 2020

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@the_memeing_librarian – a lot of librarian memes are CORNY but I like this account

This post will be a little different, and more locally-focused than usual. In honor of National Library Week (which was 4/19-4/25), I want to highlight 5 cool things you can get at the public library while you’re stuck at home. First, if you live in Maryland and you don’t have a library card, FCPL is offering temporary library cards that last til June 1 and can get you access to most of their digital resources, which I’ll be highlighting here. Also, all of these things are free for u, my friends!

I don’t work for FCPL but I am a big nerd for libraries, and I know their resources don’t get used as much as they could be, so if you have any questions about using any of this stuff, or you want a book recommendation or somethin’, reach out! I like to librarian for friends.

  1. E-books and e-audiobooks. Do you like listening to your own audiobook a month from Audible? You can get even more books, both in audio format or as an e-book you can swipe through on your lil phone or tablet through the library. Here’s the ones I like from FCPL:
    • An app called Hoopla where you can check out 30 books and audiobooks, as well as some TV shows and movies (I haven’t done much of that but they’re out there!). The number of things you can check out might vary depending on your library system, but check it out!
    • The other big book/audiobook app is called Libby (by Overdrive), and I like that one too, even though you sometimes have to be put on a waitlist to get super in-demand books.
  2. Virtual storytimes! FCPL does these live on their Facebook at 10am every day, and you can also browse their archive on Youtube. These are designed for kids 0-5.
  3. Lynda is a portal where you can find high quality videos to learn “business and career skills, software and IT, job search tools, web design, social media and publishing tools, and photography.” I used Lynda to learn how to use Photoshop, and there’s some good Microsoft tutorials in there too.
  4. Kanopy is another really popular library resource. It’s a place to find streaming videos (like Netflix), and it has its own Roku channel and smartphone app. There’s a lot of educational stuff on there, but also movies from the Criterion collection, indie films, and lots of documentaries.
  5. A couple homeschool/educational resources:
    • Kids InfoBits is a really cute tool for elementary-to-middle schoolers (and me, when I want simple, comforting facts about farm animals).
    • Gale Virtual Reference Library — I can personally vouch for this database, I use it all the time with students at work! Very readable and user-friendly, like a scholarly version of Wikipedia. I’d say it’s a high school to college-level resource, but I am also very bad at estimating reading level by age.
    • LearningExpress Library has test prep and practice tests for SAT, ACT, AP, GED, GRE, and citizenship exams, plus I think some occupational exams like the NCLEX for nursing. Back in the day, I used their GRE practice tests, because those books are expensive!

So there ya go. Hope you can find something fun to read or watch for the weekend. You know what they say on Arthur, having fun’s not hard…