the kids are alright

I realize now what I’m doing here, on this planet, at this time, in the glorious and crushing moments, through uphill slogs and downhill slides, amid merciful solitude and exhuberant crowds …

It sounds so trite I hesitate, and yet it is true: I am a mother. But what is important is not my motherhood. It is the gift motherhood brings: my child.

This past month and a half have been among the saddest and most hopeful of my life. I have witnessed my father struggling to breathe from a hospital bed, then come through surgery with rousing success. I have watched another bloody massacre become a wave of youthful voices so passionate, so articulate, so tireless that my cynicism cracks a bit.

And I see my daughter, this human that my body grew, this person that our village raised, this glowing, compassionate being who cares about social justice, the environment, and the happiness of people around her. Her voice is one of a diverse, aware, and empowered generation, and, as Chloe and Halle sing to us, appropriating the words of the Who: “The kids are alright.” In an interview with Trevor Noah, these poised young women assured us that their generation is doing fine, that their parents didn’t fail them. I am struck by their words, and therein lies my truth.

Last weekend I marched behind a group of student protesters from the school where I teach, my daughter among them. As they led us down the tourist-lined streets, chanting their rage over the deaths of their peers, outlining gun policy demands that no sane person should oppose, my love and pride for these young people overwhelmed me. My body felt heavy with the poignant words of Briar Goldberg, a survivor of Columbine, who watched our country do nothing to protect us from what she went through. And I felt buoyed by the cadence and messaging of a middle-school girl, who far outshone any public speaker I’ve heard since the last presidential election. One by one, other teens spoke, with intelligence, with compassion, with the very present pain of what they experience daily because of guns in their communities. Their voices are clearer and louder than my feeble cries into the void have ever been. Now I can say that my fight was not in vain: it was an opening act, which is perhaps as it should be. The main stage is set for the real action, coming soon to a voting booth near you.

With renewed clarity, I see my life in a different way. My commitment to child-rearing takes on a greater meaning, as I envision the future that my child will help create. And I know that throughout the physical and mental exhaustion, the paycheck-to-paycheck existence, the struggles to hide despair and desperation from the gentle soul who kept me motivated, who shared my laughter, who makes me proud … she is why I’m here. She is my finest contribution to this time, to this planet, to these glorious moments and more yet to come.

[photo: afp 2018]



land disposal

Each day I awaken to some new horror by the new administration: green card holders and refugees being turned away at airports, the Army Corps of Engineers given the greenlight to bulldoze through native lands and put precious water supplies in peril, and now a proposal to sell off over 3,000,000 acres of public land, denying taxpayer  use, environmental protections, and generating no income for the country.

For someone who is supposedly a businessman, 45 and his crew sure make some stupid economic decisions.

bound and gagged

45’s hostility to science becomes more apparent as his appointments for key positions that could affect policy regarding climate change come to light. The recent news of the man tapped to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a harbinger of doom, as reported by McClatchy DC. Kenneth Haapala of the Heartland Institute is a known climate change denier, and his organization strives to reduce government influences on the free market, giving the almighty dollar the power to crush life as we know it on planet Earth.

If you think this is an overly dramatic reading of the future, consider that we’ve already seen environmental agencies in DC fall under gag rules by the current administration, including the National Park Service, for whom I volunteer. The EPA has been forced to take down it’s web page on climate change, which demonstrates that — when confronted with science — 45 chooses to turn a blind eye and then prevent anyone else from seeing.

“In recent weeks, federal employees at the National Parks Service, EPA and other agencies have claimed they are under “gag orders” – restricted from using social media or taking any action not approved by the new administration. As of Monday evening, the EPA hadn’t tweeted a single item since Jan. 19, the day before Trump was sworn in as president.” (Stuart Leavenworth, McClatchy, 1.30.17)

Fortunately, the same social media tools that allowed 45’s campaign to disseminate fake news stories also allows insiders in Washington to tweet from anonymous accounts.

Keep shouting!


A NOAA crew on the R/V Roger Revelle came nose-to-nose with an iceberg floating in the the Southern Ocean near Antarctica in February of 2008. Scientists at the federal agency have helped document impacts of climate change in the world’s polar regions, but some NOAA employees fear such research could be upended under President Donald Trump, a climate change skeptic. Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

our voices

our voices
ringing clear
you can’t claim
you didn’t hear

see images from Women’s Marches around the world

and hear Ashley Judd

and America Ferrera

and Angela Davis

Listen to each other, my sisters, and resist!

and for some comic relief, check out Kate MacKinnon mocking Kellyanne Conway (we’re still listening, Ms. Conway, if you have anything factual to say…)

misogyny much?

I don’t use Twitter, but today I saw a disturbing report about cyberthreats directed at Ashley Judd in response to a critical tweet she made about a sports opponent of her favorite team. I perused her Twitter feed to see what was up and was shocked by some of what she made public. Do not click here if you do not want to be offended.

The problem isn’t Twitter, although that particular platform seems to unleash the unchecked foulness of some people. The problem is the vituperative violence directed at a woman who dared to express an opinion about sports. The problem is that this sort of violence toward women plays out every day in real life, not just on social media feeds. From federal judges to sports stars, the perpetrators often go unpunished. Ashley Judd is making an example of her haters and pressing charges. I say Brava! You go, sister!

One has to wonder how one woman becomes the target of so much anger and loathing. My guess is that Ms. Judd’s politics play a role: she is an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and equality, which threaten the social and political structure on which some of these bullies precariously perch. Perhaps they feel the groundswell of our outrage at the mistreatment of our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. Perhaps they hear our voices ringing out through the airwaves of free speech, no longer held in check by greying newspaper editors or chauvinistic higher ups. Perhaps they fear the Elizabeth Warrens and the Malala Yousafzais of the world, who are not afraid to call them out on their bad behavior, who threaten to topple them from their place of privilege by speaking the truth to their delusions, from Wall Street to Taliban strongholds.

No amount of hate-speech or craven threats on Internet will stop our voices. The fire of our indignation is real, and they provide the fuel that proves us justified.

the invisibility of age

Lori Day’s article “Aging white female is not your worst nightmare” struck a chord with me that compelled me to return to this platform after months of focusing on other forms of creativity (mostly my Instagram art photography forums). Ms. Day outlines the intersection between misogyny and ageism, noting that the latter bias affects women much more than men in our patriarchal society, which values the wisdom and experience of older men but rejects older women as irrelevant.

One particularly poignant quote echoes many thoughts I’ve posted to this blog: “[The solution] isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation.”

I am two years older than Lori Day and attempting acceptance of the 10 pounds I’ve gained post-menopause. This is no small task, especially for someone who has struggled with eating disorders in my distant past and body acceptance only in the recent decade. The first gray hairs didn’t bother me; the small lines and age spots on my face haven’t made me feel worse about myself. Yet my body changing causes me to feel “damn unpretty,” to quote TLC. I am not hot, thin, or sexy to my mind’s eye (although many around me may disagree, and I bless them). Intellectually I don’t give a damn, yet psychologically I am fading into the background of the public stage. This is an internal judgment that has grown from decades of being told by strangers what my true value is to the world, even as I’ve refused to believe it: “smile, beautiful.”

A good friend in her 40s was recently dumped by a man she was dating (and falling for, which by all signs was mutual) because she was “overweight,” according to him. She is intelligent, talented, adventurous, fun to be with, and beautiful, and yet this somewhat paunchy middle-aged man couldn’t accept her love and other gifts because he couldn’t turn away from the five extra pounds she may or may not be carrying (depending on who is judging). Although this is much more about him than it is about her, she has to process the anger and self-doubt that his cruel dismissal caused. And his assessment is neither rare nor unspoken: we see it all around us as women with good genes or good plastic surgeons are heralded and those who thicken or sag for good reasons are publicly mocked (look at Kelly Clarkson, for example).

Like Lori Day, I am grateful not to be cat-called in the street anymore. I relish being able to go out dancing and know that it is less likely than in my youth that some drunken jerk will start grinding up against me. But what I don’t like is for my opinions born of wisdom and experience to be ignored because I’m “of a certain age.” This is precisely why I started this blog. I hope other women will join me in a refusal to starve or work ourselves into the twisted, youth-culture image of what a vital, relevant woman should be. I do not have time to spend hours exercising away my “muffin top,” which I come by quite naturally from having birthed a child at 40, from enjoying healthy food, and from living an active — but not obsessive — life.

Gray hairs, laugh lines, and a belly bulge have nothing to do with who I am and what I think, but being less attractive and visibly older can lead to being dismissed. It seems that only those with exterior beauty are given public platforms to say what they think, even if what they say is pure nonsense (take Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, for example).

The real solution is to change our societal norms to value the input of “elders,” as many cultures have for centuries. But while that snail crawls into mass media and sexist attitudes, we as sisters have the power not to capitulate to unreal ideals of womanhood.

Gloria Steinem, a portrait of feminism

Gloria Steinem, a portrait of feminism

water rights

One would think that water — necessary for the survival of most if not all living organisms — would be an inalienable right. This primary resource of our planet, one that makes Mother Earth so unique in our solar system, should be equally accessible to all, however idealistic that may sound. We should all be working toward that goal rather than undermining a basic human need, which is in shorter supply due to drought (likely caused by global warming).

However, Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck was quoted (out of context) as saying in 2005 that water is not a right and should be sold on the free market (see this story, which attempts to explain Nestlé’s confusing position on the subject). Adding to Nestlé’s potential PR problem is a story that broke on Monday claiming the company is stealing from drought-ridden California to sustain their primary right to profit. The public outrage at such news is limited by the fact that if one searches on the Internet for Nestlé and water rights, one might go through 40 pages of links to Nestlé products, as I did, before giving up.

This multinational corporation — the same one responsible for the environmentally and socially unethical profit model of selling baby formula to starving families in Africa  — claims to be acting in a responsible manner (see their defense of their infant formula practices, for example), as it continues to violate the structures that were put in place because of its lack of concern for human rights (see evidence/summaries of Nestlé’s continued unethical practices in the baby formula arena herehere, and here).

While Nestlé has every right to seek profit, the question arises where the ethical line lies between greed and human survival. In the water sector, when one considers the environmental impact of plastic bottles, the issue becomes murkier. AlJazeera recently reported a shocking statistic about the presence of plastic residue in our oceans: 88% of surface water is contaminated by this sturdy pollutant. My concern is not just about the water Nestlé sells, but the indefensible position of a corporation that sends uncountable tons of plastic into the world to package what should be flowing through pipes to local communities.

Nestlé is not the only offender, but the loophole they are exploiting to bottle water from a California Native American reservation so that they do not have to report the quantities they take or any other data about their plant gives me good reason to boycott their products, a short list of which follows. (The only thing I’ll miss is Häagen Dazs, which makes the best vanilla ice cream I’ve tasted.)

Cat Chow
Dog Chow
Fancy Feast
Häagen Dazs
Lean Cuisine
S. Pelligrino

(photo: afp 2014)

(photo: afp 2014)