No Words

I have no words. As someone who has built her career on her ability to use words effectively and well, this simple statement is both humbling and terrifying. But those emotions are simply reactions to the other emotions that threaten to engulf me. Today, on this Sunday of what has been an eternally long weekend, I am filled with pain and sadness, helplessness and fear, sympathy and empathy, righteousness and anger, fatalism and passion, loneliness and solidarity.

The sign my daughter made and carried on January 29, 2017 at the Boston protest against the immigration ban

This weekend, I’ve struggled to find the words to explain to an eight-year-old how hatred and bigotry can lead to violence and death. To explain why freedom of assembly and freedom of speech is something worth celebrating even when the people who exercise it are hateful and wicked. How we have the right and obligation to stand up against the beliefs of others even as we also defend their right to speak. How defending those rights does not mean that you defend or condone how it turns to violence.

Closer to home, I was twice reminded that I have friends fighting internal battles – of which I’m not always aware – and that they don’t always win. This weekend, I caught a glimpse of the enormity of internal struggles I can’t comprehend.

In the never-ending battle against bigotry and hatred, lately it feels like the “other side” is gaining ground. Meanwhile, there are millions out there trapped in their silent battles, and sometimes, despite love and support, battles are lost.

This weekend reminded me that there are ideals for which we need to be vigilant about fighting. And that while we cannot control the actions of others, we can control how we react to them. For example, a friend chose to remember our lost soul by the joy he brought us. And my daughter recalled that “character” was the measure by which we judge a man, not the color of his skin.

We can raise our voices against violence and bigotry. We can raise our standards for acceptable behavior in society without advocating censorship. We can raise awareness for and devote more funding toward mental health and addiction resources for those fighting their silent battles.

On a smaller scale, we can also choose to remember that “those people” don’t exist, only individuals do. That we can start a conversation assuming we have common ground rather than assuming we don’t. We can show by how we live our lives that these hate-filled rallies don’t define America.

Let’s remember – or create – an America that embraces diversity – of opinion, of race, of lifestyle, of religion – rather than shuns it. An America that believes that supporting others through their struggles isn’t a sign of weakness but of humanity. An America that believes that we have a moral obligation – to the world, to our children, to each other, and to ourselves – to condemn not only the individuals who actively commit violent acts, but also those who silently condone them, to be realistic about the state of our world and aggressively work toward solutions, to fight for an idealistic future even if it’s unattainable. To build an America and a world we want to leave to our children and, failing that, to give them the tools to use and the foundation upon which they can continue the fight.

When words fail, action – and compassion – can take their place.

Will McDonald’s really de-gender its toys?

Slate.com just published a great article, written by a high-school junior, about her campaign to de-gender McDonald’s toys. I’m impressed by the article, and the initiative of the girl who wrote it. I wish I had been that committed to change at her age. Heck, I wish I were that committed NOW.

I’m hopeful that the promise she’s been given by McDonald’s chief diversity officer, Patricia Harris, will bear fruit and that they actually are changing their policy. I’m appreciative that though this letter was written in December and it is now late April, that McDonald’s is a very large organization, and that it takes time for such dictates to make their way through to individual franchises.

But I’m not going to get excited until I see it actually happen in my neck of the woods.

Just last week, I went to a McDonald’s with my daughter. I didn’t see anything that told me what the toys were. When I ordered a Happy Meal, I was asked “boy toy or girl toy?” I asked what the toys were. The cashier repeated “We just have a boy toy and a girl toy.” I repeated, “I’d like to know what they actually are, though.”

my_little_pony_mcdonalds_toys_rarityThe cashier, clearly irritated, stomped over to the bins, grabs a couple and shows them to me. In the package, it was impossible to tell what the “boy” toy was.

So I asked, “What is that?” The cashier just shrugged her shoulders, looking more irritated with the second. At this point, as I was already late for something (hence the reason I was at McDonald’s in the first place), and K saw that the girl toy was a horse (a My Little Pony), so we just grabbed the pony and left.

My daughter is a multi-faceted young girl, with a love for superheroes and a budding interest in Star Wars; a girl who also loves animals, dolls and playing house. She wears dresses whenever she can and will fight you with a sword as often as she goes to pick flowers. So for the love of god, stop telling her what she can and can’t play with.

PS To add insult to injury, the My Little Pony doll we received has one hoof “fluffing” her hair with a coquettish look. You’ve got to be kidding me. Now our freaking horses have to be obsessed with their looks? #NotBuyingIt

 

 

I have one request. Have compassion.

Advance apologies – I’m going political on you. But long-time readers of this blog know that this topic hits very personally to me. I was listening to NPR the other day, and a story caught my attention. The story was about a just released documentary entitled, “After Tiller.” Created by pro-choice advocates (so I’m sure it has quite a lot of bias), the film attempts to communicate the reasons why doctors and clinics who perform late-term abortions make the decision to continue doing something that is so clearly fraught with danger. From what I understand (and I should note that I have NOT yet seen it), the film also looks at the people who get late-term abortions for both medical and non-medical reasons. The part that struck me was this statistic: Today there are only FOUR doctors in the US who perform late-term abortions. To get to them, it seems you often have to be pretty desperate.

This is the box that Carrie put together for us to memorialize Baby Girl. Filled with pictures, blankets, hats and footprints, it's something we cherish.

This is the box that was put together for us to memorialize the life that wasn’t. Filled with pictures, blankets, hats and footprints, it’s something we cherish.

Six years ago, my then husband and I were presented with an almost unthinkable “choice.” Continue reading

Practical Whimsy’s Fried Rice Recipe

Weird departure from my usual fare here. I’m not super fond of cooking. I’m not great at it, and I find that it takes me twice as long to cook as I ever intend it to. But I do make a few dishes really well, and much to my dismay, one of them is fried rice. One of the jokes among my friends is that the only thing I can cook (well, with any regularity) is fried rice. And potstickers. Nothing like conforming to stereotypes.

Recently, an old roommate of mine asked me to send her my “recipe”. And since a few other folks have asked me for it over the years, this is the easiest way to throw it out there. It’s been about 13 years since my roommate has tasted it, so I hope it lives up to her memory.  Continue reading

“Girls Can’t Be Superheroes”

My daughter K is mildly obsessed with superheroes. And while I take full responsibility for having planted the initial seed (and watering it daily with encouragement and the occasional new superhero-themed book or shirt), she’s taken the idea and just run with it.

“K, what do you want to wear today?”

“A superhero shirt, superhero underwear and pants that tie…if we have them, please.”

When we first introduced K to superheroes – your typical Batman, Superman-type fodder – she expressed an interest in them, but it didn’t become a daily undercurrent. And in fact, her enthusiasm was dampened for a bit last fall when a classmate told her that his daddy said, “Girls can’t be superheroes.”

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Balancing Conflicting Messages

K: “Did you see me today in my tumbling class? How I fell off the tall balance beam twice, but I got back on? ‘Cause I’m going to get better at that! Weren’t you proud of me?”

Me: “I did see you! And I was proud of you! Were you proud of yourself?”

K: “I’m always proud of myself.”

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In the Wake of Boston: One Child’s Question

“Mumma, you’re never gonna die, right?”

Yesterday was the day after here in Boston. I heard someone on NPR describe it as a city-wide feeling of melancholy. To me, it feels like a pervasive quiet permeating the city – a quiet laced with an odd mix of determination, defiance and community layered atop deep, deep sadness. We are a city united not only by mourning, but also by our resolution to persevere against the evil that confronts us. And our country cries and fights with us.

“Mumma, you’re never gonna die, right?”

Monday, I did what almost everyone I know did. I left work early to find my loved ones. I picked K up from school, and I gave her a hug. I tried to pretend that disaster hadn’t just ripped through my adopted hometown. We played games. We role-played (I was K, and she was “mommy”). And we pretended to be Bat Girl and Wonder Woman fighting off bad guys. Just like every other evening.

“Mumma, you’re never gonna die, right?”

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