Friday, October 19, 2018

Screaming at the Supreme Court: A Love Story (Part One)

If you're wondering how to manage/use/deploy your lady-rage (or even, dreamy guy allies, your on-behalf-of-ladies rage!) this book is one thousand therapy sessions. If you're in Philly, call the Big Blue Marble. https://www.bigbluemarblebooks.com/




It was a last-minute decision to go. On Friday night, October 5, Amy and I were watching Murphy Brown, newly rebooted and excoriating the fictional White House Press Corps. We were scrolling through our feeds and seething as the “on the fence” votes changed to Kavanaugh votes. I was double-seething because my “friends” on social media seemed to think that Susan Collins was the ONLY person to blame.

“I think we have to go,” I said, and I looked around on my facebook until I found the Flood the Capitol March, lead by the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood Action. I already had a sign I’d made for an anti-Kavanaugh rally we’d attended a few weeks before in Philly.

It didn’t feel like the other protests. As I cleaned the house, rearranged my Saturday plans, and went to bed early, I didn’t have as much power-to-the-people hopefulness buoying me up. Instead, I was SEETHING, so frustrated to still be doing this work, decades after my own rape experiences and millennia after women were enslaved. IT HAS NEVER NOT BEEN THIS.

Since I became politically active, this blog has often been about convincing people that protesting and other political work could be nice, friendly, loving, inclusive, and all of those things are true. But in the past few weeks, I have become less and less willing to perform polite, feminine, hopeful organizing and more willing to give voice to the feral fury that sometimes makes me feel out of control. Getting ready to Flood the Capitol, I felt almost none of my usual aren’t-humans-amazing feelings. It was more a feeling of “Survivors, let’s burn it down.”

For professional reasons, I’m hesitant to be honest about the fury. Because I work with children, it’s important for me to feel nurturing, loving, and safe. My clients and their families deserve a solid, peaceful presence in their lives, so I feel guilty to also be this raging, scary thing. But at the same time, it’s love, nurturing, and protectiveness—for myself (both adult and inner traumatized child), for my nieces and nephews, for the fear that my students, mostly children of color, will face in a future with Kavanaugh on the bench.

            As Amy and I drove Washingtonward at way-too-early-on-a-Saturday-o’clock, we decided: No getting arrested. The priority was to get safely back to the students, to not miss a single tutoring hour. As much as I admire those who get arrested (Later in the day I would sob watching a young woman have a panic attack as the handcuffs went on.) I knew my priorities were elsewhere. 



Monday, October 1, 2018

Wonderful September, Self-Care October

I can't BELIEVE how productive September was! My business calendar is full of clients and my neighborhood is full of art. Some of those "mini-workouts" were even snuggles! Gasp!!
I sometimes wonder if it would be better to dial out of the daily adventures of fellow American rape survivors, but I don't know if that's possible. So I'm piling on the self-care and hoping for the best. The OK Cupid checkmarks seem the most daunting, but I'm sure they'll be worth it. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Texting Voters: A Blue Wave Love Story




When Amy and I showed up a the Steelworkers’ Union Hall last Saturday for textbanking training, I started off crabby. We were a little late and missed part of the training. The coffee and donuts supply was already depleted and I couldn’t find a cup. I was super-aggravated not to get started right away, nostalgic for the feeling of being handed a good old-fashioned call sheet and getting to work. I waited grumpy-old-ladily for the lead volunteer to send me the link so that I could join the group on the Hustle app.

BUT THEN!!! I was in. Before I knew it, I’d texted FIFTY voters. Then another fifty! Whoa. They start you off with a pre-typed message, but I later figured out how to customize the canned messages, with all of the blue heart/rainbow/flag/Earth/blue wave emojis I wanted. AND!! It turns out that emoji-use DRAMATICALLY increases the odds that someone will text back—found a new superpower, who knew?!

There were still reasons to be grumpy, of course. As the women (As in 2016, the volunteers were mostly women, I’d say a 4:1 ratio of women to men, with room for the nonbinary, of course.) at our table mentioned the hostile messages they were getting, a middle-aged white guy was intrigued:
“Really?! I’m not getting that! I want to change mine to a woman’s name and see what happens!” He seemed curious and amused, rather than concerned LIKE A PERSON.

Maybe I should have just ignored him and let him try it. Maybe his texbank would have turned into an empathy machine. But he made my blood boil to the degree that this could’ve turned panic attack.

“I’m glad you can just OPT IN to my oppression. I’m glad it sounds fun.” I snapped, feeling like a party-ruiner.

“Well, I’m just a straight white guy, there’s not much I can do.”

            I said something like: “There’s a LOT you can do! You can listen and believe us, stand up for us instead of just being amused.”

            He backed down and I took lots of deep breaths to get to a good place and OH! The texts! The texts. I love them so much.

            This was the first time I was contacting ALL kinds of voters, not just active Democrats. When asked who they were voting for for governor and congress, many people responded with “TRUMP. MAGA.” Etc—we were supposed to just thank them for their time and mark them as Republican rather than arguing, and I MOSTLY followed that instruction. (It took me a little while to recognize the sweet gift that is the “Opt Out” option.) But I loved that I’d been a little ping in their day. Showing Up for Racial Justice (https://www.facebook.com/ShowingUpForRacialJusticesurj/) holds the idea that even when we can’t convince someone to fight white supremacy, we can still be an interruption in their worldview. I love when I have a chance to do that.

            (Of course, I don’t love being called c**t or stupid or crazy or hysterical, but those responses are few and far between.)

            But the BEST, of course, are the Democrats who write back, asking how to volunteer and sending all the blue heart emojis, asking about yard signs and organizing and telling me they’re already pledged to volunteer for Emily’s List. (A dude said this! Swoon!) We wish each other luck and the world feels warmer and more optimistic.

            I even, from time to time, step out of character and try polite disagreement. Then, okay, I step back into character and ask people when they’ll stand up for children who are already born.

            Now that I did the training, I can text voters anywhere, anytime between 9AM and 9PM. In my pajamas! Yesterday I wrote to 500 voters and only a handful were mean. With every try, I feel stronger and happier and more hopeful. Give it a try! <3 a="" href="https://act.padems.com/page/s/volunteer">https://act.padems.com/page/s/volunteer


            AND! When you’re on the receiving end of calls, some things to keep in mind:

Friday, September 7, 2018

Theme and Heart Inventory for Age 44




Before I go into what an amazing, magical, transformative year this has been, I kinda need to rip off a band-aid. I’m sad that romantic love is missing. I forget about it most of the time, reveling in my singleness, content to have the world and all of its movements as partners. I’m often relieved to feel removed from the roller coaster of attraction—it makes serotonin levels drop! That’s science! But this week I have to admit that I like and miss snuggles, I miss men, and I still have no idea how to get to romantic love.

One of my birthday adventures this week was to acknowledge and start moving past a long-fluttering crush. I did everything in the being-a-grownup-about-being-rejected handbook, and the guy was perfectly nice about it, but I was surprised at how SAD I felt when I found out he didn’t like me back. Crying in the night about a guy felt weirdly healthy, though, like something in me was grateful that it had been heard.

In spite of all my fat liberation, in spite of all my ALL kinds of liberation, this morning found me wondering if he wasn’t attracted to me because of the weight I’ve gained in the last couple of years. In weak, night-crying moments, I wonder if I’ve taken myself out of the guy-running forever, or if maybe I never was in it. Objectively, I think I’m beautiful. I don’t see a single reason why anyone would NOT want to snuggle me, but I also want to acknowledge that anti-fat prejudice might be part of it. I still believe my Aunt Connie, who told me when I was young that fat is jerk repellent, but I’m not sure I can call anybody a jerk for being susceptible to societal norms of beauty. Also I have no idea why this particular guy wasn’t into me, and in clearer-headed moments I’m a big believer in “just not a match.”

Whether I weigh 310 or 250, or even if I can’t figure out a way to stop gaining weight, I think it’s important to acknowledge that I literally dream about boyfriends almost every night. The circumstances and guys in the dreams are always different, but the feeling is always the same—a secure attachment, unlike anything I’ve ever felt with a guy partner in waking life. I think Jung might say (What? You weren’t wondering AT ALL what Jung might say?!) that this is part of my psyche’s integration, that the dreams are about falling in love with my animus, with my own power. While that ALSO seems accurate, sometime a dreamboat is just a dreamboat.

Though inconvenient, I think this longing is a sign of heath. I can feel myself getting enough space from Amy to make room for new love, and this is the first time since 2016 that I’ve let somebody fire up the good ol’ imagination machine that is my heart. That’s good. Also good? That this isn’t 2016.


Speaking of finding space from Amy, the transition from bookstore life has been one of the most fruitful and impactful parts of the year. Though I’ll never not be devastated that the patriarchy took our Rosemont store away, and I’ll never not be horrified that one of my next bookstore bosses turned out to be a men’s rights activist, I’m so grateful that life insisted on pushing me out of the nest. I’m happy that I was freed by fate and my own stubborn will (and big mouth) to go all in on my tutoring business.


My tutoring work is the crown jewel of this year and, I hope, of many years to come. I’ll never stop being delighted that I can transform a suffering, anxious, tearful child into an excited learner touching her heart and singing out “Credit!” for every small accomplishment. I love the student who greets me with “BOOKS!? BOOKS!?” every time and who requested more enrichment work even though it would mean more homework time later. I love the taciturn grandmom who was moved to give me a hug when her struggling granddaughter transformed into a “pleasure to have in class.” I love that the kids get a few minutes of practicing Spanish as a reward if they’re awesome—they are ALWAYS awesome. I love our elaborate handshakes, our mini-yoga routines. I love every high-five so, so much. I can’t believe this is a job.

Week before last, my fourth-grade student, whom I’ve been with for two and a half years, had a birthday on tutoring day. His parents surprised him mid-session, turned out the lights, and brought in candled cupcakes. They had him read their cards to him aloud. As we eased into the lesson, interrupting ourselves many times with noisemakers and more cupcakes and singing “Happy birthday to ya!” I felt the deepest and most satisfying sensation: Home. Work. Times tables. Love.

So my word for the year is focus. Focus on the beauty and flow of doing my work. Focus on what I want, change what I need to change, speak up for myself, be a professional. Also, just to remind myself and to make it official:


Familywise, I feel like I’ve done a lot to repair my Thanksgiving-ruining damage of ‘016. (Sorry, SURJ, it’s a bad strategy. Not that I did it as a strategy but still.) In terms of talking politics (or anything) with my family, my mantra has become:

Being right doesn’t mean I can be a jerk.

(I still reject all calls for civility in the public sphere, though!! I’m still pro-anger all the way.)

Probably the best day of age 43 was when my SISTER AND NEPHEW CAME TO A PROTEST WITH ME!!!!! We happened to be up in Oswego the weekend when everybody was protesting family separation, and to my GREAT joy, they agreed to join us. My nephew knew what to put on his sign right away: “Superman was an immigrant too.”


It felt so, SO good to share my political self with my family, without having to feel like I was a threat or like I was making a demand. It felt extremely important to show my nephew the difference between Thanksgiving-ruining anger and political anger—I would hate for him to be afraid of his own anger just because mine is scary. I feel so, so lucky to have stood on that Oswego street corner chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” And being proud and angry and sad and wonderful.

My dad asked me last weekend how I stay so optimistic (Well, 90% optimistic, 10% apocalyptic.) about politics. I told him what has become the guiding principal of my life—when you’re on the ground, doing the work, it’s hard NOT to believe. Seeing the varied and beautiful faces of The People, reading their signs, the collective magic of yelling for justice feels good to me, it’s what I was born for. I was born to fight, and I’m learning how to use my fury and power well.

Happy year, self! Good job! Credit! 


Sunday, August 19, 2018

My Wonderful, Magical Day of Yelling at Nazis, Part Five




Back to last Sunday in a minute, but this morning in church, we had a guest speaker, an organizer and woman of color who said we should push outside our liberal boundaries and realize that those who hate might do so because they don’t have enough love. She wanted white folks to use our identity as a way in, to go back to where we’ve left and try again.

Disarm, she said, and listen.
Unitarians are like that.

Though I generally prefer to spend my energy on targeted communities rather than their/our attackers, the speaker did give me a chance to reflect on the compassion I DO feel for white nationalists and others who don’t have the benefit of diverse lives. Amy always scoffs/admires when I talk about how sad I am for racists, but I am. Anyone can empathize with the feeling of being trapped inside what one already knows, with being afraid of those unlike us. I do feel sad for those 25-or-so men on the other side of the fence last week in Lafayette Park. It would be lonely and sad to rely on superiority for a sense of worth, to be so scared they turn to hate. But I’ll probably always be the one to yell, fight, and turn away while others with more people skills reach out to those in hate groups. I think both approaches are necessary and okay.


Back to the wonderful yelling. Craning our necks. Chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Police on horses lined up facing us. The crowd startled and seemed to retreat about something and I smelled something bad. The nightmare sequence activated in my already-altered brain. The smell might have been a confederate flag burning, or just a funky cigar, but my brain read it as tear gas, which to my knowledge I have never smelled. I grabbed Amy amidst the (she said later it was very mild, if any) chaos and said “I have to get you out of here.” By the time we found a friendly tree a few feet away from the crowd, I’d started to return to normal. I breathed. I ate peanut butter and jelly and hoped no one nearby had a nut allergy—back to regular everyday protest thoughts.


“I’m DONE WITH THIS,” I said, but as the food entered my system and I could see that  everyone around me was doing okay, I knew I could stay a little longer.
Possibly it was thunder that had startled the crowd. The sky opened up and poured rain into the humidity, onto everyone’s signs. Watercolor colors dripped down onto my Disarm Hate shirt.

Amy wanted to see the other side of the fence and my curiosity took over from my fear, so we waded all the way into the crowd, trying not to poke or be poked with umbrellas or dripping signs. We sang:

“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.”

We sang “We Shall Over Come.” We sang “This Little Light of Mine” Then more na na na nas. I decided that all this singing meant that it qualified as church.

The police horses were so beautiful. I stood there feeling outraged on their behalf. Why should they be wearing riot helmets? They never did a thing to anybody, why should they be dragged into our mess? I guess it’s too late in human history to be mad about the domestication of animals, but sheesh!

I didn’t stand there fuming about the horses for much longer. A police leader came out with a bullhorn and told us that Unite the Right had gone home, and now we needed to go home too. It was the first time I’d ever felt like we’d won a protest.  Dance parties broke out! Whoops of joy came up from the crowd. It was right around the time I’d told my check-in person that we would hit the road. I put my waterlogged sign into an overflowing recycling bin and felt free without it. We did it. We won.

On the way home, Amy drove and I scrolled though news story after news story. While most of them acknowledged that the counter-protest had far outmatched the hate rally, they didn’t show the images of the march the way I saw it. News videos showed the most armored Antifa members and they showed Jason Kessler draped in the American flag.

On our neighborhood thread, one guy told me that my personal experience of the day was “fake news” and a lady told me that I was wrong because my perspective didn’t match those of the mainstream news.

Part of the reason I’ve written this down in so much detail is that people are already trying to convince me that it didn’t happen. The way so many on our team tried to erase Hillary’s primary win. Tried to erase the fact that she won the popular vote and so would seem to be, on some level, likable. Like people try to erase pretty much all of the work that women do. Ever. Like I teach my tutoring students—we’ve got to give ourselves credit for every step of the way. It’s the only reliable way to get it.


Speaking of 2016, amidst this liberal love-fest, this celebration of (momentary but no less important) unity, it’s important to remember that we on the left have our OWN white supremacy problem. (I mean, in addition to Mass Incarceration. Please watch 13th) There’s still a small but loud minority of people (mostly white men) on the left what say that “Identity Politics” don’t matter (please listen to Kamala Harris lambaste them for this on Call Your Girlfriend: https://www.callyourgirlfriend.com/sen-kamala-harris/) and who undermine the work and contributions of not just Hillary Clinton but of her supporters, which means women, especially women of color, LGBTQ folks, disabled people—there are those in our party who want to silence us/them. (Amy just explained to me that the silencers are known as the alt-left. I had no idea that was a real thing!)

THERE ARE PEOPLE ON THE LEFT WHO BOOED JOHN LEWIS! NOT IN THE SIXTIES! TWO SUMMERS AGO!

So I’m glad we teamed up against the nazis on the right and won this round. But we still have to keep pushing back against the sexism and racism of our own party if we want last Sunday (AND THE BLUE WAVE) to have the lasting effect that we want.

Thank you for listening and being on my team. Love you a bunch.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

My Wonderful, Magical Day of Yelling at Nazis, Part Four




            Whenever I noticed one of the hardcore Antifa members, face covered, gas mask, sometimes in a spiky helmet and/or knee and elbow pads suitable for roller derby, I checked my instincts. What I found there was nothing but calm, an eerie-quiet feeling of we’re-all-in-this-together, even though this person would almost surely have called me a shill (or worse) if I’d met them online in 2016. What I felt was trust and compassion. I don’t always feel that way towards the younger, whiter factions of the left, but it was a relief to feel it that day. I felt like they were there to protect those of us who are less fighty, or less able to fight.


            When the contingent of young socialists behind us in the march, diverse and carrying a “Black Trans Lives Matter” banner, began chanting “No hatred, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” I was moved. I was overcome by an almost supernatural joyful sadness, a deep ravaged gratitude that felt like it came from the center of the earth.

            I went ahead and sobbed. I let so much out on that hot, loud, humid street—the years and decades of pain and fear, the children in cages, my childhood trip to the Statue of Liberty during which I took the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem VERY SERIOUSLY, it all streamed out of my face and my throat as I marched down the street with my best friend and thousands of strangers.

            A nice man patted my shoulder and asked if I was okay, and I cry-said “Yes, I’m fine, I’m just so happy that people are SO AMAZING.” He looked a little nonplussed as I thanked him and kept on sob-walking.

            If I could push a button and cry like that for a few minutes every day, I would. As the tears subsided and the chants did not, I felt like I was floating, like I was awash in a sea of empathy and healing. I’m not religious, but I’d call this a religious experience. In those moments of crying I felt myself merging with the crowd, I felt myself filled up with the best name for god I know: love.


            At each intersection, I wondered if this was where it would happen—the confrontation, the violence, the attack, the clash. But from where I was standing, it never was. Though I don’t usually find a police presence comforting, I appreciated the hands-off (from what I saw; I’m sure it looked different for people of color and/or for trans participants) organization of the D.C. police force. Plus, there weren’t huge tanks stationed around like there were at the March for Our Lives—I guess because this wasn’t specifically about guns. From my no-doubt skewed white perspective it felt like we, the left, were the ones who were being protected from the bad guys, but I guess it might just have been comforting that so much effort was being put into facilitating free speech, even if it was the free speech of horrible white nationalist monsters. I’m weirdly patriotic sometimes, and only sort of ashamed to admit it.


            Finally, we made it to Lafayette Square, which was already packed with liberals of every stripe. My body felt tense and pained with the possible proximity to Unite the Right, with the anticipation of confrontation. Determined to confront my fears, I craned my neck over the crowd where the nazis were supposed to be, but I could see nothing but a vast partition and then police.

            The crowd chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

            We could tell by the way the whole crowd tensed up that the other “rally” had arrived. (We later learned that the nazi demonstration was about 25 people, far outnumbered by the number of police) Mounted policemen took their places in front of our side. We all peered over the fence and braced ourselves, though I’m not sure for what.


Next Time: A panic, a rainstorm, a victory.





Friday, August 17, 2018

My Wonderful, Magical Day of Yelling at Nazis, Part Three



One of my favorite parts of the No Hate in DC rally was when people asked me “What’s the E.R.A?” (https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/) and I got to tell them that sadly all genders aren’t currently protected under the Constitution, but we only need one more state to ratify!! People from Virginia apologized for not having already ratified, but it was so cool because they could call their reps and do something about it directly! This feeling of organizing-within-organizing made me feel so optimistic, happy, and powerful, and I plan to carry the Equal Rights Amendment around more often.


As the group (estimates had the count at around two thousand) started to migrate over to the side of the park where the march would start, a couple of the communist and socialist groups began to form a march in the opposite direction. I caught a glimpse at the (white lady) Refuse Fascism speaker at whom I’d yelled “Stop suppressing votes!” when she’d launched into a “both parties are the same” tirade at Philly’s immensely successful demonstration against Family Separation during Mike Pence’s visit a couple months ago. (https://www.phillyvoice.com/pence-in-philly-hundreds-protest-march-rittenhouse/) Telling a crowd of mostly brown and black people not to vote is a good way to become my nemesis for life, but I wouldn’t let seeing this character disrupt my sense of unity.
(Not the nemesis lady)

Antsy to march, Amy and I joined the smaller march, but a guy in a yellow safety vest told us that it was a splinter group, and that the Charlottesville contingency, Black Lives Matter, and other groups would be leaving in a few minutes. After marching with the splinter march for about a half-block, the phrase “hired by Russia to make the main protest march seem smaller” popped up in my mind. It’s funny/sad that such a paranoid-sounding phrase can also be totally sensible. (For a good insight on how ground-level Russian interference works: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/curious-case-russian-flash-mob-west-palm-beach-cheesecake-factory/)

We rested in the shade for a few minutes then went back to the main group. Black Lives Matter was out front, with other groups getting into formation behind them/us. Fox News came by and the crowd erupted into boos and chants of “Black Lives Matter!” I feel so incredibly lucky whenever I get to chant that.


(Awkward aside: Earlier in the day we’d come across a group of white ladies about my age chanting in celebration of Heather Heyer and happily moved over to join them, until I realized they were chanting “Say Her Name!” I sidled away, not knowing how to feel, but knowing that Say Her Name is for women of color and even the most wonderful, heroic, martyred gift of a white woman can’t have it. For a great resource about the #Sayhername movement, you can go here: http://www.aapf.org/sayhernamereport/)

Finally, the march got underway. I loved the way that “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” reverberated off of the fancy columned buildings, the way “Whose streets? Our streets!” felt true on so many levels.


Next time, sobbing in the march with joy and love.