The longest night and the shortest day.

For many years now our little family has marked this day on the calendar with an open house party full of friends, family, food, music and cheer.

It has morphed over the years as our lives shifted from lots of little kids running around, to our daughters teen friends mostly hanging in the attic, to very adult cocktails and chat.

We started this celebration as a way to make something special for our daughter as we navigated holidays tied to religions that neither my husband nor I practiced.

He was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic, so we have small Christmas tree and we light the menorah, but the Solstice party (with latkes and Christmas cookies) was what we cooked up as our tradition.

I always like throwing parties.

Planning a menu, stocking the bar, decorating the house, and playing hostess to myriad friends, acquaintances and colleagues makes me happy.

I enjoy laying out a buffet of chafing dishes filled with latkes, arancini, and spinach dip followed by the totally fun moment of lighting the canned heat.

Plotting out the perfect cheese board and artfully arranging crudités, spiced nuts, olives and crackers is a delight. Arranging tiers of Christmas cookies, chocolates and torrone (which only I eat), makes me merry.

For me, it’s deeply satisfying to share love and friendship through food, wine and conversation.

And of course any excuse to wear a cocktail dress and red lipstick is always welcome.

This year, because of the pandemic, we won’t host our Solstice Party but our little family will raise a glass to toast the longest night and know that we are moving again toward the sun.

Wishing you joy in what ever holiday(s) you celebrate in the winter season, and hope for a sunny tomorrow.

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When my daughter was younger, like many parents, we marked important days with a photo.

First day of school for every grade, first rock concert, plays, awards and music performances.

Beginnings and endings are the tidy bookends we use to mark time and make sense of all that messy stuff in the middle.

But now the milestones and moments zip by mostly unmarked.

Tomorrow my daughter and I will drive 10 hours to her college (Go Badgers!) to move her into her first apartment. A car full of kitchenware, clothes and few decorative items to be merged into a household with a couple of roommates.

For whatever reason this transition is landing a bit harder than move-in-day at the dorm.

The dog days of August always trigger a melancholy, nostalgic mix of sadness, excitement and fear that, for much of my youth, was sparked by the announcement of the fall schedule by network TV.

Summer ends, you get a new pair of jeans, school starts, and boom – there are new episodes of M.A.S.H and Happy Days to look forward to.

Somewhere between my first grade excitement of new pencils & crayons, and chucking everything in my locker into a trash can the last day of high school, a whole buncha life happened.

And now my kid somehow has gone from running away from me on the playground, to running away to college and never coming back.

Ok it’s not that bad.

But like I said, something about her moving into an apartment feels more permanent. As in her life is now permanently on a parallel track to the track her father and I are chugging down.

Now we are separate. As we should be.

And that’s another first.

I’ll be happy and sad, irritated and irritating, a helpful mom & a bossy pain in the ass before it’s all over. It’s how it always goes when we surf these transitions together, and we end up just fine.

Got a bag of potato chips, a package of Tim-Tams and an excellent Spotify playlist ready for the drive.

One of our favorite sing-a-long at the top of your voice road trip songs to start the trip.

**** postscript****

By the way- writing a blog post on an airplane at 1 am almost guarantees that you will forget to hit publish. The 10 hour drive is nearly done.

A post on the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation made me cry this morning. It was by a young woman of color working as a Staff Assistant in the U.S. Congress sharing her exhaustion and despair.

I stopped writing about politics on this blog six months ago for a couple of reasons.

First, the sheer volume of blog worthy political activity seemed to quadruple over night. The constant churning of the news cycle meant I was still ruminating the implications of some development when the next one dropped center stage. I could never make it as a journalist with a deadline. Props to those who do!

The second reason I stopped writing about politics was my kid. My strong, compassionate, deeply political, social activist daughter teeters on the edge of an existential crisis because she sees the potential for disaster in her future.

Current events now make previously far-fetched outcomes frighteningly possible in the USA. Things like authoritarianism, populism, decreased civil rights for women and minorities. (Frankly I don’t understand how anyone watches “The Handmaid’s Tale.”) And always the spectre of nuclear war.

As US politics is currently dominated by white men of the generation prior to mine, my daughter has a very real fear that she may not have a chance to do the work in the world that she is driven to do.

The woman in the post this morning wrote, “But I can’t leave this [work] … To leave would be disrespectful to the communities that supported my journey into politics.”

Yes, please stay. We need you. Each generation relies on the next to fix our mistakes.

As I cried tI added some words of encouragement to the 7,000+ comments already on her post. Maybe the outpouring of love and caring from strangers will help.

I think what all the young people dedicated to public service – this woman, my daughter – need right now are trail maintainers not trailblazers. People dedicated to chopping brush, moving aside storm-tossed obstacles, and placing fresh markers so they can see the path.

Ranting in outrage about injustices, or analyzing political maneuvers, feels to me like creating obstacles rather than removing them, so no political rants from me for the foreseeable future.

There is other work to do.

 

“What would you say if I asked to have my boyfriend sleep over?”

My daughter and her friend asked for my reaction because the friend had just convinced her parents to allow her boyfriend of several years spend the night. The argument was two fold:  first that anything they were doing, they were already doing without spending the night and second, it would be nice to just fall asleep together after hanging out rather than one of them going home at 2:00 in the morning.

The request was actually to sleep rather than a euphemism for sex.

My first reaction was “Well that a perfectly logical request and I see your point.” Not allowing them to sleep together restricts a perfectly benign level of intimacy. My second thought was “Yeah, but do I want to be that parent?”

We are extremely permissive with our daughter and have been since she was about 12 and was clearly capable of making choices against our wishes and without our knowledge. It started because all her friends lied about their ages and got facebook pages before they were legally (or parentally) allowed. We told her (and continue to tell her) our perspective and wishes on her decisions, and said we know that we have zero ability to “make her” do anything.

So we trust.

She has no restrictions on where she goes, who she goes with or when she returns, but we ask her to be safe, make smart choices, and tell us where she is and who she is with. Trust but worry.

We lucked out. She isn’t a party girl, likes to go to bed before midnight and considers waking at 8 am sleeping in. She’s never violated our trust so why did I hesitate when she asked the “sleeping together” question?

As I discussed with her and her friend – she insisted it was a purely hypothetical question and she wasn’t really asking – it came down to my feeling of vague discomfort. What would condoning that level of intimacy say about me and my husband as parents?

I’m not sure either of the girls perceived it as the intimacy that “sleeping together” signals to me. Their interest was in the practical aspect of not having to drive or be driven home late at night after hanging out by the fire pit or watching movies.

Later when I relayed the conversation to my husband he had an immediate “Absolutely not” reaction, followed by his pointing out that it wasn’t just our decision the boyfriend’s parents would have a say as well.

It’s weird because my daughter and her friends are all 18 years old at this point and a legally “adultish.” Meaning they can buy cigarettes, enlist in the army, get a tattoo and a whole slew of previously age-restricted things, but we still feel funny about this mature concept of “sleeping together.”

There is no defined age for maturity that I can see. Some people are able to be on their own at 16 and others can’t be trusted to water the plants at 27. But whether or not my daughter or her friends are mature enough to have boyfriend/girlfriend sleep overs is only partially relevant.

What makes it such a tough question is a combination of societal expectations and our personal comfort level acknowledging our children as sexual beings.

I don’t know what the response would be if this wasn’t hypothetical and our daughter was really asking for our permission. I can’t imagine saying no to this request if/when she visits from college with a boyfriend in tow, so what’s different now?

Still thinking. Comments welcome.

A New York Times opinion piece about work/life balance (“A Toxic Work World“) is making the rounds and stirring up a storm of comments. The author points out, among other things, that the culture of  overwork is not a gender issue but a work issue where equity will mean we value care giving.

We have a definite bias towards exhaustion and “110%” as proof of value in our culture. Its a system that benefits men overwhelmingly as Joan Williams brilliantly explains in her book and in nice bite sized video bits.

My reaction to the piece was colored by a conversation I had a few days before it came out. I was in a salon getting a service and chatting as you do about kids and current events and the nice for a change weather.

The woman waiting on me has a daughter a year older than mine and is deep in the college selection process that we’ve been nibbling around the edges. She was telling me her daughter wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and was working with the guidance counselor trying to find the right school in their price range.

But she was convincing her daughter to drop law because no one can have a family with that kind of lifestyle. If she goes into the health field she doesn’t have to be a doctor, she can be something where she can go part time for a while when she has kids.

I understand that every family is different. I understand that we all have our own values.

But I don’t understand why a 17 year old girl should make life choices today to accommodate possible future children that she may or may not want or need to stay home while they’re young.

I tried a few examples, anecdotes and facts to shake the mothers view. But she would not be persuaded her daughter could have it all. She knew better.

Our culture limits us and we limit ourselves.

Lets try not to limit our children.

“Waiting your time, dreaming of a better life
Waiting your time, you’re more than just a wife
You don’t want to do what your mother has done…”

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When our daughter was younger she was really into The Bearenstain Bears books and cartoons. The books, if you have managed to avoid all 300 of them, dealt with single issues that were resolved generally through good ole-fashioned common sense, kindness and humor. Very formulaic and still much beloved by children.

They had a habit of hokey titles even with modern story lines “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much .. Birthday… Homework… TV. “Too Much Pressure” is my personal favorite. Mama cries in a helpless heap when she gets a flat tire and can’t get Brother to Karate and Sister to Soccer at the same time. Personally I think its good for kids to see “wise, strong mama” break down and cry once in a while.

As I try to finalize a workshop I am leading soon, I find that I am once again “Amanda Bear with Too Much Content.” There is so much potential in the conversations that unfold around the professional development work that I do that I start to think every concept is essential, every slide potentially life altering. And that’s just silly.

I learned long ago to “be present” while presenting so the conversation is the driver and not the agenda. Of course some content is vital to the learning, but the discovery in the room prompted by the content is the goal, not finishing the deck with five minutes to spare at the end of the session.

But.

Until I’m in the room with the glow of 3,000 lumens, and the hum of the projector fan, I will suffer the agony of culling, curating and perfecting my content. The only Mama Bear that can save me from “Too Much Content” is time. It will run out and what I have will be more than fine and still too much.

I don’t think PowerPoint workshop presentations are a good topic for a Berenstain Bears book but there may be one lurking out there for all I know. You can watch the Too Much Pressure cartoon version by clicking here.

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We all have moments that take the stuffing out of us and make us question our worth. When in full command of rational thinking these are moments that build character. Occasionally an experience requires distance to reduce the sting so you can learn from the mistake. Other times all you can do is acknowledge and wallow in your failure.

The last few days have found me staring failure in the face as I attempted to create darts and hem a dress for my daughter. The dress, issued by the school to every girl in the symphony, needs to fit many sizes of bodies so it fits no one well.

My petite size daughter with her generous bustline was issued a dress that fits exactly that one part of her body. Everywhere else the dress needs to be taken in and up and every other damn thing.

I have always failed at being a “crafty mom”. I can’t sew, knit, crochet, quilt, draw, paint, sculpt or do any craft of any kind. My talent is strictly limited to coloring in coloring books and using a Spirograph. I have no imagination for Halloween costumes, or gift making or any other clever, useful, transformative skill.

The acres of black polyester made my headache with anxiety. I could taste the copper tang of failure in my mouth as I spent thirty minutes threading the damn sewing machine I bought in desperation at Target just before closing on Monday night. I then read the directions four times before I gave up for the night with nary a stitch stitched.

Last night I fully embraced my imminent failure, and armed with double stick tape, StitchWitchery, and safety pins I attacked the dress. I spent 90 minutes measuring, pinning, re-measuring, re-pinning, taping and ironing.

It is done. I have fulfilled my maternal duty. The dress looks lumpy and a little lopsided but it’s short enough and she won’t trip while carrying her double-bass.

Bring on the next failure.

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When my husband and I decided to have a baby reactions to my pregnancy usually included a story or some bit of advice. A horrific three-day labor without drugs, a sister-in-law/cousin/friend who barely made it to the hospital in time, or how once I met the baby I would want to be a stay at home mom. And so on.

One reaction I never understood was the malicious and gleeful recounting of the many ways that “your life will never be the same”: no more going out to shows, no more hanging out with friends, no more fun of any kind. No more tablecloths – this was from my mother-in-law and I still don’t know why she said it.

I distinctly remember one of my sister-in-laws cackling while she said, “Now you’re gonna see what its like!” Why yes, yes I will.

I think people forget that “life as you know it” is over all the time. Yeah adding a human to your life is a big change but so is graduating HS, changing jobs, moving out, breaking up. Burying folks close to you. It’s just life.

The really secret part of parenting that no one tells you about because it would result in a rapid population decline, is that you actually have no control. Zero.

Once they leave your body you suspect – but it takes a while to believe – that you can’t actually protect your child or keep them safe.  Safety is an illusion perpetuated by parenting books and the advertising industry. Parents cling to this illusion as long as they can, sometimes through the pre-teen years.

Car seats and helmets, rules and regulations, pesticide-free organic foods are all ways to try to impact that which (you think) is under your control. Actions to help soothe the “am I a good enough parent” panic that gets you by the throat every now and again. Foundational actions that, like calcium for building strong bones, you hope will pay off in the long run.

The truth is, baring outright neglect and abuse, you can’t stop life from happening to your kid no matter how much you might try. You can’t cushion the blows, or keep your kid from being buffeted, or hurt. There is nothing you can do to prevent the fights with friends, the breakups, or the disappointments. The best you can do is patch them up when it’s over and toss them back in the game.

Maybe not literally. My daughter is still furious that I made her get back in the game after she got popped in the mouth with a softball. It was a chipped tooth and a little blood on the shirt I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but she clearly did.

My husband and I knew we didn’t have real control when the kid was 12 and wanted a FaceBook page. You’re supposed to be thirteen to have a FaceBook but “all her friends” lied about their age to get one. We told her we would prefer she not sign up until she was 13, but that we knew we couldn’t stop her from signing up without our permission. She didn’t.

The Honor System takes the place of outlet covers and baby gates.

On the opposite end it soon becomes clear that you can’t make them do anything once they are cognizant and mobile. We want the kid to get good grades, we expect the kid get good grades, but all the consequences in the world are not going to make the kid study or write a decent essay. And you just have to hope that when they leave the house in the morning they are not ducking into a friends house and changing into a burqa.

The honor system, trust and believing they are smart enough to make their own decisions are the meager tools left in our parenting box.

Intrinsic motivation is in the teenager driver seat. Parents are just along for the ride. Harder than 2 am feedings, toilet training or letting them walk without holding your hand, it is damn hard to not be a back seat driver.

No one tells you that part.

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Anyone who reads this blog for more than five minutes knows I am a staunch supporter of reproductive rights. All of them. All forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization, surrogates, tubal ligation, vaginal birth, home birth, planned cesarean, and abortions.

I’m Pro-Abortion, no apologies, no restrictions. Abortion is a medical procedure.  To deny one women access to a medical procedure because another woman (or man) thinks that procedure is a sin is one of the most fucked up things we do as a society. Electoral power being used to promote religious beliefs is obscene.

Denying, limiting and restricting abortions does not make us a people who value life. Denying abortions makes us judgmental and cruel.

I am reposting this mans blog post about a tragic time when he and his wife should’ve been allowed access to the abortion they wanted. Read it and tell me you have any right to make decisions for this couple.

Abortion is a compassionate choice.

Denied.

In 2013, a bill was introduced in the Texas Congress that drastically changed the access and availability of abortion services in the state. Among requirements of hospital admitting privileges and outdated procedures for administering mifepristone, was a change in when an abortion could be performed, down from 28 weeks to 20 weeks. The logic in this change was that a woman has enough time in 20 weeks to make a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy. More than enough time, the bill’s supporters said, to make that decision.

Throughout the debate on the floor of the house and senate, I saw an amazing example of how Texas politics can work: Wendy Davis filibustered, for 11 hours, Leticia Van De Putte put the senate in its place, asking “at what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room,” hundreds of the bill’s opponents were in the gallery and the halls of the capitol building, chanting to delay the vote. Texas Republicans lied, claimed the vote happened, rescinded, and it was all a weird mixture of joy, confusion, and confoundedness that there was a group of mostly men attempting to making decisions about reproductive rights of women.

I attended the next voting session in the gallery. My mother gave testimony. We watched, and we waited, and hoped that reason would prevail. In the end, the damned thing passed. Currently Texas has eight clinics remaining.

Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to be a father. Raising a child, watching someone grow into a being of personality, instilling values and love, to better shape a human and a generation is incredibly humbling, scary, exciting, and rewarding in ways unimaginable.

In late 2013, we found out our dream of becoming parents was coming true. We bought two pregnancy tests, they both were positive. We facetimed our parents, our friends, and were overcome with joy and planning and love for our unborn child. My wife, a prenatal yoga teacher and doula, made sure our preparation was immediate and immaculate.

At 8 weeks, we did our first ultrasound and saw our little gummi bear, its heart beating inside. I squeezed my wife’s hand, and cried with such joy. This was happening.

Just before 20 weeks, we had our anatomy ultrasound. We discovered we were having a boy. I kissed my wife, and cried with overwhelming happiness. He was happening. We did everything right that we could.

The day after our anatomy ultrasound, I get a text from my wife – she was having some spotting, and some cramping, and was headed to the midwives. She’d had periodic spotting throughout, due to a benign polyp, but this, it seemed was different.

It is my first day at a new job, but I (of course) drop everything and leave, to be with her. I’m on my bike, and have to find a cab or rental car to meet her. From her voice, I can tell she thinks it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope.

I find a car, I scramble, I call my friend on the way to meet her, sobbing that I think it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope. I arrive, and the midwife says she’s already dilated. From her face, I can tell that it’s over already. But I hope.

Through multiple ultrasounds, we find that there is a condition called (offensively) Incompetent Cervix, and we’re on our way to an inevitable early term birth. This is not a miscarriage. He is healthy inside. He is fine inside. He doesn’t know. He will just be born well before he should. The question is just: when?

We go to the hospital. We talk to specialists.

We have options – a cerclage (a stitch to keep the cervix closed), medicine to reduce contractions, waiting to see what will happen. Our fear and our wish is that we keep our child free from a life of pain. At 20 weeks, he will not survive. At 24 weeks, he will be a micro-preemy who may not live outside a hospital. There is a terrible window, and we are rapidly approaching it.

Any option that pushes us into giving our son a life of misery is one that terrifies us, not for us, but for him – we want him to live.

After what feels like an eternity in the hospital, going over every scenario, we find out we might be a good candidate for cerclage–only to find out hours later, that due to her cervix’s current dilation, a cerclage is likely to fail, to buy us only enough time to thrust us directly into that zone where he, due to even more laws and policies, would have to be resuscitated–and must live the life of pain from which we are desperately trying to save him.

A cerclage failure would force us beyond 20 weeks, and, due to the passage of the bill, into the time where we legally have no option but to give birth to a child who would likely not be able to live on his own, or would live with suffering we enabled by pushing him past that point. We would be forced into a time where our options had been stripped, as the legislature has told us “no more”, “this body, and this decision are no longer yours.”

We speak with our doctor, and are given the option that was previously unthinkable, completely out of bounds of possibility. Our doctor gives us the option — that if we feel this is over, if we have said goodbye, and we are ready to make the decision, that ending the pregnancy is a humane option. Our doctor, our medical doctor, tells us that it is a “reasonable decision”. Doctor speak, for “yes”.

We would have to make a decision that we never thought we would ever have to make. Whether to induce, and end a pregnancy that we both wanted so desperately, to save our child from suffering; to not inflict that agony on our unborn son.

The next day, still at the hospital, before we had been able to even begin to come to grips with such a final decision, we talk to another specialist, and we’re told they can’t do it. The bill had passed, and well, it’s just against the law. Sort of. Technically, it’s a a termination, and technically, we’re past the limit. Sort of.

The law itself says 20 weeks “from fertilization” (vs. “gestational age”), and we’re actually only 18 weeks from fertilization–my amazing wife tracked her cycle to a T. The hospital acknowledges it isn’t against the letter of the law, but it is a grey area their policies won’t let them touch. Too risky, too hot button a topic.

We are denied the opportunity to even make a humane and doctor sanctioned medical decision by a bill that we never thought would affect us. I was there at the capitol, fighting for the rights of women. It never crossed my mind I would be fighting for my own. Our last resort had become a no-man’s land.

We are sent home, to let things happen “naturally”. What this means, practically, was to spend days pacing the house, walking the neighborhood, waiting for our son to be born, so that he could die. We let him taste our favorite foods, we play him our favorite music, we show him Veronica Mars, we read to him, we tell him how much we love him. We wait for days, pace, wait, and wait, and we wait, so our son can be born, so that he can die.

The midwives come and see that our dilation is the same – maybe he can be saved? We go to an OB for a final ultrasound, who sees the amniotic sac bulging through the birth canal. The doctor describes the birth as “imminent and inevitable”. So we go back home, to wait for our son to be born, so that he can die.

Our midwife visits again and can feel our son’s foot hanging through the birth canal. Contractions begin, continue for hours and hours. Then stop. For a day.

We wait, for our son to be born, so that he can die.

The next day, contractions pick back up, my wonderful, beautiful, incredible wife labors for hours, breathing, heaving, so strong and powerful as only a woman can be in birth, so that our son could be born.

So that our son could die.

When some men think about abortion rights, they think about unwanted pregnancies. Some think about those victims of incest, rape, and terrible situations of abuse. Some think about those who may have a medical need for an abortion to save the life of the mother. Some think about access to medical services, the right for a woman to control her own body, the implications for women who live in remote locations, the impact on low income individuals.

Rarely, as a man–a man who wanted children more than anything in the world–did I ever think about how abortion rights would affect me.

In the end, we spent 3 days in the hospital, and another 7 days at home, waiting for our son to be born, and to die.

In the end, we had to force ourselves to will our son to be born, and to die, the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of which cannot be overstated.

In the end, the bill intended to save lives, didn’t save a life at all, but shattered two in half. Two that will heal, with friends, family, and time, but two hearts torn apart.

In the end, the bill did nothing but cause pain and anguish as our options narrowed and our decisions stolen.

In the end, our son felt our love for a few brief moments, and our son died.

In the end, our son was born, and our son died on April 10, 2014.

In the end, his name is William.

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Over dinner the other night we had one of those twisty turny conversations that kept us at the table an hour longer than it took to eat our food. During a discussion at school a bunch of my daughters classmates argued that there is no such thing as depression. It’s all in your head.

My daughter and her friends were furious. They know people personally who suffer from depression and know its no joke. In re-playing the argument for us the kid started rattling off statistics and data about how we know that depression is genetic, and when you stigmatize people they wont get help and it all gets worse.

All true unfortunately.

I asked if the teacher corrected the students when they were expressing opinions that were false and she said no, the teacher said she doesn’t want to push her opinions on anyone during discussions.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking. Correcting a FACT that someone has wrong is not “pushing your opinion.” Facts are objective and verifiable, opinions often judge facts, therefore opinions can sometimes change.

Beliefs are different. No evidence required for a belief which makes it inarguable. And this is exactly what makes it inadmissible as any part of a logical argument or defense of an opinion.

And then there’s bullshit, which is just prejudice hiding behind beliefs put forth as “my opinion.” People arguing from belief often try to say the facts are false and usually close with “we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

If I could wave a magic wand I would make deductive logic part of every K-12 curriculum in the US. And part of teacher training while we’re at it. I blame the creationists and the Koch Bros., but that’s a whole other discussion.

Anyway. We started digging into various social stigmas from the past like having acne, left-handedness or being Irish. Unfortunately it takes a couple of generations to reduce stigmas in society at large. There are still lots of stigmas in US society: mental illness, poverty, disability, abortion, HIV-AIDS, and of course obesity. I’m sure I missed a few.

It’s somewhat less common now for people to use words like “retard” and “fag” as pejoratives but few would hesitate to call someone fat. Or “fat bitch” – those two seem to just go together don’t they? Like peanut butter and jelly.

When we finally had to stop the conversation because homework was waiting, the kid was quite impressive tying together depression, stigma, gender bias, body image and the evils of Reddit in her closing remarks. I’m sure that wasn’t the final word on these topics.

Our talk reminded me of a book from the 1970’s that I once owned and foolishly lent out “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. And one recommended by a very thin friend that I read recently “Two Whole Cakes.”

Unfortunately being fat is something you can’t hide like mental illness, your abortion or your HIV status. It’s all out there and its an easy target. Fat is one stigma we will not overcome anytime soon. That statement is both a fact and an opinion.

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The other day my daughter posted a mini-rant on her Facebook page. She must have been deeply bored to be trolling a social media platform that has been officially co-opted by middle-aged parents. Maybe she was logged on to look at pictures of her totally adorable toddler cousin. Babies, cats and vacation photos are why FB exists at this point.

I’m embarrassed to say that I thought her post was actually a re-post from an article on the Ms. Blog, but when I mentioned it she started ranting about how “…Facebook and Instagram can magically locate where you are on a map to the exact address of the house, but the cell phone companies won’t give out the information when a woman is getting killed?!?”

Her very own rant.

Proud mother moment. Sniff.

Below is what she posted & the article that prompted it. And I agree it is outrageous and stupid. You’re better off doing a check-in on Facebook  and asking your friends to send the police than waiting for the cell company to read the GPS. And of course there are additional privacy v. safety issues to debate, but still.

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The power to define yourself rather than allowing society to define you by your gender or sexuality is the foundation of feminism. Mean people wear tie dye too.

Attention Cranky Hippie Ladies: you are promoting the wrong kind of feminism.

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Yesterday I got news that a child of an acquaintance of mine had committed suicide. He was 37.

To lose a child is unimaginable. To lose someone you love by their own hand, is incomprehensible.

My heart is breaking for her even as I know that I cannot know what she is going through. In a few hours I will attend the funeral and already my chest hurts knowing I will see in her face unfathomable pain. What can I say to her to acknowledge the rending of her life into a new before and after because her child died? I am sorry for your loss is not large enough for any death, but it’s what we say. Because we don’t know what to say.

No words can be adequate, so I will do what I can.

I will bear witness to her grief. And grieve with her.

I will ask people to click on the photo below to learn about suicide prevention & coping with loss. My ignorance is complete. The least I can do is understand this half of her tragedy and hope I never need the information.

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I woke up humming the chorus from a song my Dad used to sing when he was happy – “Honeycomb won’t you be my baby, Honeycomb be my gal” – an old Jimmie Rogers tune. What I remember of my dad’s musical taste consists of Tennessee “Ernie” Ford, Boots Randolph, and a lot of Henry Mancini.

I inherited some of my parents albums when they got rid of the giant record player console that dominated their living room for years. Before everything was ironic, I saved from the scrap heap  a Reader’s Digest Montovani boxed set, John Phillips Sousa’s Collected Marches, and the classic 1970’s albums Hi God and Hi God II.

Currently, music in our house is dominated by vinyl. A full circle from the first generation iPod that sits like a white brick in the bag of “someday soon I will recycle all these broken electronics”.

Albums never left our living room even when the record player no longer worked. Since being replaced by a fancy new record player more than a year ago, the albums progressively took over the bookcases and the floor until my husband made some judicious choices about what could be rotated out and stored in his office.

Then my daughter started buying albums.

Her eclectic taste in music is encouraged, expanded and indulged by her father who likes nothing better than spending an afternoon record shopping. Her taste for funk and 90’s club music she gets from me. The regrettable attachment to Bob Dylan is solely her fathers doing.

All joking aside, they share a passion for music in many forms and genres.  And they share equally strong opinions about the merits of various albums – “London Calling is better, obvi” – which makes for a very different definition of  “Dad music.” Which speaks to the truth of a tumblr I follow Dad’s Are The Original Hipsters.

Plus, I never have to change the album.

5917Check out the screaming girls in this Jimmie Rodgers clip.

My daughter asked the other day if I thought that being a mom was a big sacrifice because you have to do everything for your kid. I said I didn’t because I never felt “selfless”  and didn’t considered having a child to be the ultimate accomplishment of my life.

She was a bit insulted by that information.

My daughter (along with my husband) is one of the most important and interesting parts of my life. But she is not my whole life. Nor am I hers.

I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of my identity being tied to being a Mom. Not because I have anything against my child or actual parenting, but because the tradition of dismissing other relevant information about a woman once her mother status is revealed is disturbing.

Membership in the Mom Club is automatic and accompanied by a million rules. It seems to be a Club full of clichés, assumptions and ideals designed to highlight my inadequacies. For instance, I am not a crafty Mom. I didn’t make my own baby food, knit things, or do kitchen science experiments.

Nor was I the fun Mom. I didn’t make blanket forts, pack the van full of kids for sledding or throw fabulous birthday parties. Ditto for Sports Mom and Classroom-Volunteer-Mom-that-all-the-teachers-adore. And I certainly didn’t qualify for Doing-whatever-it-takes-Mom, being lucky enough to enjoy a decent income and husband who co-parents.

I’m not sure what prompted my daughter’s question about the self-sacrifice involved in parenting.  To my mind, it’s not a sacrifice if it’s what you want to be doing. Anything I gave up I chose to give up. We chose to have a child and I chose to work full-time rather than stay home. I hope every member of this club enjoys the same choices.

Good days, better days and all the tough ones in between add up to living your life as a parent. Although I am now fifteen years in, I may never reach advanced membership in the Mom Club.

And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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