520 Moments Wk25 (241-250)

The five senses world…

  1. Nails that need clipping tend to an itch (maybe a bug bite?  a hive?) on my left cheek.
  2. Thick itchy scabs on one knee.  Bruises underlie them, making the area tender, sensitive, and nearly impossible to scratch.
  3. The bright yellow wording of “mindful” on a magazine cover next to the (same shade of) yellow cover of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.  It’s this kind of juxtaposition that I’ve come to understand = motherhood.
  4. Hard plastic nested into the curves under my toes.
  5. Shower water running changes patterns as it bounces off various body parts and hits the plastic floor.
  6. The sound of a wooden drawer opening, closing, keys rattling, signaling D’s approaching departure.
  7. Thumb pressed into my lower lip forces it over the top of my teeth.
  8. Small twinge in lower back from doing cartwheels through the sprinkler.  Levi calls them my dangerous stunts.
  9. Rabbit nibbling clovers in the yard that is both green and burnt brown.
  10. Mind wandering; monkey mind.
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Until next year, Pride month…

June will soon be behind us (but how!?!?), which means we say goodbye to Pride month.  Technically Pride events in our area are concentrated in the first two weeks of June, and so I have felt Pride has been over for awhile (though technically Stonewall was the last Sunday in June), but I did want to reflect on the meaning of the month to me at this point in my life.

Levi has started tennis lessons.  Earlier this week, as we sat there among the other parents cheering and trying not to get overly involved, I happened to notice that we were the only same gendered couple there.  This obviously happens to us all the time:  we are the only same gendered couple in his school; when we went on a family field trip to Howe Caverns this week, we were the only same gendered couple on our tour group; sitting at restaurants, waiting in line at the grocery store, shopping for mattresses, and so on.  This is obviously not to say that we never see other gay/queer couples when we are out and about.  It’s just that the vast majority of the time, we are the exception.  We stand out.  We are different.  I point out the obvious here because 99% of the time, I don’t notice this the way I did on the hard metal bleachers at tennis the other night.  I don’t feel different.  And this lack of noticing is a gift–a gift that has been hard won by others before me, and therefore, I don’t want to take it for granted.

I’ve written before about the various stages and phases of my Pride-going life.  This year, though, two years out from the Pulse shooting, it was easy to go back to simply seeing Pride as being about a fun parade for my kid and some time in the park as a family (where for a day we are no longer the exception).  It’s easy to look back fondly at the memories of drinking all day, flirting, wearing rainbow leis, and dancing to loud music.  It’s simply easy to forget that Pride is about remembering how every time I don’t have to notice, worry, or care about being the only queer couple in the room, I owe this to the brave souls of the gay rights movement.  It’s easy to forget that in other parts of our own country and in other parts of the world, there are still individuals and couples who don’t get to enjoy the easy-going thoughtlessness about who they are that I possess.

It goes without saying that the spirit and import of Pride should last all year, but as we leave behind the twentieth (can that be right?) Pride of my “out” life, I felt the need to remind myself of the ways in which my comforts as a queer woman/mom have to do with so many things outside of myself (side note that could be a much longer post:  it also helps immensely to be white, privileged economically and socially, and non-threatening in that I easily “pass” as straight)–namely, every gay/queer person who has ever come out publicly, pushing that needle of societal norm; every gay/queer person who put their life on the line to defend places and spaces for people perceived as different to freely express themselves; every gay/queer person who educated the medical establishment about health and fertility issues directly related to our differing needs; every gay/queer person who has bravely walked down the street or through a park holding hands with their significant other.  To all of you, to all of us, I say, thank you 🙂

520 Moments (231-240)

Noticing…

  1. It is both easy and difficult to notice when I’m 5am-in-the-morning-tired.  In one sense I am too groggy to focus on much other than the gentle early morning sounds and sights of my environment.  On the other hand, I’m too tired to focus enough on those things to truly notice that I’m noticing them.
  2. I do notice an office so messy that it’s beyond inhabitable (at least as a space for thinking and writing): crooked, slanted, leaning books drain my brain, pull my attention away from what’s important.  Distraction from what’s important is the number one reason why clutter should never be allowed.  But, of course, it seems to happen despite my decree.
  3. Alarm ringing, covers shifting, announcing the end of a morning that is mine alone.
  4. Lawn three-quarters mowed.
  5. Kiddo stretching and yawning.  I will him with my mind to stay asleep longer.
  6. Stomach growls, but I’m not hungry.
  7. Birds singing, but silence from the mourning doves who have taken up residence in the tree outside our front window.
    1. Posting nested egg pictures seems to have become a “thing” on social media this spring.
  8. Bunny near my garden.  Luckily she seems uninterested, takes a brief nibble and hops away.  Should I be insulted or happy?
    1. So many bunnies, birds, and deer this year–signals the coyote population must be down.
  9. I’m warm and cold at the same time, as humidity + morning chill greet me through the open window.
  10. Toes criss-crossed, feet pressed into the plastic box holding printer supplies below my desk.  I never write with my feet touching the ground.

I Was Tattooed by a White Supremacist

Not knowingly, of course.

On my back, I have a tattoo that I love.  It’s a vintage typewriter with letters exploding off the page that then sprinkle across my shoulder. It has a banner at the bottom with the well known Mary Oliver quote, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.”

The tattoo is unique and gets quite a lot of attention.  When people compliment me on it, I’ve always responded with, “Thank you.  He did a really great job on it.”  He, of course, being the tattoo artist.  These days though, knowing what I know now, I find it difficult to utter those words.  Even though the tattoo is beautiful, exquisite in detail, and for me a prized piece of body art, I find it hard to pay compliments to a known white supremacist.

It is only recently that I became aware of the fact that the artist who had inked me was/is a white supremacist.  First, I had trouble believing it, and then I was immensely troubled by it and felt the need to do something.  But what?

The thing for me is this:  If we are going to be stuck in this capitalist machine, I like to think that we as consumers have some modicum of power in that we vote with our money.  By this I mean, we can choose to spend money at and support businesses that reflect and support our own views.  Hopefully, these are companies that act ethically (pay their employees fair and equitable wages, adhere to labor law, adhere to environmental laws, etc.).  So for example, I choose not to shop at Walmart due to their history of union busting/hating.  Often we choose to support (or not) businesses that share our own view of morality or our general worldview.  That is, I choose not to frequent a local apple orchard that refused to hold a gay wedding.  (Whether or not it was their right to do so is material for a whole other post).  What this boils down to is that I would never, under any circumstances (regardless of level of talent, etc.), choose to hire a tattoo artist who is a white supremacist and give him my money (a good chunk of my money.  It was a four hour sitting.  You can do the math…), so that I can then turn around and (potentially) contribute that money to alt-right “causes.”

The other thing for me is this:  This guy and I got on smashingly!  Anyone who has ever gotten a tattoo knows that it can be quite an intimate experience.  Just you and this person who you are trusting to forever mark your body in a small space, hanging out for, well, often, hours–in my case, four hours.  My disbelief upon seeing in print this guy’s involvement with white nationalism was driven in large part by the fact that I couldn’t (refused to) believe that I had happily shared conversation (good conversation, by the way, not meaningless drivel) with a white supremacist for four hours.  Like, is my asshole detection just completely broken?  Shouldn’t I be able to recognize hatred while it drills a needle into my should blade?  How could I not have known?  And what does it mean that I actually liked (in the loosest sense of the term) a white supremacist?

How can we root out and fight white nationalism when it lurks in our local tattoo parlors, our local plumbing and heating businesses, our local garden and tree nurseries (these examples are clearly not random…)?  How can we choose to put our money where our mouth is when we don’t even know who is a white nationalist and who isn’t?

Initially, I wanted to out him immediately.  I wanted to warn others who want to choose wisely about whom they give their money for a new piece of body art.  But a little part of me felt bad:  He seemed like a good guy to me.  I cannot attempt to ruin somebody’s living over something like this?  Or can I?  And don’t I need to?  I found myself clear out of my element.  I did not know how to go about combatting the alt right–at least not on this individual/granular level.

Doxxing (Shaun King’s work and Logan Smith’s twitter account, Yes, You’re Racist, are perhaps two of the most well-known examples) has proven to be problematic for a number of reasons–one of the most common being the wrong person being outed.  People, wrongfully accused of involvement, have been forced to flee their homes, have found their jobs in jeopardy, and so on.  The same, of course, has happened to those who are actually white nationalists. What are the ethics involved in outing a white nationalist?  I came to realize that I just didn’t know.  Ethics are thorny in many situations, and this one, in my mind, is particularly so.

The mainstream, middle-of-the-road consensus seems to be that it is not okay to out anyone, including white nationalists.  Many describe it as a “sloppy” form a vigilante justice.  In this Wired article, doxxing is described as primarily motivated by “social and economic punishment.”   General arguments about the problematic ethics of shaming people (everything from it’s just not morally okay to it doesn’t generally work to make people change their beliefs or behavior) abound.  However, this opinion piece, “Outing White Supremacists is Kosher According to Judaism,” gets out some of the complexities of the issue that interest me.  According to Jennifer Thompson, the teachings of Judaism say that the intent behind the outing matters.  By this she means that if the sole goal of the outing is shaming or revenge, then the ethics are questionable; however, if the intent is to warn, and thereby keep safe, the community, then, according to the beliefs of Judaism we are acting in a way that is morally sound.

Letting the community know who the publicly avowed white nationalists are is a favor to the community, which has now been warned, and to the person being rebuked – because it gives them a chance to turn their behavior around. This is probably the closest we can get to recognizing their human dignity while prioritizing our own safety.

This is one of the few articles I could find that begins to address my primary concern.  Yes, perhaps not choosing not to use a tattoo artist who then chooses to contribute financially to the alt-right is a form of economic justice, but is that such a problem?  The same can be said for not frequenting the cake maker who refuses to bake for a gay wedding.  Free speech doesn’t mean you’re free of societal consequences when you exercise that right.  It simply means the government cannot persecute you for exercising that right.  And whether or not free speech applies to hate speech is a whole other thorny (though clearly related topic); however, this post is getting too long as it it.

Ultimately, I have chosen not to name this tattoo artist (though again, he has already been publicly outed by others) and chosen not to actively seek to tell others not to utilize his services primarily out of fear for my personal (and family’s) safety.  Over the past months, I have heard too many horror stories of academics who have actively voiced critiques of white nationalism who have then been doxxed themselves (that’s right, doxxing is not just a far-left tactic, as it is sometimes portrayed).  I have heard stories about how their lives and families have been threatened.  I have read many articles about the power and money behind the alt-right, and as much as I want to fight their existence and their philosophies from being spread, I don’t think that for me personally, taking down the alt-right can begin with this singular person whom I can never really forget–his artwork etched permanently into my skin.  These days I cringe thinking about anyone asking me the question, “Who did your ink?”  I don’t want anyone to know about this loose association I have with someone who stands for everything that I believe is wrong with the world.

I never expected, or wanted, this post to be quite this long, and yet I find I could go on.  I am so deeply troubled by the platform Trump has given to this fringe population.  I am angered by their continued existence (resurgence even).  And I am further confused and dismayed by my own run-in with one of “them”–a seemingly thoughtful, smart, interesting, slightly nerdy/scrawny white guy (and, oh, isn’t that the general profile though!).  I want my money back, but ultimately the thing I paid for is mine.  It is a representation of me, a representation of what I think and hope words can do, and reminder to think carefully about how we live our lives.  In the end, anything that represents me says we need to to be antiracist every day, every minute, in everything that we do–each in our own way.

 

 

520 Moments Wk23 (221-230)

I’ve missed the last four weeks of the 52 week challenge that I set for myself back in September.  In general, I’ve been off kilter with the end of the semester, a big family trip, conference travel, the new rhythm and “routines” of summer.  This has affected my writing (negatively).  My office is a mess, so that never helps.  I love summer, but in terms of productivity and staying on task, it is a very challenging time.  I’m trying my best to embrace it, while also righting the ship and climbing back on board.  I tread water, I get close, I grab on, but when I go to pull myself up, I keep slipping off, back to treading water.

Trying yet again, here are ten moments from the past four weeks.  It’s the catching up edition (try to ignore the weird tense shifts that I refuse to go back and fix, because, well, it’s a blog post.  Chalk it up to some purposeful artistic flourish…):

  1. Submit grades, head to Levi’s school for Special Person’s Day celebration and their yearly fundraiser where the kids raise money for walking the perimeter of the school.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year.  The kids walking together is so darn cute.  They wear placards around their necks that say what they love about their school.  This year Levi’s read, “my friend Noah,” which cracked me up.  Dawn and I both got a wooden box that Levi had painted (with glitter.  Why oh why does this school love glitter so much?  Or is this all early childhood education centers?), filled with Hershey Kisses (which reminds me, I haven’t eaten one yet!).
  2. Next day, finish packing, clean the house, board a plane.  Levi’s first plane ride!  He watched three hours worth of Fireman Sam, Dawn tried not to get sick, and I pleasure read in between checking on the two of them.  We arrived in sunny Orlando, FL (the most sun we’d see all week) at bed time.  By 9:30 the next morning, we were waiting in line for Pirates of Caribbean.  Levi began to cry, saying he didn’t want to go on the ride.  The noises were too loud and the simulacrum of a cave was too real and scary for him.  We assured him that we would turn around with him at any time, and yet very gently cajoled him forward.  I felt so conflicted.  I did not want to force him onto any ride that scared him, and yet, I didn’t want him to miss out on experiencing something he might actually like.  Once we boarded the “boat” and began to move through the ride, he stopped crying, and was in awe.  It was a critical moment.  He left that ride so darn brave that by the end of the trip, he had gone on the Haunted Mansion and a small roller coaster.  He loved every single moment.  He didn’t melt down once (unlike the rest of us).  And the smiles and looks of wonder on his face when he met the various characters were just heart melting.
  3. Return from Florida, stock the empty shelves with food, thankful the house is clean.  Spend a few days settling back in, doing laundry, adjusting to the lack of constant stimulation (Levi had some trouble with this part, it seemed), then pack again and head to George Mason University for the annual Computers and Writing Conference.
  4. Attend my field’s annual conference.  Present on the first day at 9am.  Delight in having it over before having had much time to fret.  Feel old as I take in all the graduate students with their technology in hand, live tweeting the way I used to, toggling between social media sites with apparent ease, speaking up and out the way I never have.  Have first Uber experience.  Struggle with severe social anxiety.  Gratefully return to those who love me unconditionally.
    1. Set the goal of produce more consume less.  So far, not so good.
  5. Run the Freihofer’s Run for Women for the second time since becoming a mom.  Run it slowly, as I haven’t run the distance of a 5k since this past October (more on this in a separate post).  Feel great, but also feel surprised and proud thinking back on the fact that I did this race five months postpartum (more on this in a separate post).  Go from the race to meet my family at Touch-a-Truck, do yard work (see #6), get ice cream, visit a friend, go to Home Depot for gardening supplies (see #6), end the day with spontaneous dinner in the backyard of friends.
  6. Work a little bit each day on building a raised bed garden for the backyard.  All the YouTube videos say things like build a raised bed in half an hour, build a raised bed in under an hour, build a raised bed for $15.  As with most things promised on the internet, none of this turns out to be true or possible.  They leave out trying to level the damn thing and the twenty trips to the store for bags of compost and soil and the drill dying in the middle of it.  They leave out the guy at Home Depot who doesn’t know if they sell cedar and the helpful hands of a three year old.  Still, with much collaborative effort, we get the job done.  Levi and I take great joy in watering it each evening, watching it sprout and grow.
  7.  Friends elope!  Attend their top secret wedding.  Cry through the whole thing.
  8. Celebrate birthdays and Pride.  Celebrate 15 years together and four years of marriage.
  9. Live outside and love it.  Pull a tick out of Levi’s thigh and hate it.  Shop for a new tent; won’t let the bugs stop us.
  10. Broken-heartedly sell our baby stuff.  Prepare for a garage sale.  Clean house, make space, mourn, give thanks, look forward, stay present.

520 Moments Wk22 (211-220)

  1. Coffee so hot that it burned my tongue this morning.
  2. Grey before the rain lends a sense of calm and quiet.
  3. Watching a squirrel hop/leap through the trees–the height and distance between branches phases her none.
  4. Robin lands in the tree of buds still so young that the green is barely visible from my window view.
  5. Countdown on writing timer doesn’t feel comforting today.
  6. Crooked lid on coffee mug.  Had to fix it.  Feel much better now–more focused, less distracted.
  7. As the semester draws to a close, my body twitches with the need to always be in my planner.
    1. To do lists scattered:  black ink/green paper; purple ink/white paper; multiple ink colors/pink sticky note.
  8. Need to flip my calendar page; need to assess last month, set goals, make plans, set intentions for the coming month
    1. Basically this means stay sane through end-of-semester + two back-to-back trips which require airplane travel + work project deadlines + conference presentations
  9. Baby boy (I still call him that sometimes, though he isn’t) stirring.  His head pressed against the wooden side-rail.  How does he sleep like that?
  10. D rattles the baby gate loudly, carrying laundry, and then from baby boy’s room I hear the cry of “Batman!”
    1. Goodbye quiet:)

520 Moments Wk21 (201-210)

  1. Morning dove or owl?  An ongoing debate in our house.
  2. April showers; awaiting May flowers.
  3. The yard is statue still, as if holding its breath in anticipation of the day.
  4. Days are longer again: yard clean up, seedlings planted, outdoor play.  This means the inside is trashed and covered in a thin layer of dirt.
  5. Seedlings in their trays seem to be rejoicing, growing tall and reaching, stretching toward the light.
  6. Fingerprint smudge on my glasses (I cannot stand this, but writing timer is set.  There is no stopping me).
  7. Stray hair against white keyboard.
  8. Green box of thin mints against black desk.
  9. An empty brown leather coaster stares back at me devoid of coffee.  Sadness in a single sentence.
  10. The end of the semester is coming fast and furious (as it always does, as I always forget).
    1. I need a comprehensive to do list.  Help me feel less scattered and overwhelmed.  And yet I’m scared to see what that might look like.
    2. I keep trying to create the most effective work schedule, which is ridiculous with the start of exams at the end of next week.  Bye-bye Spring 2018 schedule.