Glad I Saw It: Resisting Weariness


I’ve been sensing, both in myself and in those around me, a weariness — an overwhelming despair — thinking about the years ahead led by a President who is unqualified, dangerous, and hateful. Hillary Clinton anticipated this for us on Day 1.

On Christmas Eve, at my parents’ church, I noticed a bowl of bookmarks with the quotation Hillary Clinton highlighted in her November 9th speech. I took just one, but I wanted to take dozens to hand out to people who needed a pick-me-up.

Seeing this sentiment reminded me of a recent conversation I’d had with neighbors about my fear that post-inauguration much of our activism will sink into complacency for those not directly affected by policy changes or fears of further oppression. It is especially for those of us with the privilege of secure economics, citizenship, race, and the societal security of heterosexual relationships and “acceptable” religious backgrounds to shrug off the weariness and continue to work for equality on all levels. And why should we? Precisely because we have the choice not to. We have the choice not to, so we must make that choice to benefit those who don’t have it.

Do The Most Good.

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Books as Escape: Giveaway

nicole-blades-book-cover-the-thunder-beneath-usCongrats to Steph and Daria!

I’m currently finishing Nicole Blades’ new novel The Thunder Beneath Us, and it’s been a great escape from, well, real life. Following Best, the main character, through her personal drama –familial, romantic and work — is an entertaining, chapter by chapter dip into a world without a homegrown, gold-plated Axis of Evil. It was a Holiday Swap gift this year already, and it’ll be going into a couple of family stockings this holiday, for sure. But I also want to share a couple of other books with you all. Books that can be escape, if only for a short time.

9780385353304First up: Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN. I describe this as a more hopeful version of The Road, but that doesn’t really do the novel justice. The web of character relationships and various methods of survival will keep you focused on the novel and not current events. At least for a short while.

The novel received a starred Kirkus review. And this excerpt is from the NYT review:

If “Station Eleven” reveals little insight into the effects of extreme terror and misery on humanity, it offers comfort and hope to those who believe, or want to believe, that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.

da0574f71bc4f8678bdaae471156a985-w2041xThe second novel up for grabs is THE GALLERY by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. This is a middle-grade novel that will also entertain adults. The story includes several interesting characters and intertwines mystery, art appreciation, and history in the storyline. Set in 1929, readers will enjoy the historical references as they join the main character, Martha, in attempting to unravel a life-and-death mystery. Recommended for ages 8-13 by those in the know, I’d probably raise that to 10-16. Either way, a worthy addition to your list of escapist reads.

From the Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s website:

It’s 1928, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story…

Live in the USA? Enter by clicking the link below, and make sure to comment below letting me know which novel you prefer! Happy reading!

Get a new book —> a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Self-Care in the Age of Trump

835d1979bb79907b87b46f53b66711d5It’s going to be a marathon, folks. And we need you all primed, warmed-up, and ready.

Many people have expressed feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to me in recent days. The adrenalin of the immediate aftermath of the election has waned, and the disinformation and sheer number of horrific developments and (belatedly discovered) conflicts of interest surrounding Trump is overwhelming. It’s important to manage the input in order to produce useful output in defense of yourself and others.

I’ve been there. Often I am there. And I want to share a few techniques to help you get through this marathon with your sanity and physical well-being intact. I hope you’ll share useful techniques in the comments as well. Please.

Managing Input

  • Don’t go into the light! Shut off your devices for long periods of time. We’ve gotten so used to BREAKING news and alerts and push notifications and the 24 hours news cycle, that it seems normal. It’s not. The news will still be there when you return, and it will probably be better, more useful, more accurate news. I promise.
  • Focus on what most matters to you. Choose one or two issues and stick with those. Believe me, I also feel like the world is collapsing around me. Between the VRA, Education, LGBTQ equality, Muslim registries, anti-Semitic acts, rising Hate Crimes, the continued need to assert that Black Lives Matter, Reproductive Rights, Banking Regulation, and a general realization that we have elected a demagogue with white nationalist leanings, it feels like it’s all too much. It’s not! Choose two issues that mean the most to YOU, and focus on those. That doesn’t mean you can’t sign petitions (although it’s better to call your elected reps) or join in on activities for other issues, but try to stick to news and alerts about your chosen issues. Become an expert on THOSE. And don’t worry, if you’re connected to social media, you’ll get plenty of updates for everything else.
  • Choose which media you’ll consume. Pick your favorite news outlet, and then add one or two more. Stick to just those. Are you an NPR junkie?  Trust Mother Jones? Love your New York Times? Have you subscribed to The Financial Times since your business professor required it? Or are you a strictly Alternet or HuffPo news consumer? Stick with what you love and add one or two others that have at least a marginally different point-of-view. Give those outlets your love – as in subscribe to them!
  • Don’t waste energy on “fake news” items. Come on now, you know, don’t you, when something is probably fake or at least wildly exaggerated? I mean, I know it’s tough, especially in an election year, because we WANT certain things to be real and that may dampen our intelligence quotients. But before you get angry/excited/blindsighted/thrilled with a piece of news, see if it’s reported on elsewhere. Twitter can be particularly helpful for this – Facebook, less so. When in doubt, remind yourself of this fake news guide from On The Media. And definitely don’t share it, even as a joke. Seriously, some people will believe it.

How to Step Away Effectively

  • Music. Have a trusted CD or playlist or station (without news!) that you can listen to when feeling frazzled. I like the Magnolia soundtrack, several mixed CD’s from a friend with great musical taste, The Cranberries, a classical music station, and 80’s channels. Joy Division and Joan Armatrading are reliably effective.
  • Books. Escape into a novel or a book about a subject you love. I know several people who find great satisfaction in reading cookbooks. I’m currently reading one or two chapters a night of The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades, and I have Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood on standby. If you commute, try to read in the AM and PM every day. Audiobooks are acceptable as well, but I think actually reading is more subversive these days.
  • Friends and family. Or not. Just get out. Go to dinner. Get coffee. Visit a museum. Take a walk in the park. Go to the gym. Visit historical landmarks. Window shop. Shop. Take a class. Feeling really stressed? Treat yourself to a massage or nail buff or whatever. Indulge in experiences.

Overwhelmed with how to resist? There’s an App for that!

Want to know how to resist effectively ? There’s a newsletter for that from Michael Skolnik.

Want even more weekly acts of resistance? Wall Of US is a site for that (and newsletter).

Posted in Activism, People are Good, People do silly things, volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Betsy DeVos is Unqualified – Public Education is Worth Fighting For

15171116_10209753069575205_1088501174931198732_nFor the last several years, I have spent my fall supervising (consoling, supporting, commiserating, listening to, advising, crying with, laughing with, critiquing, boosting, hugging) student teachers. They have been an amazing, diverse, and skilled group. We need young people to want to become public school teachers. We need young people to be enthusiastic and determined and confident and humble in their desire to become public school teachers. The current New Jersey Governor has done a number on the hopeful enthusiasm new teachers have. And the push and pull between various advocates on all sides have also muddied and confused the education waters — with paperwork being the one true result to rely on. And still, people hear the call to teach in public schools.

With this in mind, the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education makes me angry and frightened and determined to resist. Keep in mind that the President-elect has said he’d like to eliminate the Department of Education, whether colossal and immediate neglect or by slow, starvation-induced attrition.

This is reprinted with permission from a Facebook post by Shannon Carey. I added resource links.

I have been obsessively reading about Betsy DeVos. So that you don’t have to sink into the disgusting morass of arrogant, white-supremacist, homophobic hate-filled profiteering in the guise of “philanthropy” that I encountered in this research, I will bullet point some important information about her and what she represents, here.

1. She is a billionaire by birth (her dad ran an auto parts empire in MI) and by marriage (her husband is Dick DeVos of the Amway empire. Yes, that Amway, of pyramid scheme fame).

2. Her father helped fund and found Family Research Council (classified as an anti-gay hate group by SPLC in 2010) and Focus on the Family. These organizations demonize LGBTQ people and women who take control of their reproductive and emotional health.

3. Her brother founded Blackwater, a “private military firm.” Remember them, my Bush-remembering friends? Cozy with GWB, ran unchecked “security” in Iraq, killed Iraqi citizens with impunity. Now known as Academi.

4. Her mother was instrumental in getting Proposition 8 passed in California. Proposition 8 outlawed gay marriage in 2008.

5. Her family is very chummy with the Kochs, and they are a very integral part of the republican establishment.

6. Her husband was instrumental in getting “right-to-work” (aka: right-to-work-for-less) passed in Michigan. In MICHIGAN. The family is known to be obsessively and vehemently anti-labor, and have supporting union-busting legislation all over the country.

7. She has devoted much of her adult life to advocating for an expansion of charter schools and introduction of vouchers. She’s been more successful with charters, and Michigan is awash in for-profit charters, especially in Detroit. Google the recent NYT article on Detroit charters — it’s a travesty.

8. It’s been widely reported that she has never gone to a public school, worked in a public school, or been a public school parent. This is not insignificant.

9. Tr__p has advocated for nationwide vouchers, and while he cannot pass this without Congressional approval, her financial resources will very likely play a large role in herding House and Senate cowards towards what would very likely be a complete travesty in public education.

Public education is the the last and only social service we offer to every young person in this country. One could argue that it is the only structure in place — inadequate as it is — to combat the vast inequalities in our country.

Parents, teachers, students,and anyone concerned with an educated and cared-for populace should watch this appointment with eagle eyes and a spirit of resistance. Call your reps to let them know we cannot appoint someone who fundamentally does not believe in the tenets of providing people with a free and excellent education. Work with your local unions, parent groups, and school boards.

Deep breath. Take care of yourselves.

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Complacency = Complicity; Don’t Stand Idly By


If you aren’t condemning what is happening, if you aren’t paying attention, if you are shrugging because you aren’t (yet) personally affected, you are complicit. No matter who you voted or didn’t vote for, don’t waste time with finger pointing — we need 30 fingers each to point in all directions. Including inward.

Please don’t stand idly by. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The President-elect has been showing us who he is for decades, and from whom he is willing to take guidance. His hiring of Steve Bannon, a passionate anti-semite, white supremacist and propagandist, should have been a non-starter when Bannon became the CEO of the Trump Campaign. But we were in denial.

With Bannon as  There is no more denial. Bannon will now have the most powerful position(s) in the President-elect’s administration. And that is just one highly-influential, has-the-ear-of-the-President-elect person. #NoNormalization

What can you do? One thing — Demand your elected officials condemn the hiring of a white nationalist to the President-elect’s senior staff. You can find Senate contact information here:, and US Representative information here: Call them, leave a message, write an email or an ACTUAL letter, message on FB, Twitter, etc. It will take all of ten minutes to do them all, once a day. Have more time? Visit their offices with a letter in hand.

Thank you to Kim for pointing me to Christy Moore’s “Yellow Triangle.”

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Guest Post: Georgette Gilmore on #NoNormalization of Donald Trump

cogbfdrusaut7lp-2My friend Georgette gave me permission to re-post this from her Facebook page. I am grateful to her, and I look forward to her passion and action in the days to come.

I also hope that those who don’t understand the visceral fear and sadness at the outcome of this election can, perhaps in private and with no one else watching, have the willingness in victory to read and listen to the causes and history of the pain. Georgette’s is but one perspective, and it comes from a place of relative privilege compared to so many. Please read with an open mind and an empathetic heart.

As you can probably tell, I’m angry, I’m hurt, but more importantly, I’m fired up to speak out and to be the good I want in the world.

I’ve always known about racism, sexism, and bigotry as a white woman. There are too many incidents to write down, but for most of my life, racism was a normal part of my life.
The time my dad picked me up from school in the 1st grade and saw me playing with a black girl and told me I should keep away from her because black people were dirty.
The tons of times I was in the company of white people, mostly men, who used the N word, or Hispanic slurs, or called women cunts and bitches.

The time my aunt told me she wasn’t racist, BUT she believed black people and white people needed to keep separate and shouldn’t mix.

The time a teacher I worked with said the same thing to me before I took out the photo of Greg to show her my fiance.

The time Greg and I were told we couldn’t enter a club in Hoboken because it was too crowded (it wasn’t) and 15 minutes later our friends (white friends) entered in a large group and called us asking where we were.

The time a preschool teacher I worked with said a 4 year old looked like a thug because her mom put her hair in cornrows that day.

The time a woman, when I asked about the town pools and how they worked, told me that she avoided Nishuane pool because the “undesirable” people went there.

Being married to a black man, I don’t hear the racism in my bubble anymore. White people know they can’t speak freely with me. Living in my town, with many like people, I fell into the denial that it’s a utopia of diversity and acceptance.

And that, my friends, is what I’ve realized I’m most upset about. I’ve allowed myself to get complacent. I still knew there was racism and hate out there, but I didn’t realize that so many people, people I know, could support it.

It’s the people who think they aren’t racist because they aren’t KKK members and even have black friends. It’s the people who said they don’t condone Trump’s words and actions, but voted for him anyway.

I will not stop talking about what’s going on in our world. I will not stop talking and showing people the students chanting White Power and holding a Trump sign through their hallways. I will not stop showing the photos of swastikas being drawn or the KKK parade to cerebrate Trump’s victory being planned.

If you are one of the people saying you’re sick of all the political messages on FB or think we should “just move on,” then you may want to unfriend me now.

But I challenge you to stay and face what’s going on. I challenge you to own the hate that’s going on. Not because I hate you, but because I know that one of our biggest problems as a nation is the want to turn away from the hate.

We don’t want to talk about slavery, we don’t want to talk about Jim Crow laws, we don’t want to talk about racism or sexism. We want to say things are so much better today. We don’t want to call racism because we fear we’re being over sensitive. “Hey, look, we’ve voted in a black president, how racist could America be?” We want to pretend that our support of a Trump doesn’t tell our children we support hate.

So I will never normalize Trump. I will not allow myself to start thinking he’s not so bad if he backs off of some of the things he said he was going to do. Whether he builds a wall or not, he is a vile person. Whether he repeals obamacare or not, he has alt-right white nationalists in his circle. Whether he says civil protests are bad or then says they’re good, he is the same man.

I owe it to my daughters, my husband, my family, my friends to speak out against hate and inequality. And I will never allow myself to get complacent. I will not stop.

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What Makes Life Worth Living

Facebook “memories” is a pretty cool feature for those of us with less-than-perfect recall. And sometimes FB friends share posts that scroll onto your screen at the perfect time. With permission, I’m reposting this year old confession from a friend of whom I am perpetually in awe. Thank you, Rachel, for allowing me to share this story and the poem you paired with it.

12046811_1212076838807626_2888683741818525327_nThis morning, I came home crying and my eldest leaned on me and asked why. I held her on my lap and told her that on my drive home I was stopped at a stop light while a man with a sign saying “please help” walked down the line of cars. As he approached my car I looked down, but not fast enough to not make eye contact for a second. I had one of those despair-filled, “This life is too hard, I don’t know how to do it” moments.

Then, the man in the car next to me rolled down his window and held out some money. The man with the sign ran over to him, and the two men held hands out the window and talked until the light changed. The man with the sign went back to the side and didn’t stop waving at the man in the car until we were out of sight.

I cried watching them, and I cried all the way home because it was one of those moments that I’m pretty sure I’ll remember for the rest of my life and that will remind me that reaching out might not always make life less hard, but that it is what makes life worth living.

Posted in Memory, Parenthood, People are Good, random observation, Things I love, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Glad I Saw It: Back to School Night

Back-to-School Night is always a night of curiosity and perhaps a little anxiety for parents. Teachers, too. Looking around the classrooms and hallways, knowing what my kids are surrounded with all day is what I always like to pick out and notice. I like this hallway sign in particular. Let’s all try this for a few days, shall we?

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Can I Get a Witness? #BlackLivesMatter

MLK Black Lives MatterThose who know me, know I prefer amplifying other people’s actions and voices over my own. I just don’t like self-disclosure very much. But I just read this post from Luvvie Ajayi, and when I got to Be a witness, I remembered about Saturday morning. And I remembered the adrenalin and then the relief I felt. So, in the interest of encouraging more people to take an ACTIVE part in making our world better for ALL of us, I’m sharing this 15 minutes from last weekend.

Last Saturday morning, as I pulled into a Cedar Grove grocery store parking lot to buy vegetables and rice cakes, I saw the blue and red flashing lights of police cars at the parking lot entrance. The Black man in the front driver’s seat was calm. The police officers were calm. But I still chose a parking spot in the back, closer to the pulled over car.

For a second, I almost passed it by. My inner voice asked, “Who did I think I was? What kind of self-inflated hubris was driving my choice to Be A Witness to this more-than-likely-routine-but-maybe-not interaction?”

I hadn’t yet heard about Terence Crutcher’s murder in Tulsa. It was before the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Still, I felt a need to watch what turned out to be an arrest.

Sitting in my car, facing the interaction, I held my phone with the camera set to video and watched. And waited. I watched as the driver put his backpack into the trunk. I watched as he was handcuffed. All parties seemed amiable, if not friendly. Still, I watched as he was searched, pockets emptied, and helped into the back seat of one of the police SUVs. And I watched as one of the officers got into the Black man’s car and parked it carefully in the parking lot a few spaces away. The officer then locked the car, checked all four doors, and nodded to the man sitting, cuffed, in the backseat. Only after the Police SUV had pulled away, passenger and all, and driven off did I get out of the car and grab a shopping cart to continue on my suburban way.

Was watching the arrest a waste of time? Was my rushing through shopping to make it back in time to pick up my kid from art class worth it? No, and definitely yes. It wasn’t a waste of time because it kept me conscious. And, in this case, I was witness to an appropriate, respectful interaction between police and a Black man. It wasn’t a waste of time because we don’t always know that someone has our back, but it’s important that we all have someone else’s. It is worth it because acknowledging that Black Lives Matter is the first step to truly being able to claim that All Lives Matter. And I want that. I really, really want that.

It’s also important because I have an obligation in this society. Just like you do. And not being directly impacted by a particular injustice doesn’t excuse me from working to encourage and demand justice. Just like it doesn’t excuse you.

Here’s another chance to read Luvvie Ajayi’s post: Another Day, Another Hashtag. White People, You Gotta Get to Work NOW

And oh, yeah. If you’re still confused about the difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, read President Obama’s take, or maybe this gentle guide. Or if you like visuals, how about this nice cartoon?


Posted in Activism, People are Good, Suburban Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Glad I Saw It: Fairy Trail

Fragile Fairy House

Fragile. Let It Be.

The South Mountain Conservancy Fairy Trail is a lovely, fairly easy, loop of forested delight. Clever Fairy houses and swings and nap nooks are hidden (and not so hidden) along the way. Some are easy to find and others take a little bit of luck. We took our leashed dog, and we saw a couple of strollers. The strollers didn’t make it all the way around. More adventurous groups will go off the beaten path and find hidden delights — along with poison ivy and gorgeous, huge spider webs. Don’t disturb either!

We’re definitely going back, but next time we’ll bring bug spray.

For more information on the Fairy Trail and its origins, check out this Upworthy video! Find out more about the South Mountain Conservancy’s wonderful work here. See the location of the Locust Grove picnic area (where the Fairy Trail begins) here. If the lot at the entrance is full, parking is available across the street at the Millburn Public Library.

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Posted in Favorite Houses, Glad I Saw It, Parenthood, People are Good, Suburban Life, Things I love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment