Have a Nice Day


The recent killing of Rayshard Brooks has gotten me thinking about my first Criminal Procedure class, where I sat, shocked and agog, as I learned that it’s often perfectly legal for police officers to shoot fleeing suspects in the back.  When you look at the jurisprudence on the topic, you can take some comfort in the notion that courts have made some effort to create some limitations on the circumstances where shooting someone in the back is “allowed”. (Before Tennessee v. Garner, in 19-freakin’-85, there were virtually no circumstances under which a cop would not be allowed to shoot a fleeing suspect in the back.  Armed, unarmed, who cares…if they had the audacity to try to run, shoot ’em.)  But even with some limitations, the deck is still incredibly stacked against the idea that a police officer will be held accountable for shooting someone. Isn’t it time to shuffle and recut these cards?  

Separate and apart from the legal standards that give cops their license to kill, there’s something else that’s infuriating and heartbreaking about that officer shooting Mr. Brooks.  The empathy chasm that must have existed in those moments is just unfathomable.  How could those officers look in Mr. Brooks’s eyes and not understand the terror he must have been feeling?  As George Floyd’s name was on the lips of every person of conscience, how could they have not known in their bones that they needed to do everything humanly possible to make sure Mr. Brooks got out of that encounter alive?  And yes, good people, I know Mr. Brooks grabbed the taser.  Was that wise?  Nope. But was that understandable?  It absolutely was.  And those officers still had non-lethal options for responding to Mr. Brooks, and it is unconscionable that they didn’t use them.

The lack of empathy that resulted in the killing of Rayshard Brooks brought to mind another senseless death, that of Sandra BlandMalcolm Gladwell uses the story of Ms. Bland’s arrest (which resulted in her death while in police custody) as the introduction to his most recent book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know.  In his study of communication, Malcolm Gladwell explores how a simple traffic stop could have gone so badly wrong and resulted in a young life ended so senselessly and prematurely.

The thing that seemed clear in Ms. Bland’s situation is that when she was stopped, she asserted her rights, maybe a little stridently, (but she could, and that was her business), and the arresting officer was offended.  In this battle of wills, he was not going to lose, so he kept pushing.  And what should have been a warning, maybe a ticket, resulted in her getting hauled to jail, and in three days she was dead.  Why couldn’t he just empathize with her frustration and then just cut the encounter short?  If there must be a citation, why not write it quietly, hand it over gently, and then let her be on her way?

When I have been pulled over, my emotional reaction has inevitably been a ton of anxiety.  But by the power of white privilege (and white lady privilege at that), the officers I’ve encountered have been able to conjure enough empathy to read my behavior as anxiety and not something that was threatening to them.  But for Sandra Bland, for Rayshard Brooks, for Philando Castille, and so many others, it was apparently impossible for the officers who confronted them to even try to feel what they were feeling.  If they had, perhaps those encounters would have ended the way all of my encounters with the police have ended, with a friendly admonition to not go so fast, and a cordial wish to have a nice day.


Muslim Adjacent

I am seriously getting this button made

Like so many people here in the states, last Friday I woke up to the horrific news about the massacre in Christchurch.  Like the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 and at the Tree of Life Synagogue just last year, an atrocity like the one in New Zealand seems like such a low blow…shooting people while they are at worship, basically defenseless and seeking peace,  is an especially abhorrent kind of murder.

I’ve shed lots of tears over the many acts of senseless violence that have occurred in recent years.  I’ve tried to put some words together when another senseless massacre occurred back in 2011.  It always feels so hopeless.  But this time, it felt a little more personal.

Because, you see,  while I am not a Muslim, or a religious person of any sort, I am Muslim adjacent.  My sister converted to Islam more than 20 years ago, so my thoughts of course went to her, and her family.  I’ve seen glimpses of the bigotry she’s faced over the years, and it always pissed me off.  But naively, I never really feared for her safety until now.

My sister lives hundreds of miles away, so I wasn’t able to rush to her side last Friday.  So I channeled my anxiety and anger by reaching out to a local Imam to see how I could help.  I had some righteous notions about offering myself up as a human shield at the mosque, but the Imam graciously reminded me that the most helpful thing I could do is use my privilege as a nice white lady to fight Islamophobia how and where I find it.  And because I’ve got the benefit of actually knowing some Muslims, I’ve got some extra powerful weapons in this fight.

I have had the opportunity and the honor to understand a bit about my sister’s experience as a Muslim in America. And I sometimes say something that may be kind of stupid and sacrilegious, but it’s still kind of true…my sister, as a Muslim, is a better Christian than most Christians I know.  I say that because she is more Christ-like, more forgiving, more generous, more compassionate, more charitable than just about any other person I know.

And after my sister got married, I got a brother-in-law in the deal, and he’s a Muslim, too.  And *gasp* an immigrant! And he, like my sister, is an awesome, yet totally ordinary person.  They are part of a large and diverse Muslim community, and guess what?  Some people within that community are humble, and kind, and generous, and some people in that community are straight up assholes.  Sound familiar?  Sound like every kind of community that has existed since the beginning of human civilization?  That is not a coincidence since Muslims are, in fact, a part of human civilization.

The Imam I was talking with reminded me that in countries where Muslims are a tiny minority,  it’s easy for the hateful, fearful, ignorant stereotypes to take root because so many people have never met a real-life Muslim or seen the role that their faith plays in their lives.  I suppose my connection to my sister makes it a lot easier for me open my heart and mind and to reject any notion that Muslims are “other”.  How could my own sister ever be “other”?

So if I’m Muslim adjacent, you, gentle reader, can now consider yourself Muslim adjacent-adjacent.  If you’ve never met a Muslim, you know some wonderful Muslims through me.  And I suppose that’s a start.


Stay In The Messy Moment

It’s the day after Christmas, and here in our neck of the woods, it was a balmy day,  warmer than it has any business being this time of year.  We had an appointment in St. Louis early this morning, and our travels were taking us quite near the zoo.  Our calendars and the meteorological stars aligned to make this a practically perfect day to pet some goats, ogle some gorillas, and gawk at some giraffes.  We had a splendid day.

Throughout the day, I snapped a few pictures with my phone.  After each picture, my almost-six-year-old, who has grown up with the instant gratification of cell phone photography, chirped, “I wanna see it!”  And I chided him, “Stay in the moment!  We’ll look at the pictures later!”

I tried to meditate on this “stay in the moment” mantra when we got home and I had to confront the state of the house.  The last couple of days have been a near Bacchanalian blur of baking, shopping, wrapping, unwrapping, eating, drinking, and playing.  Consequently, it looks like a Christmas bomb went off in here.

The spent wrapping paper has been cleared out, but otherwise, we are living in post-Christmas squalor.  Not fully depicted is the full set of Legos spread out on floor on the far side of the coffee table and the cascade of needles on the floor which have been shed from our rapidly drying tree. 

But my kids don’t see the shrapnel.  They feel the joy and satisfaction of new Lego sets dumped out and constructed.  They don’t see the clutter; they’re reveling in a sense of magic and abundance (and some gratitude…with the exception of a small “Santa” gift each, they know their haul comes from mom and dad, and they know we work our asses off…but I digress.)

So this afternoon, other than sweeping up some pine needles and straightening the piles of stuff, I didn’t try too hard to restore order.   I’m not quite ready to put up one of those cutesy signs that says “please excuse this mess, my children are making memories”, but my kids have had a happy day, one which I hope they will remember.  While some people may be able to manage perpetual tidiness while making time to take their kids on super-fun field trips, I am not one of them.  We’ll be staying in this messy moment a little bit longer, and I am totally OK with that.

If you try to stay in the moment and don’t look at all your pictures right away, a few hours later,  Google Photo Assistant will work its magic and randomly reward you with a stylized picture of a penguin.


Memo received.

Et tu, C.K.?


So the latest crank of the news cycle has us confronting yet another ugly chronicle of sexual harassment and assault, this time by comedian, Louis C.K.  I can’t say I was really surprised, but this one bummed me out in particular.  I was not an early fan of his, but he grew on me.  Something about the way he delves the particularly cringey parts of the human experience made me a little nauseated, but there were nuggets of truth brought forth from the dry heaving.  And then I watched his show, Louie, which showed a bit more of his parental persona, and I thought, OK, this guy is not just dark and awkward, there’s tenderness and insight in there, too.

So with the news of the really inexcusably bad ways in which he has behaved, I feel not just disappointed and disgusted, I feel a little betrayed.  Because for a second there, I thought, even with all the darkness and the weirdness, there was some fundamental decency.  What made me think this was this bit:

After hearing this, I thought, thank God, there’s a guy out there with a microphone who gets it.  But what I mistook for wisdom and “wokeness” was, I suppose, just a confession of sorts.

And now Louis C.K. has issued a statement….another big *sigh*.  I try not to drag people who are making an effort to be accountable, but I think he gets something glaringly wrong.  He notes that he abused his power.  Yep.  But I’ll quibble with the suggestion that his power was derived from the admiration that the women that he exploited felt for him.  Maybe they admired him, maybe they thought he was a pig.  But whether or not he had their admiration, he had influence.  He’s a big deal in the world of comedy, so the pressure to go a long with these situations was unquestionable, and the undeniable consequence for sounding the alarm about him was career suicide.

Louis C.K. says he is going to be doing some listening now…and there’s still a lot he needs to hear and understand.  He’s made a career out of looking at some of the ugly sides of himself, so hopes springs eternal that with more listening and more reflection, he may have a more meaningful apology to offer.

And while it hurts to confront all the truly shitty stuff that has been happening to people who have been subjected to all the forms of discrimination, abuse, and violence that we are hearing about, I have to keep faith that sunlight is ultimately going to be the best disinfectant.

Disclaimer:  I think most of us would like a hug right about now.  But for the love of Pete, ask first.

We have to stare down this nonsense, we have to quantify it, and wrestle it to the ground.   This is a hard moment, but the challenge is to seize it and not look away.

In the words of Louis C.K. himself:

To me, it’s very exhilarating when somebody else does a great thing, and it’s not me.

Hope he’s prepared to be awed by the courage of all the people coming forward to take their power back.  It’s quite a sight to behold.


Yesterday, my oldest son turned 9.  Because the nerd apple fell perilously close to the nerd tree, he loves all things fantastic and mythological, including Harry Potter.  We went a little crazy with the Pinterest projects and the result was a pretty impressive Hogwartsian extravaganza which included wands made from chopsticks and hot glue, hand-stenciled goody-bags, and a Golden Snitch piñata made with my own special papier-mâché recipe, which is basically flour, glue, and tears of exhaustion.

Magic is real and it comes in the form of hot glue, fishing line, and decorative duct tape


When people commented that we seemed to go to a lot of trouble for this party, my response was a wistful and cliche,  “You only turn 9 once.”  As my sweet boy is rapidly morphing into a pre-teen, I’m getting a little panicky about how fast it’s all going.  I know it won’t belong before he’ll be too cool for a big, corny party.  So while he’ll let me, we’re going nuts with the decorations and the party games, because that feels like childhood, and I want childhood to last a little longer.

After the guests had left and my husband and I high-fived, I sat down for the first time in hours, my feet aching and my heart full.  I started looking through my social media and came across this blog post, and I had a little meltdown.  Maybe it was just the desperate fatigue which comes from painting dozens of paper towel tubes to resemble floating candles, but I just couldn’t stop the tears.  The author of the post wrote simply and meaningfully about reaching the milestone of her son’s 18th birthday, and I thought to myself, “Oh my God, we’re already halfway there.”  I can glimpse the dizzying pace of change that will come with everything that the next nine years will bring, and it nearly takes my breath away.

I hope I can be one of those gracious moms who gives her child roots and wings and all that crap, but if I’m being honest with myself, I think I’m going to struggle with letting go. But this is halftime, I suppose.  Time for me to take a breath and get a game plan figured out for next nine years.  Anyone got a playbook I can borrow?

This kid.  Srsly.

One Week

This time last week, I was making an attempt at serious poetry.  In doing so, I acknowledged that I hadn’t made the effort to write a proper poem in quite a long time, but stupid song parodies?  That’s right in my wheelhouse!  (Remind me to tell you about the parody of Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” I wrote about my boobs…that was a doozy.)

Anywho…in keeping with notion that you have to laugh or cry, I’m trying to laugh a little. As long as we’re lifting our voices, someway, somehow, it’s something.

With sincere apologies to Barenaked Ladies….

It’s been one week since you took the oath
Stood out in the rain
And acted crazy
Five days since you lost your mind
And that skinny blonde went nuts on Chuck Todd
Three days since the interview
When you lied through your teeth and no one believed you
Yesterday, you disgusted me
But it may still be four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”.

OMG, can you stop tweeting?
It bears repeating
That you’re still acting like an asshole
This is no longer a joke
But if we give you enough rope
You’ll hang yourself
When you try to run it up the flagpole

Melt like a snowflake when you’re lying
People start dying
When they can’t afford the M.D.
Facebook is now a war zone
It’s ‘cause of your tone
And all your promises are empty

Your tan is fake and you’re a snake
Your awful hair, it takes the cake
Srsly, what the hell is wrong with you?
Hey I don’t like Pence
But he’s not dense
The new White House is getting tense
Think there’s going to be a bloody coup?

How can I help it that I think that you’re in bed with Vlad?
Trying hard not to cry, though I feel sad
You’re the kind of guy who shouldn’t be president
Can’t understand what you say
Or what that tweet meant
I have a tendency to believe that climate change is real
I have a history of calling my reps

It’s been one week since you took the oath
Yelled out at the Mall like Mussolini
Six days since the women marched
They came out in force and it was no joke
It’s been five days since the morning shows
With alternative facts and who the hell knows
Yesterday, you disgusted me
And it may be less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”.

When you say “China”, your mouth looks funny
You won’t show your taxes, so where’s all your money?
Watching Rachel Maddow and not sleeping
There’s been some weeping
I wish that this was all a bad dream
Like Liam Neeson we’ve all been Taken
By all the fakin’
And now no A-listers will support you

Like East Berlin you want a big wall
Just can’t believe your gall
Someone’s gotta pay for it, and so, who?
Gonna call and write my senator
Gonna soon show you the door
So we can save the country from a crazy demagogue
Gotta march and shout and write
Protest, resist, and fight, and we will
See the lifting of the fog

How can I help it if I think that you’re in bed with Vlad?
Trying hard not to cry, though I feel sad
You’re the kind of guy who can’t be the president
Can’t understand what you say
Or what that tweet meant
I have a tendency to believe that climate change is real
I have a history of calling my reps

It’s been one week since you got sworn in
The crowd was small, but bigly to you
Four days since you dared to say
That millions of votes were cast the wrong way
Three days since you slammed the door
On the huddled masses, the tired and poor
Yesterday, you disgusted me
And it will be less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired.”

Less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”
Less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”
The scene in D.C. is looking quite dire…

Marching, Misogyny, & Messed Up Memes

I wasn’t able to attend any of the Women’s March events, but I watched in awe as images rolled in which reflected that it was an enormous, powerful, and peaceful demonstration. It’s one for the history books, to be sure.

Rather than celebrating this tremendous exercise of free speech and assembly, detractors have already been dismissive of the motivation for marching.  I suppose the argument goes something like this…Roe v. Wade hasn’t been overturned…yet.  The provisions of the ACA ensuring that women won’t get charged more for healthcare haven’t been repealed…yet.  Yeah, Donald Trump said some gross stuff about how fun and easy it is to sexually assault women, but that was just locker room talk.  He hasn’t sexually assaulted (most of) you, so why are you marching already?  Jeez, just give the guy a chance!

Mocking millions of women…let me know how the works out for you.

Here’s the thing…Donald Trump has telegraphed his attitudes toward women for a long time, and based on his track record of sexism and outright contempt of women, I think our collective concern is not premature.  And can I point out that it’s kinda sexist in and of itself to call for passivity and patience?  I suppose a “proper lady” might show the president a bit more respect.  But fuck that.  I’m not a proper lady, I’m a Nasty Woman.

And speaking of Nasty Women, here’s the other thing…The Women’s March also represents a response to a country that holds women in such low esteem that we elected Donald Trump, a man who is unfathomably unprepared, both in knowledge and in temperament, to be president rather than an elect a woman.  I know Hillary has her flaws, but I know in my bones that no male candidate has ever been subjected to such relentless scrutiny and false comparisons.  There should have been no comparison between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  That they ended up on the same ballot shows some pretty gnarly institutional sexism, and the Women’s March was about that, too, I think.  We know our female candidates will have to run “backwards and in heels,”  but damn it, do we have to trip them and stand on their necks, too?

So to everyone who marched today, Bravo.  Your courage and community were beautiful to behold.  And your timing was perfect.  When the stakes are this high, complacency is complicity.   Trump might ignore us, but history won’t.

Broken Heart Art

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything here.  With the blogosphere so congested with voices, I suppose I began to feel a little self-indulgent and silly about this whole enterprise.  But I interrupt this hiatus with something different:  A poem.  Yep, I wrote an honest-to-goodness poem.  (Please note that I am not claiming it to be a good poem, but it’s an honest poem.)  I think it has been about 20 years since I have attempted to write a serious poem (I’m told stupid limericks and crappy song parodies don’t count.)

But whatever it is that moves people to write poems recently moved me.  It’s cliché, but I suppose I just needed an outlet.  In her recent speech at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep quoted the dearly departed Carrie Fisher, and I suppose that stirred something.


I don’t paint, or draw, or sing.  I dance a little, but I’m rusty and probably lack the flexibility to really express myself in movement…though that might be fun embarrassing to try.  Given my scarcity of talents, words are pretty much all I’ve got to make art.  So here goes…


The year I first gave birth
Markets crashed, panic simmered
Then Hope
Like a buoy, marking the way in the storm
Something to cling to
The only thing that made sense

My franchise was festive
We willingly waited in line
To surrender our cynicism
To a gentleman and a scholar
With great taste in women

Let me be clear, he said
Too good to be true, I thought
But he did the impossible, imperfect work
Gracious and cool
His balance, always checked

It took eight years
For my baby to transfigure to beautiful boy
Eight years for smoldering fear to catch fire
Flames fanned by vainglorious thumbs
At five o’clock in the morning

My incredulous optimism
Gave no sanctuary to the possibility
It seemed a joke that went too far
A cruel prank, a disastrous dare
That broke our bleeding hearts

On a warm, but bitter January morning
Snowflakes sublimated in the heat of hate
Hope seems dim while storm clouds gather
But soon again, it will rain


I might cry a little bit today, but then, I may try to write some more.  If we all make some art out of this, then at least the world is going to be a richer and more beautiful place.

Stay strong, Snowflakes.

Grief, Gratitude, and Guardian Angels

I missed the memo about grief, gratitude, and guardian angels.

A few weeks ago, I used this little platform to spread the word and raise money for my friend, Dianne.  To anyone who took the time to read about Dianne and to say a little prayer for her, I thank you.  If you kicked in a few dollars to help her family in their time of need, I thank you.  It was absolutely amazing to see the outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike.  There are truly angels among us, I think. (More on that in a second.)

When I received the news that Dianne had died, I was getting ready to take my son to a birthday party.  It was one of those parties in the park, complete with bouncy house and popcorn machine.   As I sat there in a rented plastic folding chair, trying to make small talk with the other moms, I really just wanted to scream.  It was making me kind of crazy to experience the celebration of one life while I grieved the loss of another.  It was surreal and uncomfortable, and I just counted the minutes until I could go home and cry.

But then the Angels showed up.

No, not actual celestial beings, but pretty damn close.  You see, the mom of the birthday boy happened to be from Brazil, so they got the party going, Carnival-style.  When the party games were ramping up, Mom and her sisters strapped on these amazing angel wings and danced around a bit.  Now, I’ve been to a few birthday parties in my day, and I’ve seen a few special guests in attendance.  Clowns?  Yes.  Princesses?  Absolutely.  Super Heroes?  Sure.  But angels?  This was a first.

And yeah, some of the dads were cracking wise with the Victoria's Secret jokes.
There must be an angel playing with my heart.                         (Bonus points if you remember that song.)

I’m usually not big on signs and superstition, but as I watched these gorgeous angels flitting about the party, I thought to myself, “Thank you, Dianne.”  The rational part of my brain acknowledges this was a simple coincidence, but my heart was lighter, nonetheless.

In the days since Dianne’s death, I’ve been experiencing grief and gratitude as two sides of the same coin.  I catch myself thinking of Dianne during hard moments…when I’m cleaning up toddler vomit, or stuck in traffic, or in some interminable work meeting,  or scrubbing the toilet the 6-year-old boy uses.  I know being diagnosed with cancer didn’t immunize Dianne from the petty frustrations of life,  but I can’t help thinking how grateful Dianne would have been if she had regained the strength to care for her kids the way she had wanted to, or how thrilled she would have been to be well enough to drive herself anywhere, and how happy she would have been to return to the career she had worked so hard to pursue.

I still complain way too much about all the things I’m healthy and strong enough to do. But now Dianne, the guardian angel of my perspective, will always inhabit a little corner of my heart and head. And sometimes, she reminds me to transform my complaints about having to do something into celebrating being able to do something.

I wish more than anything that Dianne did not have to be the messenger, so I am grieving and grateful, and memo received.

Craigslist, Cancer, and The Miracle of Flight.

I  missed the memo about Craigslist, Cancer, and the Miracle of Flight

I first discovered Craigslist when my husband and I cluelessly moved from Virginia to Los Angeles back in 2001.  Through the magic of Craigslist, we’ve acquired jobs, cars, furniture, free haircuts, and lots of other weird and wonderful stuff.  So in 2007 when I was cluelessly pregnant with my first child, I ventured into the Craigslist Pregnancy Forum in the hopes of finding less clueless kindred spirits.

I’ll admit it…at first it was overwhelming.  There were hundreds of people posting messages and it was hard to keep up.  But gradually, folks within the greater forum found their tribes, and I found mine.  All these many years later, there’s a group of us that have stayed close and grown closer as our kids have grown up.  More kids have come and we’ve shared all the challenges that have come with growing families.   We live all over the country, but through the magic of social media, we stay connected just about every day.   I love these women, and count them among my most treasured friends.


And some folks might make the distinction between “internet friends” and “real friends”,  but we’ve transcended that, I think.  And these people do exist.   I even have proof!  It’s to the point that we plan vacations together, which we all look forward to more than Christmas.


One of these treasured friends, Dianne Burrell, has Stage IV cancer.  Her first diagnosis came soon after the birth of her second child.  Dianne is a nurse and became a great advocate for her own care.  She underwent extensive surgeries and chemotherapy, and there seemed to be hope for a good long-term outcome.  But last year, a recurrence of her cancer was diagnosed.  Despite a fairly grim prognosis, Dianne has battled ferociously through the horrendous side-effects of every treatment protocol that might buy her some time.  Because that’s all she wants…more time.

Before I had kids, I was pretty cavalier about my mortality.  But having kids is a game changer.  This shift was described so well by story teller Bobby Stoddard on this recent episode of The Moth.  If you have a minute, go listen to his story, Flight.  You will laugh and cry.  And when you cry, please think of Dianne.  Because for Dianne, the prospect of leaving her kids is no longer just a heart-stopping nightmare, it’s her heartbreaking reality.

Dianne and Family, Fall 2014.  Gorgeous photo by Laura Morita Photography

When we hear stories like stories like Dianne’s I think there are two typical reactions…the first is, “Thank God that’s not me.” And the second, is, “This makes me feel helpless…what can I do?”  Friends and readers, there is something you can do and I am begging you to do it.  There’s a GoFundMe page set up to help Dianne and her family with some of the crushing expenses that have come with her illness.  Sadly, there’s not much that money can do at this point to help Dianne medically, but it will alleviate some of her worries.  Whatever you are moved to contribute, please give.  And please share Dianne’s story far and wide.  Here’s the link again:  gofundme.com/oc3reg.  Thank you and memo received.