December 31st

2016 has been a dumpster fire of a year, or so the meme goes. It is a year that has been a bridge, certainly, between eras. The liberals are watching as a global authoritarian push for power occurs. How this all works out, only time will tell. But change is certainly brewing, coming in on the wind like an Alt-Right Mary Poppins.

In my personal life, however, this has been a hell of a good year. I hate to brag, but I also hate to let this year go out without singing a bit of praise for her kindness.

This year started with me waking up next to Adam. This year will end with me falling asleep next to Adam. There are no words for how lucky I am, and I wake up grateful every single day. This spring we got married. Just the two of us, our two witnesses, and our online-ordained-minister-friend. It was perfect. This year we have worked together to prepare for a young life, a shared hybrid human creation, to come join us. In just a few weeks we will meet them, this new part of our being.

Besides the huge blessings of Adam and our child, 2016 has been kind to me in many other ways.

  • I started the year working two beautiful jobs, both of which I adored. I was half time at the library, working a desk with primarily tween and teen patrons. I loved it. I also was (and am still) working half time as the Director of Religious Education at a Unitarian Universalist Church. Having the chance to spend my days working for causes I believed in was such a reinforcing way to use the sands of 2016.
  • Just days into the 2016 year I was able to go on a trip to visit my two distant sisters and their families. I was accompanied by my mother and my sister. There were moments on the trip that were not perfect, and that was complicated by my anxiety, but the trip was something I am so grateful I had the opportunity to experience.
  • I spent the first full year on this piece of land. From January seed orders to fall harvest, I saw this land sprout and turn green and grow and slowly go back to this, the dark and dormant time. The garden didn’t do nearly as well as I hoped, but it happened, and it will happen again next spring. It will happen every year. That is an amazing blessing, alone and by itself.
  • We installed a greenhouse, just a little 6 by 8 place to start seeds and let tomatoes get leggy. It is solid and warm and was rich and moist and damp and green all spring.
  • We welcomed spring with a peeping warm box of new chicks. Eight more laying hens, tiny Barred Rock babies, and two roosters. My first foray into a fully functional fertile flock. The babies, handfuls of fluff in March, are now laying and warm full sized chickens.
  • I was so lucky to spend a week during the summer running a camp teaching young kids about evolution. We looked at plaster casts of hominid skulls, learned about the way animals evolve over time, and generally spent a week laughing and being messy. I was especially lucky to have Adam spend the week working with me.
  • I sold my house in Springfield. As well as being a huge burden gone, this allowed me to use the birth center to welcome our coming child. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am to have this women-friendly birth-friendly facility in my life.
  • I left my job at the library, ready to embrace this new stage in my life. I never could have imagined being happy to leave the library. I loved that job and that organization. And yet, leaving is a gift as it means more time to devote to this coming child.
  • I had what started 2016 as a nice and sociable friendship become something much deeper and stronger. I am leaving 2016 with one more close friend to care about and be cared for by. That is a good feeling.  
  • Adam and I finished a remodel (with help from friends) that allowed us to convert an unused unfinished corner of our small home into a computer and book nook. This leaves the rest of the house screen-free, ready to welcome a small person.
  • We had a giant baby shower where many people came to share a moment of joy at our new baby. With four weeks (theoretically) to spare we are as prepared as one can be for our coming child. We have been so supported by all of our friends and family, and I am so grateful for this patchwork community that I am surrounded by.

I know that 2016 treated many of my friends like shit. And globally, we might be in trouble, folks. But I am so grateful to be where I am at this particular moment of time. Here’s hoping that 2017 treats you all beautifully.

December 30th

The details of war don’t usually capture my attention, but lately I keep clicking down the rabbit hole of military history. Perhaps war always feels this imminent now, perhaps this feeling of foreboding is a trick of the media, emotional slight of hand. It’s hard to tell if the sense that the pendulum is again shifting slowly towards war is coming is real or an illusion. Whatever it is, war and the troop stomping details seem relevant, and eerily symmetrical.

If history teaches us anything it is that each new brutality of our culture is an even rougher blunter bloodier photocopy of the brutality that came before.

On December 30th, 1813, British soldiers marched into Buffalo, New York, and burned all but one of the hundred and fifty homes and buildings to the ground. They had given the town only a few hours warning and most people were able to save only some of their most basic winter provisions. One woman had died, killed by an indigenous ally to the British as she tried to save dresses from a fire.

The math of over two hundred years leaves the sense that perhaps huge chunks of America may have forgotten how painful war can be. We have fought wars elsewhere, recently and over the last century, but those were primarily wars where we sent our men away to die. Our town remained standing for them to come home to. The most recent war where we had utter destruction in America is the Civil War, and somehow, that impacted our brains differently. That was about internal conflict, and we blame each other. We bicker about it still, our Confederate flags and “dumb Southerns” tropes wearing thin. Our wounds over it are the bruises of domestic violence, dark and hidden under our sleeves and something we don’t talk about in the polite company of the United Nations or NATO. With the Civil War, it wasn’t an outsider doing the damage.

Perhaps Buffalo, the War of 1812 as a whole, is one of the last times that America felt utter destruction on her own land as part of an orchestrated battle. We have managed, 9/11 and Pearl Harbor aside, to keep the bloody dirty mud of war on other shores. Maybe the 149 homes burnt in Buffalo were one of the last times that America had to know destruction separate from civil war or meddling hands.

Oh, but Buffalo, do not forget, was a response for Newark. Burned only two weeks before by the Canadians. It’s hard for our South Park consuming generation to imagine, but conceive of Canadians as the 1800s version of the Latin American death squads of the last fifty years. They didn’t burn Newark alone. They had a little birdie, the American general George McClure, whispering in their ear. The troops gave little warning, only a few hours, before torching Newark. They removed the old, the ill, and the infants from their homes and sat them in the snow to watch as their homes went up in flames. Reports are that many of them died there in the snow, unable to find their way to shelter.

The burning of Newark was not without permission from the American leadership, although the protocol for destroying Newark had required advance notice be given to the town and that special care be taken to avoid leaving the population homeless or destitute. General McClure and his Canadian volunteers had given the town no such notice, and the transgression, a clear violation of the standards of war at the time, set the stage for the burning of Buffalo and other brutalities.

And here we are. Our photocopies of photocopies of photocopies of brutalities gathering in stacks around us.

We are so angry that the Russians interfered in our elections. And we should be. We should be furious and we should be blushing radish red as we look at Latin America’s history at the polls.

We are so nervous that the Russians are potentially blustering up again, getting their little furry hats and leather boots out of their closets. And we should be. We should be looking at history, this back and forth, this tit for tat, and we should be getting really damn nervous.

Because when America suffers, we only have to go back one iteration to notice that it often is America that has upped the ante. America who has committed a new or more wicked atrocity. America who has engaged a more powerful weapon. America who has dropped a bigger bomb. And in recent years, America has been racking up some pretty serious karma.

December 29th

“As a member of the black male species living in the ghetto microcosm, circumstances dictated that I be either prey or predator. It didn’t require deep reflection to determine which of the two I preferred.” – Stanley “Tookie” Williams

Eight years studying psychology left me with one firm belief about human behavior. Any behavior can be understood if you zoom out far enough or go back long enough. Continue reading “December 29th”

December 28th

In the bottom of my browser window a small ad pops up. “Chicago Pays Millions but Punishes Few in Killings by Police.” I am on the New York Times website, reading an article about a young man killed by a police officer. The shooting happened in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami. The plot points are familiar to me, familiar to anyone who has been following the news the last few years. They speak to a shifting pulse of the people, a shifting awareness of police and civilian interactions. Continue reading “December 28th”

December 27th

In a birth class my partner and I attended earlier this month the teacher emphasized the importance of physical rest after pregnancy. The teacher explained, in graphic detail, the risk of uterine prolapse after the birth if a woman doesn’t refrain from work. The teacher outlined the importance of laying still and nursing your newborn on demand, so that milk supply is set high in the first weeks. The teacher warned us of the dangers of allowing an infant to “cry it out” by withholding physical and emotional warmth. Everything she was teaching was in accordance with current understanding of best practices, but everything she was teaching went against recent (and current) cultural norms. Continue reading “December 27th”