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no. matter. what.

I have three full-blood siblings. Each of those three siblings are soulful, compassionate people; together, they have been my lifeline for most of four decades.

My siblings all had one elementary school teacher who never taught me in a classroom. Far from condemning my single mother, as most adults around my siblings and I did, this teacher praised her: “Any one of your children is kinder and more compassionate than any other student I’ve ever had. That all three of them are like that tells me it’s not an accident, but a reflection of you.”

I was never his student, but he and I became friendly in the years after my siblings left his classroom. He went on to teach teachers. He told me he used me and my siblings as shining examples of what you can become when you care for other people.

(When I had a chance to help one of his people a few years ago, I leaped! How seldom do any of us have a chance to explicitly show kindness to the people who have saved us?!)

Sometimes, I talk to people and wonder how they have so little faith in the folks around them. “How do you believe people are innately assholes, and only ever pretend to be otherwise?” I ask myself, puzzling over this until something or another reminds me: They did not have my siblings!

As my mom lost herself to untreated mental illness, I had my siblings. As our mom died of cancer, I had my siblings. After she died and I argued heatedly about how we should dispose of her house, I had my siblings.

(I was so angry about how we disposed of Mom’s house, I signed the papers upside-down to reflect my protest. Still, I signed because I understood my siblings were more important than a house, and I apologized later when I really understood it.)

And so, I have walked through every day of my life knowing I have three people who will support me even when they want to whack me upside the head (which is probably often). I have three people who know, absolutely, that my heart is full of love, even when the things I do or say don’t necessarily reveal that.

Most people don’t have that.

That is a sadness I can’t even fathom.

‘Cause, see, I have always had these three people–Rachael, David, and Madeline–who have had my back, so I can’t imagine life without them.

2013 siblings small

then and now

Most people have never even had one-third of that. Read more…

Thunder Thighs Forever

February 10, 2017 Comments off

For more than three decades, I shared a birthday with my mom.

In October 2010, I faced my first birthday without her. Cancer had claimed her body in March 2010.

mom me n d

(but not before she met my Li’l D, the first of her many beautiful grandchildren)

Writing about her sometimes challenged me, especially early in this blog’s days. How could I show all her love, humor, compassion, and ferocity, while still being true to the hardships I endured both growing up and saying goodbye to her?

I got as close as I’ve ever gotten in my 2014 birthday letter to her, my blog’s most popular post by far, “Dear Mom.” In a single paragraph, I was able to sum up my experience of being her daughter better than I had before or have since:

You always begged me not to write about you. You thought I’d write about how you beat my siblings and me, how you yelled at us, how you could barely feed us and only kept us in a home by selling other people’s trash. I do write about these things, because they’re part of you. But they’re a small part, so enormously insignificant compared to your laughter, your love, your lessons in forgiveness, our birthday trips to Farrell’s and Pietro’s. I wish I’d written more about you in your life, so you could have seen how greatly your loving acts overshadowed your lost and tired ones. I wish I could’ve started writing sooner, or that you could’ve lived longer to see your love through my eyes.

I was a little nervous when I wrote about my mom in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor: Poverty, Predation, and Understanding Love.” I posted it on Progressive Army, a site with readers knowing nothing about my mom but what I wrote there. Since they didn’t know my mom, I worried they’d take away from the piece a unidimensional understanding of a woman enormously complex and vivid.

My mom was and remains my foremost superhero. While the word “superhero” is thrown around a lot these days, I mean this fairly literally. One of my favorite things about my mom was her superhero alter-ego, the uniquely malodorous Thunder Thighs. Read more…

Me, speaking instead of writing

I recorded a video a couple of nights ago. I wasn’t planning on linking it here, but I just listened to it and changed my mind. It reveals so much about where I’ve been, where I want to go, and why I want to go there.

It did originate with politics, so you might want to skip it. Basically, some folks expressed concern with my supporting Brand New Congress, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that could legally accept dark money. It’s so personal that sitting down and writing it out didn’t feel right. So … I recorded a (respectful!) video, and I’m glad I did.

Just be forewarned: my husband might work in show biz, but you’ll see none of that glitz watching the video here!

maslow

 

#IBelieveYou

Many times, I’ve explained how the Democrats lost me.

No times, until this week, did I explain how Bernie Sanders won me.

I committed here to writing about the love, ultimately pouring my heart into 1,500 words of “Bernie, Because I Was Poor.”

Writing about my love instead of my earlier rage felt joyous. Right.

Something unexpected and beautiful happened even after I posted. Someone tweeted three magic words that made me cry: I believe you.

For years, my slogan has been, “your belief is irrelevant.”

All the same, seeing those three words opened the floodgates for me. Those words of support weren’t only about me, but my mom, who spent her whole life yearning for people to believe and lift (instead of castigating) her.

I’ll include some more tweets behind a cut below. One was retweeted more than 80 times, which meant I saw the hashtag #IBelieveYou every few minutes throughout Saturday. Each time, I said quiet thanks.

In ways I’ll have to explain later, the piece only happened because I got out to vote for California delegates last weekend. Actually stepping out into my community and interacting with people here changed everything for me.

If you’re yearning to do something but don’t know what to do, you might consider attending an Our First Stand: Save Health Care rally tomorrow. People will gather across the U.S. to demonstrate our commitment to health care as a human right.

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By showing up, you have the power to help save lives … all while setting aside worrying in favor of acting, from love.

It may not be everything, but it’s a fine start.

More #IBelieveYou tweets below the cut

Read more…

Bernie, Because I Was Poor

The Iceberg

I’ve learned a lot recently, and learned much of it very quickly.

Unfortunately, this means my ability to understand the U.S. political landscape has far exceeded my ability to explain it. Fortunately, I started practicing a lot, so I’m better now than I was even a month ago.

My passion still exceeds my skill, but the gap between the two gets a little less cavernous every time I practice.

Never (yet) has the gap been clearer than when I expressed horror over what’s happening in Yemen.

Once I recognized my passion-skill gap there, I sat with it a while.

I spent a long time thinking about how to explain–sans antagonism–why I care so much about strangers in Yemen.

Finally, I found a way to explain with a better balance between passion and skill.

Please click the image below to read my second Progressive Army piece. For more context, you might also want to read this illuminating Bill Moyers piece.

I hope you’ll read, reflect, and share your thoughts with me.

Thank you.

image

No way we could let it happen

This is a picture of Yemeni children sleeping with their hands over their ears.

hands over ears.png

They’re trying to drown out the sounds of airstrikes, while simultaneously hoping they live through the night.

To many of my “I’m-no-foreign-policy-expert” friends in the U.S., it’s kinda sad and regrettable these kids must sleep with their hands over their ears.

For me, it’s a little different.

I grew up dirt poor.

I would have been one of those kids, covering my ears because I had no other choice.

Last week, I wrote:

‘Cause, let me be clear: If I’d been born in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Libya, my mom, my siblings, and I would have been among those bombed or starved to death thanks to Clinton. We’d have had no resources to escape, and no hope … save the tiniest sliver of hope that Americans might, before me and mine died, learn to see and join together to speak up in a way that reflected their acknowledgment that

our
lives
mattered.

The U.S.A. is currently bombing seven predominantly Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East. (I called it genocide before I read about United Nations representatives already using the word more than fifteen years ago.)

Affable, eloquent President Obama has expanded the campaign of terror built by George W. Bush. He’s done it with the consent of the people he leads, who–so far–have not bothered calling on him for change.

Like the predators who once preyed upon me and my siblings, those around me go, “He can’t be a bad guy! He’s so nice!

Nice is tactical, y’all. Nice is meant to win you.

It’s the magician making you look into his eyes while his hands do crafty things.

It’s thanks to President Obama and relatively affluent U.S. citizens that hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children are starving to death right now.

‘Cause, see, there’s lots of oil in the region. And Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally, which means we must help them at all costs–yes, even when that cost is in hundreds of thousands of human lives, and even when they routinely target civilians.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, took lots and lots of Saudi money into her family foundation while she was U.S. Secretary of State. She approved record arms sales to them, enabling them to obliterate the poorest of the poor in their quest for dominance. (“Oh, you stop that!” scolds the Obama administration without any real efforts to change anything. “That’s not very nice!”)

The elder Clintons needed lots of money to pay for their daughter’s wedding with Foundation funds, see.

Hillary Clinton was the most prominent “Democratic” advocate of the Iraq War. She advocated for it without having read the 90-page document that might have swayed her against it.

90 pages. Hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, all so she could show her American stripes.

Then, a few years ago, she said it was time to start thinking of Iraq as a “business opportunity.”

Kill more people, get more oil.

Neat.

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 6.56.37 PM.pngSo I’m trying to find the bright side. I’m trying to prepare myself to find people who’ll go, “Oh, shit, we’ve been endorsing that in Yemen?!” after election day.

But, holy shit. In the meantime, I’m stuck with people celebrating their votes for Hillary. Their votes for identity politics: “I’m voting for a woman, which means I must be doing the right thing, yeah!!!!!”

They celebrate their alleged vote for human rights with no concept whatsoever how the Clintons have devastated people at home and abroad for decades.

They’d just have to do two hours of research. Maybe three hours.

I look at that all and I feel hopeless.

Because I would be dead, if I were born in Yemen and my survival were left to such people.

I would be dead because they said, “Lady president! Yeah!” and didn’t bother digging one centimeter deeper.

And so comfortable 38-year-old me faces the uncomfortable dissonance of being relatively okay now, surrounded by people who are relatively okay now, and yet remembering what it was like to not be remotely okay before.

Knowing that hundreds of thousands of people are not-okay right now …

… because we Americans don’t, in the end, really see them as people.

If we did, there’s no way we could let it happen.

No way.

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