21st Century Woman, Intention

Pride

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A few days after my sixteenth birthday, I traveled down to see my older brother, Jesse, with my mom and grandmother. Stepping into his adult apartment felt like entering another dimension. Neither my little brother nor I had been allowed to spend much time there.

After years of knowing our brother’s teenage room so intimately—playing with his TI-computer, marveling at his massive Lego city, smelling his Colours cologne, and breathing in the garlic scent of his Pizza Hut apron—this place seemed otherworldly.

My mom and my grandmother shuffled awkwardly around the space. My brother scurried around the room nervously making small talk. It seemed they were all stalling, waiting for something to begin.

I’m not stingy with love, but I love my older brother best. With an 11-year age gap between us, there is no reason that we should be so close, and yet here we are. When I was very young, he became a surrogate parent, rocking me to sleep. In childhood, I had full advantage of his big imagination. As a teenager, he was the protective, insightful, older brother. Today, he is my friend.

With Jesse around, a simple swing set became the most expedient way to catapult oneself over a dangerous lava pit below. A dormant beehive became a scientific expedition. The tall, scary hill covered in snow suddenly became the most excellent sledding adventure.

When you are a kid and you have an older brother with a ‘75 Mustang, you will most certainly experience the joy of a reckless 55 miles an hour (!) drive down a rural back road.

In my childhood, I found my brother intensely curious and fearless. He still is.

We are so close that I was much older before I could fully comprehend that he was my half-brother or what that even meant. He was just Jesse, my Bub.

Sometime around age nine, we stopped seeing as much of my brother. When he did come home, his visits were short, and his hugs were awkward and stilted.

My little brother and I were wrecked by his absence. When he did visit, we wrapped ourselves around him—literally. We would crawl into his lap, hug him needlessly, endlessly. Even though we could see tension between him and my parents, we were undeterred in our mission for his full attention.

One day, after a particularly sharp comment from my mom, my brother snapped at us to get off of him. It was the first time we had ever heard an unfriendly word from him. We slunk away, astonished and hurt.

What followed were a series of years where it felt like Jesse wasn’t welcome at home anymore. My little brother and I were heartbroken and confused.

We often asked mom why Jesse didn’t come to visit anymore and she would tell us he had his own life to lead, that college was a lot of work. We must have asked so frequently that one day she snapped at us, “It’s because you hang on to him too much. He hates that.”

The next time my brother visited, we kept our distance, afraid that the love bursting from our little bodies would push him further away.

Sometime in my early adolescence, we went to visit Jesse in the town where he lived (Christiansburg, maybe?). He was happy to see us, but nervous too. He told us that today we were going to meet his roommate.

As we assembled at Macado’s (!), a tall, lanky guy walks up to join us.

“This is my friend, Keith,” Jesse said glowingly, proudly.

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Keith has an outsized presence in my memories. My brother loved him and so I loved him too. He had glasses, which was really all it took for me fall for him (see: Kellie Martin). Jesse’s roommate came to our birthday parties and was always there when we went to see our brother.

And then, one day, Jesse told us we wouldn’t be seeing Keith anymore. Like a child of divorce, we pleaded for answers. Had we done something wrong? How can we bring him back? I remember crying real tears at the loss.

Time passed and we met more a few more of Jesse’s friends, but by then I had learned not to give my heart away so easily.

As I passed into full teenager, we entered another period where we didn’t see as much of my brother.

My mom and I spent a fair amount of time on the road together, driving to Girl Scout events, and once in the quiet car on the way back home, she asked me an unusual question.

“Why do you think we don’t see as much of your brother anymore?”

“I don’t know. I figure he’s busy. And you and dad are not very nice to him.”

“What would you say if I told you that your brother was different? What if I told you he was…gay?”

“Is that why he doesn’t come to visit anymore?”

“I didn’t say that. I’m just asking how you would feel about him if that were true.”

I remember pausing to think. This seemed important. There seemed to be a right answer. I could tell this was hard for my mom.

“I would still love him just the same. He’s my brother.” I shrugged.

I wish I remember what my mom said after that. I only recall her trying to hide tears. Was she trying to tell me my brother was gay? Or was she testing out the concept of “gay” using someone I unconditionally loved? It didn’t matter—for me the answer was the same.

It’s a few days after my 16th birthday and we’re standing in my brother’s apartment.

After some awkwardness, my brother tells me to come sit at a spot in the center of the room. My grandma, my mom, and my brother surround me like an intervention.

I start to feel nervous, so my brother knowingly reaches out and puts my hands in his to steady us both. He clears his throat, and then:

Sis, there is something I want to tell you.

I’m gay.

Do you understand what that means?

I nod.

Mom and dad asked that I wait until your sixteenth birthday to tell you, to make sure you were old enough to understand.

I want you to know that I’ve been careful. I’m HIV negative.

His voice cracked.

I hope you know this doesn’t change anything between us. I’m still your brother. I love you very much, and I will always be here for you. Okay?

There is a long pause.

Is that all?

Yes. That’s all.

Okay, well…I knew that already. And I love you too. Always. Now, let’s go eat.

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I didn’t know then, but it was a big deal. My brother had a long, hard road of coming out to my parents. There was a period of time where he wasn’t welcome, where he had been distanced…nearly disowned.

Through those years, we all turned inward. My brother, struggling to come to terms with an identity he had been told was wrong, dangerous. My mother, trying to understand what it means for her relationship with her son. My dad, fighting long held beliefs about right and wrong. My little brother and I, just longing for our Bub.

In a different time and place, we would have shared these feelings with each other. Leaned on the family unit for support and understanding.

But I didn’t grow up in that time or that place.

It would be another decade before anyone in our family dared to stop referring to his boyfriends as “roommates.” Some of my extended family has still refused to acknowledge this fact about my brother. We’re still working on getting my dad not to refer to my brother’s interests as “that gay stuff.”

I would keep the promise to my parents and wait another year and a half for my older brother to come out…again…this time, to my little brother.

After it was over, the adults breathed a sigh of relief and my little brother walked over to me standing in the kitchen.

“So that’s it?” he asked.

“Yup.”

“Huh. I mean, he’s still my brother. I still love him.”

“Obviously.”

It was a weird secret to have kept, mostly because it seemed so benign to us. The telltale signs had been there all along for anyone who cared to look. My brother’s inner battle had manifested itself in the form of complicated mixtapes: Bette Midler and Dolly Parton, next to Amy Grant and Steven Curtis Chapman, with the occasional Madonna, for good measure.

I know that Pride month it not meant for me. It is for the millions of men and women who are brave enough to be their truest selves in the face of a small-minded world.

And yet, here I am. I feel immense pride to be my brother’s sister.

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Intention

A Few Words About Granny

Ashley and Granny

My Granny was a godly woman, and a kind one too. People often said, “Ann will give you the shirt off her back and then some.” She was the kind of woman who checked in on people.

She had four kids. She never learned to drive. She attended church every Sunday until she couldn’t anymore. Like my dad, she had a degenerative eye disease that would take her vision early in her life and leave her mostly homebound, although I don’t think she minded the smallness of her life. I asked her once if she had ever traveled anywhere, but she said all she could remember was Baltimore. She grew up and lived and worked in the same town and that world was big enough for her.

Her radio became her lifeline. She was a devoted listener of J. Vernon McGee, a Presbyterian minister who died in 1988, but whose “Thru the Bible” radio series is still broadcast to this day. As we ran through the woods near her house, she would stand by the kitchen window and sing gospel songs. She had a terrible, warbling voice, but God didn’t seem to mind at all.

She was rail thin herself, but she was constantly offering others food and drinks. “Ashley, there’s a cold Coke-Cola in there, get yourself one. How about I make you a tomato sammich?” She loved chicken fingers, ice cream sandwiches, black coffee too.

When she could still see, she was prolific at crocheting. After seeing me hold tight to a baby doll as a kid, she made a child-sized hat and a swaddling blanket. I was always dazzled by how fast she swung the crochet hook through the yarn, so one summer I asked her to teach me how to make something. I made endless strings of loose loops amounting to nothing, but we spent hours like that on her porch, making loops together.

When I was a kid—too old for a babysitter and too young to stay home alone—my mom would drop me and my brother off at Granny’s house during the summer. Her house smelled funny the way houses sometimes do when there is only one person to rattle around in them alone. Besides her beloved radio, she had an old console television (but no cable), and so me, my brother, and my cousin would take take turns walking over to the TV to change the channel. I learned to love Plinko.

I remember one summer day that seemed hotter than any I could remember—the kind where the heat rises from the pavement in waves. My cousin and I decided that on a day like today we could make a killing with a lemonade stand. The problem? We didn’t have any money or lemonade.

Granny got wind of our idea and gave us $2 and permission to walk the half mile Taylor’s to get 4 packets of Kool-aid and some sugar. Sensing the entrepreneurial gleam in our eyes, her only condition was that we agree to price our beverage fairly. Back at the house, we carefully prepared our mixture practically high on the potential of our newfound business.

We gave Granny the first glass and she declared it the best lemonade she’d ever had.

Assured of our business savvy, we packed up our handmade sign, our chairs and our thermos and headed over to a busier street. Within minutes, our small town neighbors began pulling over for a refreshment from our fine establishment. They took a first sip of their purchase, thanked us, then politely returned to their cars to no doubt dump the rest out the window a few miles down the road. Our hot, grainy lemonade was terrible.

We returned to Granny’s late in the afternoon, sunburned and wild from the cups of sugary Kool-aid we had poured for ourselves. She asked us about our business, who had stopped by, how much we had charged, and then made us promise to take a cup to each of the neighbors next door, for free.

Then, she told us she was proud of us, really proud of us, and to go get the sammichs and cold Coke-Colas waiting for us in the fridge.

There is no reason in the world that Granny and I would be such friends, we had nothing in common. Unconditional love is like that though.

When I was a kid, I think she sensed I was somehow different. If she had lived her whole life in this small town, it was as if my entire soul would burst at the seams to get out of it. She was a true believer, and although she surely knew of my own hesitations around organized religion, she offered no judgement. We shared a common desire for independence and the general belief that people are good.

In college, I used my precious phone cards to call and check on her, I sent her cards I knew she couldn’t read. I often laughed at how absurd I must look, screaming loudly into a cell phone so she could hear me. I’d ask her questions about working in the stocking factory, whether my dad was named after Marvin the Martian (he wasn’t), and what it was like to live through World War II. At Christmas, while everyone else was opening presents, I’d go sit beside her and squeeze her hand.

My Grandpa died when I was 7 and his death had a harrowing affect on me. I would swear to my parents I could see his ghost, I could feel him chasing me up the stairs. During those years, I was terrified to visit my Granny’s house. As I pushed through my own messed-up kid grief, she was working through grief of her own. We never spoke about my fears or her grief. When I was older and unafraid, I would ask her questions about him and sometimes I think she felt relieved to say his name out loud. She carried him with her every single day as if he were still there, but, mostly, she mourned the death of my grandfather quietly. After his death, she moved to the smaller bedroom and never slept in their shared bed again. Sometimes she prayed out loud when she thought no one was around; I could overhear her tell the Lord she was “ready to be with Charlie.”

In her later years as she sat miserably in a nursing home bed, I agonized over her treatment, and I’d be quick to let my dad and aunts know if I felt like her latest caretaker wasn’t treating her well enough. Some nurse had misplaced her dentures, so she gnashed at her food and nearly choked trying to swallow it. Eventually her hearing aids went missing too. She was alone, unable to see, unable to hear anyone at all. As the nicest woman I ever knew, she deserved more. The last time I saw her I rubbed her hands with a floral lotion and covered her in a soft blanket hoping that any these things could bring her comfort.

When we left her behind, I cried angrily. I begged my parents to find another placement for her. I made David promise he’d never let me live like that. I swore I’d never let my parents live like that. I prayed for death so that she might be at ease. Her passing makes me wonder if there is someone listening to us after all.

Ah, Granny, you’re a smart one.

My Granny was 93 when she passed away. She had lived a good, long life, although if you asked her, too long. One of the many women who influenced me, she taught me about kindness, the goodness of loving our neighbors, the beauty found in a simple life. And now, in her absence, she will teach me about grief.

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Intention, What I'm Reading

Today We Awoke to a New World

Since I saw yesterday’s press conference, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. To follow yesterday’s events with this statement—I am in horror. Somewhere there is a person who saw that press conference and took those words to be true. Somewhere there is a person who will believe that the press are making up and distributing false information. With terrifying ease, this administration has likely struck doubt into the hearts of some individuals. A year ago, gaslighting was a Hollywood prop, today it is deployed by our President.

If you know me even a little, you know that news and reporting is a subject very close to my heart. I consider the fourth and fifth estates to be one of the greatest privileges afforded to us by our democracy. Therefore, I don’t take yesterday’s stunt lightly—a representative of the highest office in our land publicly lied to the American people. It is now the mantle of the press to report on these inaccuracies with vigor, and the right of the public to demand retraction.

As I sit in my little corner of the world, ruminating on my promise to take action at yesterday’s march, I am fretting about what I can do in this moment. Without truth, without facts, who are we?

Finding Credible News Sources

I look to four primary sources for my news: National Public Radio, The Washington Post, PBS and The New York Times. They are not perfect, but I find that these outlets have done the hard work of examining their own blindspots and are constantly working to adjust for them. They have wide access to a variety of reporters, researchers and opinions and they deploy them wisely.

Access to National Public Radio is free and accessible from any device. You can stream the news anytime on their website, or download the NPR One app to your mobile device for a personalized playlist. If you have an Apple TV, you can listen to NPR on the Music app. Or, if you still own one, just turn your radio to the low end of the dial. Once in awhile, I change up the local station that appears at the top of my NPR page, just so I can hear what they’re reporting on in different communities.

PBS has erected paywalls for some of its most popular content, but you can still stream (for free) one of the most thoughtful, and quite frankly neutral, evening news reports in the form of PBS NewsHour. PBS is also still available, even to cordcutters, on any television with a receiver.

If you have a .mil, .gov, or .edu email address, you can access The Washington Post for free. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can access the digital edition for six months, for free. After that, it’s $9.99 per month. If you’ve cut cable already, take $10 of those monthly savings and put it into a subscription.

The New York Times, for me, remains the standard-bearer for excellence in news and reporting. David and I have had a digital subscription to the Times for years now, and should we find ourselves in a more austere position, I suspect it would be the last of our luxuries to go. We depend on it for more than just news; our Times subscription provides access to conversations about business, technology, art and cooking (and the mini-crossword too).

It would be easy for someone to look at my primary sources and suggest that I only subscribe to elite media, but the truth is I have a very high standard for what I include in my streams. The sources I look to must be smartly written, fact-based journalism. If you have suggestions for others I should consider, I welcome them.

Going Beyond Local

It is a privilege to have my local newspaper be The Washington Post, but even so, I’ve worked hard to introduce both global and regional information to my media streams. On social media, I follow The Martinsville Bulletin, the newspaper where my parents live, and I recently subscribed to “Happening at Home,” a newsletter from Roanoke Times writer Tiffany Stevens, that collects and shares local journalism from across the country. As we wring our hands over American politics, it has been a gift to find the BBC World News Radio Service, which serves as a reminder that the world is far greater than us alone. I’m also tuning in to ProPublica, which just established a new cohort of beat reports to dig in on specific issues for the long-haul.

Media Criticism and Research

There is not a day, particularly in these tumultuous times, when I don’t miss David Carr. Carr was a prominent media critic who looked closely at the ways the press reports on issues and offered thoughts (and often tough love) on how they could do it better. No one has quite replaced Carr, but Nieman Lab and Poynter Institute have done good work in his stead. I also like what I see from media critic Jay Rosen, and Elizabeth Jensen, the NPR ombudsmen. I’m excited about the work of Melody Kramer, a media jack-of-all-trades, who prefers to work in and with the public to imagine better mechanisms for reporting. Most days I can take or leave Margaret Sullivan, the media critic at Washington Post, but occasionally her bombastic headlines are a salve for the rage burning in my chest.

One of my biggest personal blindspots is research. By the time that a fact has been stretched and pulled by both a writer and editor, it is inherently imbued with an editorial slant (Aside: I recently stopped watching CBS’s morning news after more than 3 decades because the hosts found reason to comment on every story). I’ve been looking for more ways to introduce research into my media diet, and welcome your ideas.

An Offer, and Some Thoughts on Access and Privilege

I recognize it is indeed privilege that allows me to have enough disposable income to subscribe to or support journalistic endeavors. Even the best and most intellectually filling content will not be enough to sustain those in homes where hungry stomachs and electricity bills are the greater concern.

And yet—everyone deserves access to truth. If you have internet access—whether at home, on your phone, or at the local library—then you can have ownership over your own media diet. While some of these sources have paywalls or subscriptions, you can still follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to see headlines and the best photo- and video- journalism anywhere. Each of them also have reporters who have opened their personal and professional social feeds to provide greater access to the public. During major events, including both the 2016 election and Friday’s inauguration, several took down their paywalls completely.

Even so, I want to take this opportunity to help someone genuinely interested in greater access to national news who may not have it. Our New York Times membership comes with a free one-year subscription to give away. I will also happily sponsor 2-3 others, who cannot afford access on their own, with a year-long subscription to The New York Times or Washington Post.

If that’s you, or someone you know, contact me and I’ll help set you up. It’s a small thing, but if it’s the only thing I can do right now to ensure greater reach of fact-based reporting, let it be so.

Onward

I feel like I’m beginning a chapter in Fahrenheit 451 when I say to you: be vigilant. As the surreal headlines become de rigueur, we will quickly approach a time of outrage fatigue. We have entered a new universe where facts are up for debate. It will be easy to spend hours watching Netflix, to tune out completely, but I implore you friends, stay vigilant. Find healthy ways to care for your mind and body, turn off social media once in awhile, hug your family, have dinner with your friends, but remain vigilant.

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Intention

A Note on Holiday Cards

Each winter, I take care to write and send thoughtful messages to the people who have offered me their friendship throughout the year. It is an opportunity to reflect, with gratitude, and to send goodwill and cheer, hallmarks of the season that are so desperately in short supply right now. And in return, I’m fortunate enough to receive at least a few holiday cards with messages that give glow to my day.

Not everyone feels this way about holiday cards, I suspect; people are busy and maybe they’re just a thing to check off a list of “stuff adults do.” Or, perhaps you feel Pinterest-level pressure to present that perfect photo of your family where everyone is looking at the camera at the same time.

Kudos on achieving that, by the way.

No, this is not about time-shaming people, this is about intention. Choosing to send a photo card mailed directly from the printer without even the briefest personal message of any kind—a full 90% of the cards I’ve received this year—is deeply impersonal. They do not, for me anyway, convey the warmth that was likely intended. So, next year, let me save you at least one stamped envelope, friends.

Instead, send me videos of your kid being crazy. Send me Christmas morning texts when you find yourself feeling gratitude for loved ones. I’ll look forward to hearing about your year some other time, over drinks or coffee, where we can dig in on stories or have a laugh about how crazy 2016 was.

And for those folks who enjoy handwritten holiday cards (but may not already be on my list) it would be my great joy to send you some holiday cheer via mail. Please feel free to reach out with your address and I’ll put something in the post for you soon.

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Intention

Pivot

Holiday Wreath

1.

Around Thanksgiving, no less than three friends announced they were expecting. I felt total joy.  It means 3 times over that I get to be the cool urban auntie. 3 times over I get to pick out books that I hope their kids will treasure. 3 times over I can be a source of support during the inevitable exhaustion that follows.

As more of these sweet announcements come, the more I realize the path of these friends is not the same as one I’ve chosen for myself. Until now, our lives have largely shared similar orbits. Soon, our days will look begin to different from one other. I’m eager for us both as we each enter this uncharted territory.

2.

32 has been about defining traditions for myself. To know what I truly enjoy and to move towards those things with intention.

That has manifested itself in different ways. For one, I discovered I love tall, fat coffee mugs, so I got rid of the short, squat ones. I like the thrill of spicy foods. I hate flying. Sweaters are comfort cocoons; I buy them with vigor. I covet well-written letters, well-written paragraphs, well-written sentences. Lavender everything, all the time. The smell of a new book. The rising curtain on a performance. The joy of sharing a quiet day with a fellow introvert. I’ve made a decision to no longer wear uncomfortable shoes. I want to be known at my local coffeeshop, library, and deli. I crave urban family. I loving sitting in movie theaters and crying or laughing with strangers. Professional success matters to me, deeply. I believe apathy is the greatest sin. I have a supernatural ability to hold grudges. I will never finish Infinite Jest.

I am coming to terms with these things I learn about myself. I seek out the things I want more. I find ways to move away from the things that no longer bring me joy. Now, when good things happen it is as satisfying as a lego block clicking into place.

3.

I’ve begun to examine our holiday traditions with this same intention. Our Christmas tree, for example, is a hodgepodge of our favorite childhood ornaments. We lovingly remove them from their boxes and hang them gently on the tree, but it is as if our memories stopped 15 years ago, when we received the last ones. There are no recent ornaments to laugh over or reminisce, none that were selected to affirm memories we have created as adults.

We typically spend most of our holidays driving hours to see our families. We arrive tired, wary of local politics, strangers in our hometowns. We are happy to see our loved ones, warmed to know that they continue to grow and lead healthy lives, but meanwhile, we crave something different. A day spent in service. A morning that opens with coffee and quiet. A walk around our neighborhood. A good meal at our own table, with foods that reflect who we are today.

It’s not easy to break traditions, but people do, and for good reasons. And then they make new ones and they cherish them as well.

4.

Faraway friends came to visit recently.

Before they arrived, I cleaned our apartment, and when I was done, I surveyed its territory. I sat for a moment with my own insecurity that I will never pay for things that could make my home look like the ones in the magazines (I no longer deny my tendency to agonize over purchases until I talk myself out of them; this is why the tired rug remains, why the old Ikea bookcase lives to tell another tale).

I mourned, briefly, my total lack of aesthetic cool, and then I shrugged. My home is clean. There is good food in the kitchen. We sleep soundly here. That’s all I can ask of it and of myself.

We had a great time with our friends. I felt immense pleasure in hosting them here. Sometime before dinner, they casually offered their appreciation for this space we have carved out. It is warm and lived in, they said. The artwork on the walls is lovingly curated. They felt our home conveyed everything they knew to be true about us.

I laughed and was glad.

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Intention

The Least I Can Do

I wrote a thing here and deleted it because I’m tired and angry and sad and the world has enough of those feelings to go around right now. So instead, tonight, I give you a few things that I hope can bring you some momentary relief until we wake up and do it all again tomorrow. 

Ten Letters for the President

President Obama at White House


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

To regular listeners, 99% Invisible is a podcast mostly about design, so sure, the episode “Ten Letters for the President” is design-adjacent. At its heart, though, is a story about the intentionality and consideration of the man who has led our country for the past 8 years, and one small, but important, daily gesture.

Formation (Election Anxiety/America Is Over Edit)

beyonce-formation

This remix of Beyonce’s Formation. That marching band beat will wake you the hell up.

A Man Called Ove

A well-received book has been turned into an outstanding film. Revel in the minimalism. Enjoy the Ikea-style furniture. Be grateful that the Swedish subtitles give you a few minutes to escape how utterly American you feel right now. You will emerge from the theater lighter.

The Sorting Hat

Sorting Hat

This episode of Imagine Worlds discusses why J.K. Rowling’s sorting hat was such a profound literary invention for millenials everywhere. And for the record, Hermione never belonged in Griffyndor.

Cranberry Curd Tart

Cranberry Curd Tart from New York Times

Cranberry Curd Tart from The New York Times

My heart is not in Thanksgiving this year, so I’ve decided to put my energies into a few small things I can offer to the family table. Last winter, I saw this lovely cranberry tart in The New York Times and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve bided my time long enough.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tweets

It’s fair to say I’ve achieved fan-girl status just three times: When it was revealed Casper the Friendly Ghost was actually Devon Sawa. At the release of James Cameron’s Titantic (which I saw in theaters 5 times). And finally, when I was witness to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic Hamilton on Broadway. I like to think that since the third occurred well into my adulthood, my obsession is decidedly well-reasoned. Go follow Lin-Manuel Miranda (and Yayfrens Bot) and Twitter suddenly becomes a more civilized place.

I’m afraid this is all I can offer to you right now friends. That, and a promise that I will be there if you need to talk. I will welcome you with a hug and a warm bowl of pasta. Let me be your neighbor.

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Intention

Snow Day

A photo posted by TIME Magazine (@time) on

 

Dear ones, I’m trapped under a mountain of snow. Well, not a trapped, per se. And not exactly a mountain (more a hill). All the same, there is copious snow outside my window and it feels exciting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way snow days have changed since I was a kid. For starters, we can’t seem to accept that the universe has asked us to put the breaks on for just one goddamn minute. We don’t go to the office, but we work from home, and we expect the shelves at the local market to not only be open to us, but fully stocked, even though we all know we’re going to trudge to the nearest restaurant at the first opportunity (which we also expect to be open, by the way).

And what we do with all of our time? We watch television and we eat like it’s the end of the world. And how we do we feel after? Are we restored?

This isn’t judgement. I did all of these things and more today. Still, I was thinking about the snow days of my childhood–they were spent tromping in the snow, and building snowpeople, and sledding down a hill so scary and marvelous that I still get chills thinking about it. And if the power went out, we pulled out the sofa bed in the living room and huddled together under the blankets, and built forts, and made snow cream with the milk before it was spoiled.

It was a glorious adventure. Snow days were epic.

Let’s have more of that.

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21st Century Woman, Intention

The (Gun Control) Problem

This is one of the things I’m afraid of.  The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away.  But what will follow?  Just this apathy, this dead flatness?  Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal?  Does grief finally subside into boredom tinged by faint nausea? – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I’ve heard it said that Hemingway (and many other writers, for that matter), sat down, without fail, to write every single day. Most weeks, it feels like a lot to just sit down on Sunday and offer something to this blog.

Last weekend, I simply couldn’t. I had watched something horrific unfold, and it shook me to my depths. I walked through that day, that week, in a haze. On Sunday, I thought that I should write something, but I sat in front of my computer and just felt sadness and fear and rage.

I woke up every day that week, trying to understand how I should feel next and what I should do. Some part of me thought I should quiet my reaction—time has taught me to see reactionaries as ignorant, uncouth, ridiculous. Other moments, I chastised myself for not being reactionary enough. Where was the petition I could sign? The think-piece I could hold up as some articulate declaration for change? No matter how many I read, I was not soothed, they did not correctly confirm my rage.

And so I was left to sit with myself.

I turned off the TV.

I closed my Twitter feed.

I seethed.

Then I mourned.

Then I realized this tiny piece of me would not be quieted. Ever.

I don’t have the answer to what happens next. There are motivated people and organizations who have been chipping away at this problem for a long time. For now, I’m just trying to find my own way to chip away at the problem too.

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Intention

#BaeDay

This year, I skipped any notions of a traditional birthday party and opted for an adventure instead. A tour of my beloved city, a bucket list of epic proportions. It had the most fun I can remember in ages. We called it my #BaeDay.

7:30 AM: We fuel up at The Wydown

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9:00 AM: We are tourists in our hometown

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9:45 AM: I cry at the WWII memorial

Our guide tells us about Kilroy Was Here and shares the one hidden at the otherwise somber memorial. She tells us about the two wreaths laid on every state in the memorial—one oat and one wheat—to represent our agricultural and industrial might. We learn that when you see water at war memorials, it is meant to simulate the deafening and chaotic sounds of war. Once you know this, you cannot hear anything else.

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10:30 AM: We find Albert

“Joy and amazement at the beauty and grandeur of this world of which man can just form a faint notion …” We cut away from the tour to find Albert Einstein at the National Academic of Sciences.

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11:30 AM: I meet Eleanor.

How do we take for granted that we had such a BAMF so close to the White House? This statue of Eleanor Roosevelt is the only one in the entire city that features a First Lady.

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12:00 PM: I meet the man, the myth, the legend

I’ve always loved the story behind the creation of the Jefferson Monument—that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt nudged Franklin, a long-time admirer of Jefferson, to erect a memorial in his honor. The White House has a direct view of the Jefferson Memorial and is said to serve as inspiration to each sitting president.

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12:30 PM: We walk the Tidal Basin

I’ve seen the cherry blossoms many times, but had never quite found my way across the tidal basin to the statues and monuments on the other side. We grabbed bikes and made our way to Ohio Drive.

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1:00 PM: We dine.

As the oldest operating fish marketing in the United States, you will likely smell the Maine Avenue Fish Market before you see it. Most of the stalls boast freshly caught fish, crabs and shrimp, just two stalls have cooked food. We opted to try the fried catfish and crab cakes (served on white bread, of course).

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 2:00 PM: We try to meet Lady T.

I had heard for years how breathtaking it was so see the T-Rex at the Smithsonian Museum of National History, so I was pretty disappointed to learn that this popular lady was on tour. We opted to visit her miniature replica instead, wriggling past tiny humans and finding ourselves suddenly grateful to have a good 3 feet over most of the other guests.

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2:30 PM: We discover David is the Butterfly Whisperer

I’m pretty sure that David would have loved to opt-out of this improptu #BaeDay request, but there are no free passes on this ride. We wait 20 minutes to get into the butterfly exhibit, a sweltering greenhouse featuring every native butterfly imaginable. They seem to flock to David, because every time I turn around he has one on his head, his shirt, and even one that stealthily made its way into his backpack and followed us out of the museum! Don’t worry, we made sure it got back safely.

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3:30 PM: We drink

I’d heard tales about the glorious view at the W. Hotel, so, despite our tourist garb and general sweatiness, we make our way to the top for a drink.

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4:30 PM: We nap.

 

5:30 PM: We eat.

I hadn’t exactly been saving Lupo Verde for a special occasion, it just so happened that every time we tried to eat there, our plans were canceled for some reason or other. I added it to my list, imagining pasta for days. We started with a charcuterie platter, along with a number of cheeses, and also a watermelon and tomato salad. They were delightful—the perfect summer dishes. We then ordered pasta dishes and all put rubbed our hands together in anticipation. To say that what arrived was disappointing would be an understatement. David’s tagliatelle was small, but flavorful; he finished it in a few bites. My pasta dish—a simple one with pasta and cheese—arrived like day-old, gelatinous leftovers. I literally lifted the whole mound of pasta off the plate with only my fork. I tried to eat it friends, I did, but no amount of red pepper flakes was going to do it. I asked the waiter for the menu so I could reorder and felt completely shamed. It’s supposed to be a simple dish, he implored. Yes, I said, but it’s also supposed to have a flavor. The second dish wasn’t much better, honestly. Equally bland and uninspired. We opted to move on to dessert and what came out was the most luxurious tiramisu I’ve ever enjoyed. Sounds like we’ll be back for dessert and drinks.

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8:30 PM: We clap.

I’m not sure many people know that I was briefly a DJ at a college radio station. Jazz was my rotation. Our final stop at Columbia Station was everything I need to float home, completely happy that this is 31.

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21st Century Woman, Intention

This is 31.

I don’t know what I imagined 31, or 41, or 51 would look like. When you’re young—really young—you just imagine that you will always be exactly as you are then. Or at least I did. And maybe that’s why I’m not surprised by 31. I really had no expectations about what it would, or could, be.

Probably around 23, I began to understand what aging meant. That my metabolism would slow to a crawl. That sleep would become more crucial. That one day I would inevitably take on the characteristics of the other women in my family. This is the same moment when you start to realize they didn’t always look like they do now—and that soon I wouldn’t either. Little wrinkles have begun to emerge.

31, in many ways, is miraculous. To feel accomplished and productive. To have carved out a place for myself. To have built a home on my own time and with my own rules.

I’m better at spotting inauthenticity. I’m wary of people and projects that wear me down without filling me up. I’m cautious, but not jaded. I still want to do the most good.

I don’t know what 31 was supposed to look like, but from where I sit, 31 feels just fine.

Bae Day

#BaeDay

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