D.E.A.R. Time

D.E.A.R. Time

My favorite part of third grade was D.E.A.R. time. Drop Everything And Read. For 10 or 15 minutes after recess, we all grabbed a book and read quietly to ourselves. It was heaven for bookish little me. “Bullied” isn’t the word I would use for what I experienced in third grade, but it was something close. I didn’t fit it and my peers made sure I knew it. I wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as my classmates who were were having crushes and layering their neon socks. They wanted to gossip and dare people to break rules. I just wanted to drop everything and read. But the girls I was reading about were like me. They often had the same thoughts and feelings, and they seemed to be doing ok out there in their boxcars or dug-outs on the prairie. Reading was a coping mechanism then–a way for me to make sense of the world and my place in it–and it still is for me today.

This week it’s been comforting to read how other people more erudite than myself are expressing the same things I’ve been feeling. Here are some of the passages that have most struck a chord with me.

From Leah Letter

“What happened in this election?” People are asking. Well, let me tell you a little story. In 1943, a Polish resistance fighter named Jan Karski traveled to America to meet with President Roosevelt and the revered Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski had infiltrated the Warsaw Ghetto and the Belzec camp and collected his findings — that Jews were being tortured and killed en masse — in a report to present to the Americans and the U.N., who had minimal information about the rumored genocide happening in Europe. Mind you, this meeting occurred in 1943, and 80 percent of the Jews killed in the Holocaust were already dead. After Karski presented his findings to Frankfurter, the justice replied: “Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you, I want to be totally frank — I am unable to believe you.” Roosevelt, for his part, asked Karski how Poland’s horses were doing.

This true parable is not exactly analogous to the media’s failure in this election, but you see my point: The inconceivable can, and does, happen, most would rather just not believe it to be possible. During the Holocaust, there was a bewildering lack of information — anything coming out of Germany was propaganda tightly controlled by the Third Reich; the world had no idea what was happening, save for seemingly left-field reports like Karski’s that went ignored. What’s terrifying is that today, we have more information than ever, being shot up into our systems like government-prescribed heroin, and we apparently still have no idea what is going on.

From Capital Public Radio

Californians legalized recreational marijuana, raised the tobacco tax and implemented tighter gun and ammunition control measures, while rejecting a bid to abolish capital punishment.

Californians also approved a $2 tax hike on packs of cigarettes; Proposition 56 also extends the state’s tobacco excise tax to e-cigarettes. And by passing Proposition 55, voters extended the income tax increase on wealthy individuals that they approved four years ago.

From The Washington Post

“California is America before America is itself,” de Leon said in an interview. “That means the good, the bad and the ugly, not just the good things that happen in California.”

In 1994, California voters passed an initiative designed to set up a state-run immigration system and deny most benefits, including education, to undocumented immigrants. Backlash to the proposition, which was strongly backed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, is widely considered a watershed moment that eventually led to the decimation of the Republican Party in the state.

Today, California allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and access in-state tuition at public universities. The state is also one of the most diverse in the nation. According to the census, 38.8 percent of Californians identify as Latino, 14.7 percent as Asian and 6.5 percent as black.

Those demographic changes are spurring political ones here in Orange County, once a mostly white bastion of Republicanism that has become increasingly Latino and Asian. While blue-collar Democrats who switched parties to vote for Trump in the Rust Belt helped propel him to the presidency, voters in Orange County chose a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since the 1930s.

From Cup of Jo

Tomorrow I’m going to dust myself off. Because I also feel love. And fervor. And a commitment to my children, friends, neighbors and people in our country, especially marginalized people who may fear for their future.

“The worst thing that can happen in a democracy — as well as in an individual’s life,” says Hillary Clinton, “is to become cynical about the future and lose hope.”

We’ll make big changes on a larger scale, but also here are ways to help on an individual level, as Rachel Howe pointed out: Ask everyone if they are okay and if they’re not see what you can do. Say hi to strangers. Volunteer, anywhere. Shop locally. Host people in your home. Cook for yourself and others. Speak up when you see racism and sexism in action. Protest. Donate time and money. Talk to older people more. Talk to kids more. Teach empathy. If you feel your future is in danger, start now to build a secure foundation for yourself. If you’re in less danger, reach out to those who are and offer your time and money and care to them.

From The Huffington Post

“During the campaign, I found so many of President-elect Trump’s comments to be deeply abhorrent, and I never want to be — I am not ever prepared to be — a politician who maintains a diplomatic silence in the face of attitudes of racism, sexism, misogyny or intolerance of any kind,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. “We hope that President-elect Trump turns out to be a president who is very different from the kind of candidate that he was and that he reaches out to those who felt vilified by his campaign.”

As leader of the Scottish National Party, Sturgeon broke a diplomatic taboo before the election by publicly saying she supported Trump’s rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her condemnation of “diplomatic silence” is in keeping with this unconventional approach.

It also echoes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pointedly noted in a Wednesday congratulatory message to Trump that U.S.-German ties rest on a shared concern for human rights and the rule of law.

From the LA Times

I’ve looked at libraries from at least four sides now, as a full-time book critic, a federal grantmaker (in a red administration!), a nonprofit lending librarian in an immigrant, working-class neighborhood, and on the faculty at UCLA. While midwifing the nonpartisan NEA’s one-city-one-book program, The Big Read, I visited more than 100 public libraries in 40-some states, with a fat deck of library cards in my desk now to prove it.

If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.

All the research out there — Census data, NEA reports, the Pew Research Center’s work on libraries and reading in low-income neighborhoods — all of it points toward reading enjoyment as the surest predictor of health, wealth and good citizenship. Readers volunteer more, vote more, even exercise more. And a recent Yale study categorically shows what most of us have long suspected: Readers live longer than nonreaders.

From Bust

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It Is Done.

It Is Done.

Four hundred and forty-eight days after my girlfriend asked me to marry her, I officially became her wife. Four hundred and forty-eight sounds like a lot of days, but I think it felt like even more. Every day was filled with moments of relief and worry, joy and existential dread, questions and answers. And every single day, there was a whole lotta love–between me and my girlfriend, between us and our family members, between us and our friends, even between us and strangers who joined our journey.

It might take another four hundred and forty-eight days for me to fully process our wedding day, but here’s what I can tell you now: it was transcendent.

Our number one goal was that our wedding would be fun for our guests. And we had a specific picture of what fun would look like: drinking heavily and dancing until we were sweaty. When we noticed our guests were neither getting trashed, nor dancing like maniacs, we got worried. Was this not fun? But a closer look revealed people standing in pockets with friends they’d known for a long time or just met. They were pouring each other a glass of wine, or playing lawn games, or noshing on tacos, or interpretive dancing to Love Shack, or taking group selfies, or chatting and laughing.

The next day, my wife and I stopped by a friend’s place to drop off sound equipment (friends who own or know how to set up sound equipment are to be cherished!). She said, “it was so nice to have time to really talk to friends.” She said at parties, usually you just get a few moments with people, because it’s loud and everyone is mingling. But the long tables we filled with friends gave them a chance to have more than just a quick conversation shouted over music.

We got back in the car and headed to Palm Springs. I streamed our wedding mix through the car radio. We walked down the aisle to Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You in the End and as it started to play, my wife teared up behind her dark sunglasses (I always know when she’s crying). “I lost it when everyone stood for you,” she said. She said she realized in that moment how brave I had had to be to get to that point, where dozens of family members were there to watch me marry a person of the same gender and a different race.

I do not think of myself as brave, but it has been a rough road.

Yesterday, before we left Palm Springs, we rode the aerial tram to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. On the way back down, taking in the views, feeling the air turn from cool back to hot, with my wife casually holding my hand, I started to tear up.

We both made it to the top of a mountain. We found each other there and came back down together.

Things I Like This Week – A Doc, A Podcast, A Thinking Environment, A Deodorant Cream

Things I Like This Week – A Doc, A Podcast, A Thinking Environment, A Deodorant Cream

A MOVIE

Everything is Copy – a documentary about Nora Ephron made by her son. I learned so much about Ephron, what influenced her and who she influenced from this documentary, which was also just a pleasure to watch. I’m a sucker for stories about writers, especially if they have an old Hollywood connection, which this movie does. Patton Oswalt once said you can’t tell how dangerous Los Angeles is, because everything is bathed in bright sunlight. It’s a truism that the foundation of Hollywood is crushed dreams dissolved in whiskey and cigarette smoke, and yet, more often than not, people who move to LA to reinvent themselves do so thinking they will be different. They will make it. “Everything is copy” is a mantra Ephron’s mother would use on her daughters in response to their ups and downs. Ephron’s parents came to Hollywood to write movies, and if IMDB had been a thing back then, their pages would have been respectable, but they never achieved the success that Nora eventually would enjoy. Ephron left Los Angeles to not be a screenwriter, and the movie follows her career in journalism and how she was led back to movies. It also explores her decision to keep her illness largely secret and what ramifications that had on the people close to her who were essentially blind-sided by her death. I came away from the movie in awe of her ability to just get things done.

A PODCAST

Call Your Girlfriend – This “podcast for long distance besties everywhere” was recommended to me by a bestie and, no kidding, I cannot image my life without it. Aminatou Sow is a digital strategist and her bestie is journalist Ann Friedman. On their podcast, they talk about everything from politics to periods in a way that feels both familiar and exciting. I’ve never listened to an episode of this podcast that didn’t specifically tie in to something I was currently thinking about or dealing with in my life. For example, this morning I listened to the episode “Live from LA! with Rebecca Traister.” Traister wrote the book All the Single Ladies, and they were talking about how much “single ladies” (and Traister defines that more broadly than it sounds) spend on their friends’ weddings and wedding-related events like showers and bachelorette parties. All the first trips my girlfriend and I took together were for weddings, and that started to bother her. I loved being a part of these weddings and I don’t regret traveling for them, but back then, we only had so much expendable income and it was being used up by other peoples’ weddings. Now we’re the ones getting married and we really want our friends and family to celebrate with us, but we also wonder if we’re putting people out. Traister says some women are throwing themselves big birthday parties for landmark years like turning 40. Those parties are as much a celebration of a life milestone as a wedding. I like that idea. And I’m starting to think everyone should have a gift registry going at all times.

A BOOK

Time to ThinkNancy Kline is a former teacher who’s created a specific methodology for what she calls “a thinking environment.” In this book, she explains how to create the conditions for yourself and others to think better and to think for yourselves. Two things that especially stuck out to me are (1) the quality of thinking someone does in your presence is directly related to how well you listen to them (and she gives some specific tips on how to listen better) and (2) the success of what we do is specifically tied to the quality of thinking we did before we started doing. I’m applying some of her principles in my life and at work and in both her method has paid dividends.

A THING

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream – I’m the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a robust underarm smell creator. That means I’ve been using a very strong commercial deodorant while wondering if I’m increasing my risk of cancer with every swipe. Enter Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. It’s all-natural and doesn’t contain coconut oil (the one thing my skin is allergic to). It’s not an antiperspirant, so you may get a little moist in your pits, but you won’t stink at the end of the day. My girlfriend was skeptical, especially because one of her most uttered phrases while doing laundry is “I can’t get your smell out of this t-shirt.” But after sticking her nose in my pits several days in a row and being pleasantly surprised, she’s started using it herself. I would probably use the hard stuff before a work out, but for days when I’m just sitting at a desk, it’s great.