Category Archives: Reflections

Yes we (still) can

All right you guys. Tomorrow is the day that President Obama goes forward to being a private citizen (I won’t says “goes back” because I refuse to go back). Eight years ago, I was elated and proud and 24. I wrote this:

Yes We Can

Eight years later, I am the same and I am different. I’m older, obviously. I have a chronic illness that took five years to figure out how to treat (I never would have seen that coming in 2008). I have two little babies who I love more than I have ever loved anyone in my life. I have a godson and nephews and nieces who were lucky enough to be born under an Obama presidency, and I am lucky enough to have them all in my life.

I think I’m a little more realistic now. A little more even, and I move a little bit slower (figuratively and also literally).I have read more books, and learned more things.

I have Hamilton lyrics to guide me now (not even kidding, you guys).

But I also still feel dedicated to my country. To my right to free speech, and my right to healthcare. My right to choose, and the right to marry whoever you love. The right we all have to the pursuit of happiness, and I still feel angry when I think about how many Americans are refused that right.

I feel smarter about racism today than I did eight years ago. I know now that there is so much work to do, and that electing President Obama doesn’t mean racism is over.

Since the election, I’ve been head down in books like Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow. I have so much learning to do. I have more fight in me now than I did at 24, and while I have less energy than I did eight years ago, the energy I do have is deep and it’s intense in a way I didn’t know how to be in my early twenties. I was frenetic, now I’m focused.

Our children are watching us, and while I understood that before, now I have to answer to it.

So I won’t lie, my chickadees. Tomorrow for me will be hard. I will cry, I’m sure of it. I’ll look at Ellie and think about how the country elected a man who said he grabs women’s pussies, and I will feel hopeless. It will be worse when I remember that there are Americans who have convinced themselves voting for him does not mean they condone the man he is.

But chickens, in the words of a man who has proved to be full of grace and determination and goodness,

“In the unlikely story that is America there has never been anything false about hope.”

Let’s get right back to it. There is work to be done.

 

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getting it off my chest.

About a month ago, I came home distraught because I found out Theo was having problems being nice at daycare.

I know he’s two, but it’s so important to me that he grows up to be kind. On the flip side, it’s so hard to be sure you’re getting through to a two-year old, so I didn’t know how to approach it. I’m still learning.

So we started talking about how important it was to be nice. Maybe the most important thing. We talked about people we knew who were nice (Aunties, Uncles, Ellie, Alma- you all made the list). At some point, probably because we listen to a lot of NPR in the car, we ended up talking about how Trump was not nice. How Obama and Hillary were.

When Trump won on Tuesday night, I was relieved that at least my kids are little and I didn’t have to shoulder the heartbreaking task of explaining what had happened to my babies.

But then this morning, when I was getting ready, I thought about it some more. I thought about how smart Theo is, and how Jon and I have been talking about the election so much in the last few months and how it hasn’t stopped since Wednesday morning. He’s seen us walking around worried and nervous and angry.

Theo deserves to focus on being a kid, but he also deserves the truth. I remember wanting that as a little kid, and I know he’s practically a baby, but he’s still a human and a citizen of this world.

And as I’ve said and will continue to say, our kids are watching us.

So this morning I sunk onto the floor and pulled him into my arms, and I explained to my baby that Mommy and Daddy have been talking to him about how Trump isn’t nice, but how now Trump is going to be the President.

He furrowed his brow and looked at me hard, but he just said “Oh.”

Theo’s always been good about reading people, since he was born, and I could tell he sensed that I was struggling with this. He leaned against me, which is important to note because Boo is two and on the go and doesn’t have any moments to waste leaning against his mother while engaging in anything that doesn’t end with him getting candy.

But he did.

Then I told him that it’s still important to be nice. It’s so, so important that he be nice to everyone.

He looked at me, and he put his hand on my face, and he said “We’ll be nice, Mommy!”

And then he scampered off to play with his sister.

This is how we will do better, chickens. We will do better by teaching our kids to do better. They’re smarter than us, thank God, and they will grow up into a kinder America if we teach them that this is the right thing.

We’re just getting started, here.

 

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thoughts when the light seems low

Namaste, chickadees.

I’ve finally gotten a few hours of sleep, and while I am still bleary-eyed, trying to make sense of all this, I have a few thoughts.

You’ll find, if you stick around, that I always have a few thoughts.

The first thing I do after an election is think about my grandfather. He left this earth fifteen years ago, but I do not go through an election cycle without reflecting about what he would have thought or what he would have said about the outcome. My grandfather left us when I was seventeen, and so one of my greatest regrets is that we didn’t get to have the adult relationship I have with the rest of my grandparents.

But then, my grandpa always treated me like an adult. He always gave me space at the table to tell him what I thought, and he always listened to me. My grandparents always thought politics were important, and so even as a child, we sat around after dinner and we talked about what we thought was right and wrong, and that was the first place I felt it was safe to form my opinions.

So I took a walk yesterday and looked at the blue sky, and I asked him what he thought. I asked him, could he truly believe this is where we were?

I willed him to somehow communicate to me what was next.

And I felt a brief wash of calm, just for a moment.

I was taught that the way to fight for what you believe is with your words and your actions.

To say I am devastated about the outcome of Tuesday night would be an understatement.

I think my grandfather would have been devastated too.

But I think he would have told me to keep moving, that the most important thing we could do would be to pause to reflect and then jump up and take action. I think we can tell each other that those of us who choose love over hate and those of us who know how important it is to take care of each other are still all exactly where we were Tuesday morning.

We’re right here, chickens.

*****

Tuesday, I worked the polls for 17 hours. I showed up before five that morning. I was supposed to be joined by four other judges, but instead just one Republican judge named Nathan showed up. Nathan and I had never worked the polls before, and there was a rush of humanity when they opened at 6 am.

We weren’t ready for it. We had no idea what to do, and before long, there was a line of voters in the auditorium and I started sweating.

We adjusted quickly, stretching to do four jobs between two people, making the process fluid and easy and taking care of each other. Nathan was polite to every single voter, he was helpful even when it was obvious that the vast majority of the voters in our precinct were outspokenly voting against the Republicans. He thanked every citizen who came through the door for voting and I could tell he meant it.

He didn’t flinch when I dropped the f bomb several times an hour, even though I gathered he was not the type to swear. He didn’t roll his eyes when I lectured my neighbors about how not requiring ID was a positive thing. He promised an upset 87-year-old man that he would make sure his vote counted.

He laughed at almost all of my jokes, and at the end of the night, exhausted, we found out that our ward boasted the highest turnout in the city, something that made us both visibly excited.

Election judges are supposed to wear badges with their political parties on them, but because we were slammed in the morning, we never got around to finding them or putting them on.

We served as plain old Americans instead. We were a great team. I’d want Nathan on my team again if I could choose.

Chicks, I have to believe that there are more Nathans out there to add to all of us who already believe in a civil, peaceful, loving America.

What’s next is to decide how we move forward. Can we reach deep down where it’s dark and scary and figure out a way to go on in love? It won’t be easy. Getting angry comes easier, and honestly, it’s a fair reaction. But let’s use that anger to stoke the fire of change, everyone. Let’s be the people we want our children to look up to. Let’s make this country a safer, better place to hand off to them someday.

And let’s know that the midterms are two years away. Let’s not waste any time crying when we could be volunteering or speaking or writing or donating.

Namaste, chickadees. There will be sunshine again, I promise.

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Someday is today

Dear Chicago,

You’re not technically my hometown. I was born in New Haven, and I consider myself a true, blue New Englander. I’m a little too suspicious and not quite friendly enough to be an authentic Midwesterner, but fourteen years later, I’m working on it.

I moved to the city in the fall of 2002, fresh off of three years in rural Michigan, a place I never quite fit in (but where I met the most important piece of my life story, and so it was worth it). I stumbled a little in the big city, and found friends who helped me understand I shouldn’t forget to lock my doors and that you had to keep your head up in a town of three million people. I slid into place after a few months and remember thinking, this is it. 

This is home.

Four years later after graduating, I had a friend who couldn’t believe I wasn’t “going home.”

I smiled to myself, because I knew that I was home.

I cheered for the Cubs starting my freshman year of college, at first because a boy I liked loved the Cubs, and then because I loved the Cubs. I named a plant in my dorm room Kenny Lofton (I’m weird, I know) and went down to Wrigley when I was nineteen, the night of Bartman, when we were thisclose to finally getting to the World Series. I ran out of there late in the game after some angry fans hauled a giant fake Marlin up above their heads and started chanting “Fuck the Fish.”

We’re passionate, as Cubs fans.

I’ve been to Wrigley a gazillion times, with my best friends and my classmates. With my husband and my parents. Most importantly, with my baby Theo at his first game this year.

Chicago is where I went to college. It’s where I met my best friends, and where I got my first job and my first apartment. It’s where my long distance boyfriend turned into my roommate, and my fiance, and my husband, and now the father of my babies.

And always, always the guy watching the game with me.

Baseball has always been a thread running through my life in Chicago, and like everything else, its had its ups and downs, its highs and lows.

We’ll stick with you, through it all, because we’re Cubs fans, and because this is our city, and because we have a deep love for both the team and our home, even when it’s bitter.

But man, it is surreal when it feels so sweet.

So thanks Chicago, for teaching me everything I know. Thanks for showing me that if you work hard and hang in and keep the faith, it.will.happen.

That someday will become today.

xoxo,

NP

theocubs.jpg

 

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keep it gentle

Happy Monday, chickens.

I just now returned from taking Theo to daycare for the first time since Ellie was born, which meant an hour alone with both of them this morning, and then the arduous task of getting everyone in and out of the cars and in and out of daycare.

Let me tell you something, stay at home mamas. You are rock stars. I literally just spent two hours alone with them and feel like I’ll need a four hour nap and a Xanax to recover.

But this is not about my first world commuting issues.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following the stories about the little boy jumping into the gorilla enclosure, and the terrible story of the toddler getting killed by the alligator at Disney.

And I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by all of the people who are talking negative smack about both of these terrifying events. Maybe it’s my hormones, maybe it’s because I’ve noticed a large concentration of people without kids commenting (not a knock on people who choose not to have kids- just an observation that if you’re not responsible for keeping other humans alive, your perspective isn’t first person and therefore, slightly flawed), but it’s driving me crazy. Maybe because I have a toddler who is seemingly always trying to injure himself despite all my attempts to keep him safe, although he would call it playing.

First of all, this just isn’t a time to criticize people’s parenting. I admit, when my mom brought up the kid who got into the gorilla habitat, what flew out of my mouth was, “Well, who was watching him?” but it felt shitty as the words escaped my lips, and also, my mother’s expression told me that I was saying the wrong thing.

She was right, obviously.

Don’t you think these people are hurting or scared or heartbroken enough? Do you think that your judgement is throwing out any positive energy into the world? Also, if you do have children, I would like to discuss the following:

If you have never had your stomach drop in panic because you have misplaced, lost sight of, or been evaded by your toddler or preschooler in a situation that could be dangerous, I can only assume one of two things:

  1. You’re a liar.
  2. You’re incredibly lucky.

But you’re probably a liar.

We went to the pool yesterday, and my mom, Jon, and I were all standing six inches from Boo, and he still slipped and fell under water. Are we bad parents? No. Toddlers are tricky you guys, and every second we keep them from injuring themselves we should consider a monumental feat.

And as for that poor family that lost their baby boy in Florida, come on, you guys. A no swimming sign doesn’t indicate that a large alligator is going to tear your child from you and drag him in the water. And even if it was the dad’s fault (it absolutely was not, chickadees), do you really think that you talking shit on social media is an appropriate response? It’s not. I’ve got to believe that some of it comes from a place of fear, and that people need to assume that someone was at fault, because if it could happen to a good parent who was paying attention, then it can happen to you too.

And it could happen to good parents like us. It’s just the scary reality of the world, and so maybe go hug your babies instead of judging how other people are raising theirs.

Let’s work on being kinder, my friends. In a world of violence and hate crimes and political vitriol, let’s remember that we have control over our own thoughts and actions, and let’s carve out a space that’s a little gentler.

PSA over for today, but I can’t guarantee that my hormones won’t drive me right back here. Enjoy the sunshine, chicks!

 

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Unpacking it

So we’ve been adjusting to life as a family of four over here, which so far means waking up a lot to feed our hungry lady baby and also to (patiently, patiently) repeat “Theo, please don’t jump so close to Ellie,” approximately one thousand times a day.

It’s keeping us pretty busy.

Aside from some Facebook sharing and talking to some of my pals who have come to visit my sweet baby girl and ended up talking to me about politics because that’s what we do, I haven’t really commented on this latest tragedy in Orlando, which is messy from a gun rights perspective, from a religious perspective, from a hate crime perspective. It’s basically America at its ugliest, the most tangled web of intolerance and violence I’ve seen in awhile. It took me some time to write anything down because I wanted to try and unpack all the ways I feel about it, but that’s not going to happen. It’s too complicated and I can’t say nothing (I mean, we know I can’t stay quiet about anything).

People who believe in their Second Amendment rights are so rooted in the issue that from what I’ve seen they don’t really want to talk about it because you guys, it’s a right, but I want to talk about it. And I’m willing to do it in a compromising way, because chickens, I’m not ashamed to admit that my real feelings are that I wouldn’t mind if all guns were outlawed. To me, my right to peace of mind is more important than my right to bear arms, but I also recognize I don’t speak for everyone.

Sure, the bad guys might find a way no matter what our laws are, but we can’t pretend that if the shooter in Orlando had a knife instead of a semi-automatic gun, 49 innocent people likely wouldn’t be dead. And sure, people will find ways to get guns even if they’re illegal, but you could say the same for heroin. That doesn’t mean that we should throw up our hands and legalize it.

I watched parts of last night’s filibuster and was proud that lawmakers were doing something to say enough already, everyone. I was proud that it was led by my home state, and I was obviously proud that my in-my-head-bff Cory Booker was a part of it.

If you watch this part, you’ll probably cry. I did, but you know what? Some things need to be cried over.

Here are the things, chickadees, that I’m really struggling to understand about all of this:

  1. What’s the deal with people opposing additional background checks? I’m not talking about keeping guns from law abiding citizens, but why isn’t it as hard to get a gun as it is to get a license and a registered car? We’ve got huge loop holes in the secondary market too, and we should close them.
  2. Why can’t we get federal funding to at least research gun violence? What are we afraid of? The NRA (yes)? Finding out something we’d rather not know (maybe)?
  3. If you’re a hunter and you need an AR-15 to shoot animals, you’re missing the point of the sport. Maybe take up something else.

I have a lot of other feelings on this subject, feelings I don’t have enough data to back up and opinions I don’t know enough about to speak out about except for my gut reaction that there’s no reason that this keeps happening and that even if you believe strongly in your Second Amendment rights (which by the way, as someone who has read fairly widely on the Revolutionary War, I feel pretty confident in saying that the founders didn’t mean for us to just have access to whatever guns we wanted, even though I can’t prove it), after all these mass shootings you’d think that we’d maybe just want to consider trying something new as a way to avoid waking up to the news that large amounts of our fellow citizens have been killed by a crazy person, again.

I can’t unpack this cleanly, chickens, but I think we owe it to ourselves to talk about it, even if we’re not sure what the solution is or we aren’t versed in every nuance of gun laws or hate crimes or mass shootings. We owe it to ourselves and our families to at least start the conversation.

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deep down into the fray

Ok guys, so I’ve been in DC and Phoenix since I last saw you because why wouldn’t I be traveling around the country when I’m 37 weeks pregnant?

Seriously, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Plus, I made quite the circuit when I was pregnant with Theo and doesn’t Lady Baby deserve the same jet setter treatment as her older brother?

Obviously.

So anyway, I’ve been trying to stay above the political fray, except that I’ve been in hotels which means I’ve had cable which means I’ve had cable news which means I’m not above the fray at all.

On the issue of this whole transgender bathroom thing, I would just like to say the following:

  1. No actual violent, crazy sexual predator is just now going to feel entitled to molest little boys or girls because the law lets people use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. It’s not like the law says “you may now use whichever bathroom you choose and also molest anyone you feel like. Go right ahead. Equality!”
  2. You probably use the bathroom with transgender people all the time and don’t know it. They don’t wear signs.
  3. Can we just please all stop hating on each other, already?

In addition, the other thing that has been starting to wear on me (other than the end of my pregnancy) is this whole “Make America Great Again!” thing.

Full disclosure: Nothing I am about to say means that I don’t think America is great. I believe in my country and I love my country. I also believe in my toddler and love my toddle, but sometimes you guys, if I’m being completely honest, he can be a bit of a pain in the ass. That’s not disloyal, it’s just being real. In fact, I would argue that I love both my country and my child more by not putting them up on some pedestal of perfection. It’s too much pressure, chickens.

Which brings me to this. Our beautiful, amazing country has always been flawed. When it started, slavery was legal and women couldn’t vote. Then we couldn’t agree about if we were a nation of separate states or one unified country, so we got into big fat fights about that.

We killed Native Americans because we didn’t understand them. We still didn’t let women vote. We got into a giant civil war where we fought each other because some of us still thought slavery should be legal. When we finally made it illegal, we still couldn’t (still haven’t) shake racism.

We operated an economy with child labor. We went through depressions. We got into World Wars. We interned our own citizens in camps because they were Japanese. We had trouble accepting civil rights, and we assassinated Presidents and had race riots.

I’m stopping there, because this could take all day despite me not even getting to the last half century.. And yes, I know we’ve done amazing, great things too. But my point is this. We have been a lot of things, but a perfect nation is not one of them. So when we say let’s make America great again, when was that, you guys? Is there a specific cut off in time in which we stopped being great?

In my estimation, we’ve been equal parts great and not-so-great this whole time. If I was running for President, I’d be focused on continuing to keep what’s great about America intact (diversity, ambition, independence, freedom, ingenuity) and working on what we’ve had some trouble with (tolerance, equality, wealth gaps, racism).

As you can see, I’ve dived right down into the fray, but I’m frustrated. I don’t think the world is a terrible place. I don’t think all humans are the worst. We have work to do, chickadees, but we’re America, which means nothing is impossible.

Let’s focus our energy on a new message, my friends. And let it be one that’s a little less I’m-so-angry and a little more I’m-so-grateful.

That’s where I am. Stay tuned- I can’t imagine it’s the last I’ll have to say on it.

 

 

 

 

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