Day 402: Back to School B*tches

I know, that’s a bad word.  Is it a word we’ve taken back yet?  I think I read something about trying to take it back.  I’m not sure why we would want to take it back.  It really is an ugly word, Kimmy Schmidt’s good point aside, and if someone ever used it about one of my daughters I would definitely see red.

Still, I can’t think of a better word to describe these women.

I know, I’m a bad feminist.  It’s probably not their fault, it’s the men in their lives, the oppressive system they struggle against, blah, blah, blah.  I’m sure all of that is true, but they are still miserable bitches, and there is no (good) reason for it.

Most of the time I can ignore it, especially when it’s directed at me (I can imagine 10,000 reasons why a stranger might be “justified” in not liking me – more on that some other time), but when it’s directed at other people, sometimes it’s too much.  I tend to notice it the most at the beginning and the end of the school year, maybe because I’m paying better attention, or maybe because there is more of it, but it happens every year.

I’ve seen it in three different states now, and it’s interesting to think about similarities and differences between schools.  I tend to think whichever version I am currently dealing with is the most obnoxious, but it’s impossible to say if one is objectively better or worse than another, and they are all terrible.

This is what I’m going to do to make it better, or to at least try to not make it worse.  I’m going to cut everyone a little bit of slack.  I’m going to try to understand that going back to school is stressful for everyone, and maybe it brings up insecurity issues, and we are all fighting invisible battles, and we could all use a little bit of compassion.  I’m going to bite my tongue and nod and smile, not because I want to be fake or pretend, but because getting involved will not do any good, and will only make everyone more unhappy.  I will make an effort to not only be nice to everyone, but to go out of my way to be friendly and offer a smile, even if I’m having a shit day myself.






Day 401: Thankful for Technology Fails

I wrote this extremely long, ramble post about a friend from high school who recently and unexpectedly passed away, and for some reason, I decided to write it in the WordPress window box rather than a word document, and for some other unknown reasons, my Internet stopped working at the moment I tried to post, and instead of saving the post like normal, it was lost forever.

I am thankful for this.

Partially I think I’m thankful because it was a messy post.  I don’t mean emotionally messy, although it was, but the writing was messy, and maybe because I was feeling a lot of different things, I wasn’t doing the best job of putting those feelings in writing.  That’s not a new phenomenon, but it felt almost like I was dishonoring her memory by writing about her so poorly.

Instead of a long rant, I will just say that I’m very sorry for her family’s loss, especially for her son and her mother, and I wish I had known her better.  She and her family will be in my thoughts and prayers, and if you are reading this, please include them in yours as well.



Day 400: On Making Catholic Friends

I mentioned a few posts ago that we are making new friends.  It’s not that we didn’t make friends when we first moved, because we did, but it takes some time to get to know people and figure out how much you have in common, and to borrow a phrase, if there is “any there there.”

One of the things that has been interesting is to see how people slowly develop as we get to know them, one little bit at a time, and to see how their stories change.  I think we all tend to give people the short and simple version when we meet them, whether that means a brief overview of our jobs or whatever, and as we start to learn more details, I think that can sometimes change (or at least clarify) our first impressions.

I’ve noticed this especially when it comes to politics, maybe because that’s something that has been such a popular topic of discussion lately, and maybe because it’s something I care about.  Most people, when you first get to know them, say something that indicates they are somewhere in the middle, and their statements are as vague as possible.  These are the same people I later find out fundraise for Planned Parenthood or attend rallies for the NRA (not really, but you get the idea).

By the way, if this sounds at all judgmental, that is not how I mean it at all.  I do exactly the same thing.  I’ve learned over the years that it’s just not worth discussing politics with acquaintances unless there is some special circumstance that provides a rare opportunity to learn or engage in a meaningful way.  I try very hard to do this in an honest and authentic way, but sometimes it’s just easiest to smile politely and back away slowly.

I’ve also noticed the same phenomenon, or as I like to call it, “common sense observation,” when it comes to religion.  Especially for Catholics.  Our Jewish friends are happy to discuss their religion and how observant they are or are not, usually with some kind of a joke about guilt.  We don’t really have close Protestant friends, but they seem to be extremely eager to share their faith and beliefs (like it or not).  These are overgeneralizations based on my own experiences, of course, and not meant to be offensive in any way.

Catholic friends are different.  It takes a while to find out whether they are practicing and to what extent.  I think people tend to believe all Catholics believe the same thing and follow the same rules, but that’s not really true, and for a lot of us, what we believe and how we practice changes over time.

I was thinking about it because of course we are more protective of some information, and it’s interesting that we would be protective of our religion in that way.  What is it about being Catholic that makes us feel like we have to keep our beliefs and how we practice to ourselves?  Is it related to guilt?  A fear of judgment?  The fact that our answer will either make us seem like zealots or heretics depending on the audience?

Again, this isn’t about judgment, I do it too.  I would like to understand why I do it, and why other people do it, and what it means.

I will say that once we get over the initial stage of learning about each other and have real conversations, it’s nice to be open about those things.







Day 399: Burkinis

A professor I admire and respect very much once spoke to us about the importance of writing only about things when we possess some kind of specialized knowledge.  This is excellent advice, which I have spent 399 days (and really, most days since) ignoring.  What’s that song about the good advice you just didn’t take?  Yeah.  That.

This writing project is something different.  It’s not about having the perfectly right answer when I sit down to write, but about the process of trying to find it, and using writing as a tool to do so.  I know that by writing this way I make myself an easy target, but I think it’s important to do it, mostly for myself, and also, maybe, to remind anyone who reads it, to remember that it’s not about having all of the answers, but a willingness to think about the questions.

Now let’s talk burkas and bikinis, or at least burkinis.

I read an article a few days ago about the mayor of Cannes banning burkinis on beaches (here is another more recent article about other towns banning burkinis).  This was especially interesting to me because only hours earlier I’d finished a discussion about philosophy with a friend who grew up in Paris and I’ve decided to learn French.  That’s a story for another day.  Anyway, I was eager to hear her thoughts, so I forwarded the article.  Her response intrigued me even more, and I’ve spent some amount of time thinking about the situation.

She pointed out that when she traveled to the UAE, she always respected their dress codes, and if France wants to implement a dress code of their own, for nonreligious reasons, that seems fair to her.  She was concerned Muslim women might feel attacked, but said she couldn’t say for sure, with everything that has happened, whether it was right or wrong.  She also mentioned that the older generations of immigrants (in France) seemed to be more willing and able to integrate and these kinds of issues seemed to be coming up more often, and she didn’t understand why that was happening.

I remember when France banned the burqa and niqab.  I was still in college and had not yet done any real thinking about the First Amendment, beyond acknowledging its existence and discussing it improperly, like any other college student with no formal training in the law.  I can remember discussing whether it was right or wrong and concluding that it was impossible to say for sure, and talking about what it might mean politically and whether the EU would intervene.  I can remember thinking about the dangers of moral relativism and the importance of understanding context.

I only remembered those things after that text from my friend.  Before her text, my mind got stuck in this box of First Amendment cases it couldn’t get out of.  I know France doesn’t have an equivalent to our First Amendment, of course, but I could only view the issue through the prism of the First Amendment and what nine individuals determine it protects or does not on any given day.  It’s almost like my brain was using what I know about the law and what would or would not be permitted to substitute for any larger sense of right or wrong.

That’s terrifying.

The thought that this could happen to my brain is scary enough, but the possibility that this could be the case for other people trained in the law, or for other people trained in any given profession, is much worse, and also explains a lot.  I think when learning about one thing requires so much effort and energy, it’s easy to get caught up in that, and it makes sense that our brains would try to focus in on one thing to better and fully understand it.

Another professor in law school talked a lot about the importance of educating the whole person, and teaching law students to take care of themselves.  Of course, he said all of this while assigning more reading than any other professor and using the Socratic even in second and third year courses, even if they met in the evenings (not that I hold a grudge), but that doesn’t make him wrong, and in fact, that approach might avoid exactly the kind of thing I’m concerned about.  Maybe requiring a first year, second year, and third year ethics course that focused on more than avoiding sanctions from the bar, that would make a difference.  Or maybe this is all part of life and the process and the people who want to think more deeply about these things will find opportunities to do that and people who don’t will be productive members of society.

I thought about all of this for a few days, specifically as it relates to burkinis, and while I was talking about this with HW, one of our children filled a glass of water in the kitchen and heard enough to be interested.  After two minutes on the First Amendment and another two minutes about the broader conversation in France, she was at least as informed as most adults and more than ready to share her opinion.

“That’s not fair that they won’t let those women practice their religion.  What they wear should be their choice.”

She picked up on and focused in on two important things.  First, this law specifically targets religion, which is a different thing than when a law just happens to conflict with it.  Consider, for example, the difference between saying, “No burkinis allowed on the beach,” which specifically targets Muslims and, “No street clothes allowed on the beach,” which is a generally applicable law.  In this country, even generally applicable laws can be struck down in many cases, in part because sometimes they disguise laws that are really intended to target one religious group.  Second, and this is equally as important, she recognized that while French authorities might claim to be helping women, and might actually believe they are, they are telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies in the same way some men in their own communities do.  We can’t say we believe women should have choices and then punish them for making a choice we don’t like.  Well, I guess we can, and people do it all of the time, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I pushed her a bit, because I like to challenge her and she likes to be challenged (almost as much as she likes to challenge me), and asked what she thought about French citizens who were victims of the more recent attacks and what it would be like to see someone walking around in a burkini at the beach, or whether other French citizens might be afraid if they saw someone wearing a burkini.

“Wearing clothes other people don’t like doesn’t hurt them, bad people doing bad things hurts them.  And if they are really afraid and think people who wear burkinis are dangerous, wouldn’t they want to know which people wear burkinis so they can stay away from them?”

Tough to argue with that.

I realize that this is a more complex issue than all of that, and I will not pretend to know what it’s like to live in France right now.  My friend made some good points and so did my daughter.

I don’t think the burkini ban is going to help anything, but I want to understand why some people think it will and to understand the cultural differences that could maybe explain the disconnect.

When I was chatting with my friend I said I could not imagine a politician here suggesting something like that, and then I remembered Donald Trump.  Donald Trump might suggest a ban on burkinis.  Maybe he already has?  I can’t keep track.






Day 398: How to Convince a Reasonable Person to Vote for Clinton

Or rather, how not to convince a reasonable person to vote for Clinton.

  1.  Say something like, “You idiot, I told you all Republicans were evil, and now Trump proves it.”
  2. Or something like, “I’ve been saying since last year HRC is the only sane choice, are you ready to admit that now?”
  3. Or, “Trump is exactly like every other Republican, but I’m glad you understand what I’m talking about now.”
  4. Or, “Only the dumbest, most selfish person wouldn’t vote for HRC this election.”
  5. Or, “People who care about liking HRC are stupid.”
  6. Or even, “If you don’t like HRC, it’s only because you are sexist.”


I get it, you have strong feelings about HRC and/or Trump.  Most of us do.  If you want to run around and spit at people who disagree with you, feel free, but don’t expect to convince them to change their mind and vote for HRC instead of Trump or change their mind and vote for HRC instead of not voting at all.

Most of us are disgusted by both candidates.  I don’t feel that way because I hate white people, or because I hate white men or white women.  I have valid reasons for those feelings, justified in my own mind, and frankly, if you don’t have any concerns about voting for HRC, I am as concerned for your sanity as you are for Trump’s supporters.

I know, even if you acknowledge all of the concerns out there, you still think she is the “lesser of two evils,” and the only way to defeat Trump is to vote for Hillary.  Not everyone sees it that way, for a number of reasons that can’t be dismissed as completely ignorant.  For example, Trump’s inability to work with other people possibly means very little will change.  He promises to rely on intelligent people for advice.  He says idiotic things, but says them in a way that at least appears to be genuine.  The Court is already leaning left, and the battles about abortion and same-sex marriage are mostly concluded.

To be clear, and I feel the need to say this mostly because I know many hardcore HRC supporters will stop reading at this point, because for me to even suggest there might be some rational basis to not support HRC is so outrageous/idiotic/stupid/racist/sexist/barf, I do not like Trump, and I will not vote for him.  I also think some people have very bad and irrational reasons for voting for him.

Right now my plan is to not vote for either candidate.  Maybe that will change.  If it does, it won’t be because someone screams at me about sexism or racism or dismisses another party as “stupid.”  It will be because someone makes a compelling case about why his or her chosen candidate is good and capable and honest and trustworthy, and that conversation can only happen when respect is shown for different perspectives.





Day 397: Bring Your Baggage and Find Your Balance

I had one of those rare and inspiring mom conversations last night.  The stuff of urban legends really.  For me at least.

I like people.  I like people in theory (unless we are in a confined place or standing in line or competing for finite resources) and in reality (same caveats), and one thing I love about our circle of friends is its diversity.  Still, too often when the opportunity arises for me to sit down with another mom and to have an uninterrupted(ish) conversation, too often we speak only or mostly about our children, home improvement projects, or our husbands.  I’m not saying those conversations are not important, because they are, and much of our lives revolve around those things, but sometimes it’s nice to have a different kind of conversation, whether that conversation is about ourselves without reference to being a caretaker, politics, religion, philosophy, science, or whatever.

Most of our friends are lawyers.  That’s just the way it goes, and that’s fine.  Despite what people say (most) lawyers are good people (not family lawyers).  Most of our friends who are not lawyers have been friends since before law school, either from college or high school, or even elementary school, and a few other parents we’ve met along the way.  Two of our newer friends are scientists, which is amazing, because we get to learn about things we don’t know much about, and our conversations have a new perspective.

So last night I had the opportunity to have an uninterrupted(ish) mom conversation with one of our new friends (not one of the scientists).  We talked about philosophy.  It was amazing.  The conversation gradually drifted to parenting, because we are human, but even then, we talked about the philosophy of parenting, the philosophy of learning, the philosophy of teaching.

We talked a little bit about our childhoods and our parents’ childhoods and our resulting baggage and about the importance of accepting and dealing with our baggage and finding balance because of or in spite of it.  For example, her mother struggled financially and experienced truly extreme circumstances, so when my friend was a child, her mother wanted everything to be easy for her, and made sure she always had anything she wanted.  Now, as an adult, she thinks that was the wrong thing to do, because it made it hard for her to overcome difficulties and face challenges.  It was interesting to hear her say that, because I don’t think of her as someone who has difficulty with that at all, and although I have not known her for very long, she always seems motivated and on top of things.  When I thought about her as a parent, things started to make more sense.

I wouldn’t say she’s overly strict, exactly, but she treats her child almost like an adult, and expects fairly advanced problem solving and accepts no excuses.  Her child is in several activities and appears to live a very structured existence, and although she still has time to play, it’s scheduled play and much of it is play with a purpose.  “I’m teaching her the importance of hard work and that happiness and success do not come without struggle and persistence.”

She doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes her mother made.  She wants life, in a sense, to be easier for her daughter (later on).  I have my own opinions about whether her approach will be successful, but that’s not really the point, and it’s important to keep that in mind when we have these conversations, because things can go off course almost as quickly as when there is an element of competition involved.  She wants to take the best parts of her childhood and fix the bad and she hopes her daughter will have a better life because of it.  And it struck me that we are all doing some version of that – taking our baggage, sorting through it, and hoping it will allow us to find some balance in our lives, for our own sake, and for the sake of our children.  Hopefully that will mean less baggage and more balance for the next generation.








Day 396: Family Vacation

We were provided with the opportunity to take a last-minute vacation before school starts, and because we are who we are, we jumped at it.

So now, here I am, looking out of our balcony window over lights reflecting on a picturesque (and most likely entirely man-made) lake.  The children are snuggled up, exhausted from a full and hot day at the pool, likely dreaming about our adventure to Universal Studios and the wonders of Harry Potter world.

Family vacations are a lot of work, and have also been so important to our family.  It’s such a great opportunity to reconnect and explore a new setting with each other, to learn and try new things together, and to share a tiny space.

Over the past several years we’ve tried to take the best things about vacation and make them a part of our daily lives.  We didn’t want to be people who were miserable every day, but looked forward to one or two weeks of joy.  I will say living in Florida has made it easier to make that plan a reality, but sometimes it’s still nice to get away, and there is no substitute for that.