Monday, November 21, 2016


The wildfires are better now, though not entirely gone. Yesterday's local Air Quality Rating, mid-afternoon, was 18, and I celebrated by riding my horse and then going to yoga. For the past two weeks, due to wildfires in the nearby mountains, we've had terrible air quality--I'm not exactly sure what the scale is based upon, but 1-50 is "good," 51-100, "moderate," 101-150, "unhealthy for sensitive groups," and anything above that unhealthy for everyone.

I'm a canary in a coal mine; I'm affected by poor air quality fast. I've proven this over and over in my lifetime, never more drastically than the past few weeks. Anything over "good" air just flattens me, lays me out with my asthma, and according to the information I read, being inside a sealed house cuts the pollutants in half, which meant, on the day our AQI hit 180, that being inside my house still made it hard to breathe.

So I did nothing to make my breathing more difficult. I stayed inside. I didn't ride, do yoga, do any sort of exercise at all. It was weird and a little crazy-making at first. I also fought feeling like a wimp. I mean, wouldn't a person with a stronger personal drive just not HAVE asthma? (Wouldn't a person with a stronger personal drive just not GET cancer? No, I know it's nuts to feel ashamed. I'm working on it.)

What I did mostly, was learn to be still. I hung out with my novel. I hung out with books I read. I took medicine and I was careful, and I avoided the ER and survived NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English conference, which was in Atlanta, which was also affected by the fires. So overall it was weird, and I did well.

I'm sure there's some sort of personal lesson in all this, but I can't find it right now. If you see it, let me know. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Acting Like An Ally (When Safety Pins Aren't Enough)

Over the weekend a whole wave of safety-pin advocacy swelled and burst within my kidlit community. First came some blog posts about "allies" of marginalized people wearing safety pins on the outside of their clothing, to identify them as "safe" to the marginalized. Then came a whole bunch of really lovely illustrations from prominent children's book illustrators, incorporating safety pins with well-known book characters. I retweeted some of these images without thinking too hard about the whole idea.

Then Carole Boston Weatherford, a writer I greatly esteem, shared a post that said, basically, white people, stop it. It pointed out that perhaps teaching children they could trust any stranger who stuck a safety pin on his or her clothes was ludicrous, and that also the safety pins were mostly just a tool to make the wearer of them feel a little bit better about him or herself.

You know, I'm not a racist/misogynist/homophobe. I'm an ALLY. 

The problem is, we don't get to label ourselves allies. That term is something other people grant us, once we've earned it. When the whole VOYA magazine thing blew up (go here if you don't know what I'm talking about), one of the VOYA editors defended her discriminatory actions by saying, "But I'm an ally!" and pretty much the whole LGBTQ teen lit community called her out. Saying "I'm an ally!" while acting solely from a place of privilege is pretty much like saying, "Some of my best friends are black!" when you've never once invited those black friends into your home.

What we can do is act like allies. We can aspire to become allies. And here, from the Reading While White kid lit diversity blog, is how to do it.

Safety pins are easy. Dismantling oppression is hard. Do the hard thing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

There is No Them.

So this morning my Facebook page is busy having all the feelings. All of them at once.

Also there are wildfires here in east Tennessee, and while they're not threatening any property that I know of, they're making the air quality so poor that today I won't dare ride my horse or do yoga, because my asthma's acting up, and I have to say, it's pretty bad timing on behalf of the wildfires.

What I would like--this may be wishful thinking--is for everyone in America today to realize that both sides of this political divide are partially right. Both represent a legitimate point of view.

I know, I know, YOUR side is right. Of course it is. The other side are all ignorant sticks. Racist, deplorable, whatever words you want to use.

Except that they aren't. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. And in this incredibly ugly election both sides had big issues neither candidate could fully resolve.

Last night my husband kept pulling up maps of the states divided into counties, with the counties colored red or blue as election results came in. It was astonishing: over and over, the population centers went to Clinton, the rural areas went to Trump. I live in a rural area myself, in Appalachia in fact, and I went to Smith, for heaven's sake, so I actually understand both sides of this divide pretty well. The people who voted for Trump don't all love Trump. The people who voted for Clinton don't all love Clinton. In the end, a slim majority of the American people wanted things to be different than they are, and Clinton looked like more of the same. So now things will be different. It's up to us to figure out how.

Our country did not change overnight. Our perceptions may have changed. Our perceptions right now may be correct or incorrect, who knows? We are all in this soup together. We need to take a big deep breath (indoors, away from the wildfires), and think about the kind of country we really want, and then love each other, and listen to each other and do our best from here forward. Just like we tried to do yesterday.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I Voted

I voted. Then I posted a voting selfie, because that's a thing. It's as somber as my selfies usually are--somehow I can not take a selfie and smile at the same time--but honestly, this time it mostly reflects my feelings. I'm a little anxious today.

In Tennessee we were lucky; the only positions open were president, a state rep with a decent and strong incumbent, and two uncontested local positions. The rest of my family, in Indiana and Tennessee, gets to vote for some particularly unsavory governor and senate candidates. Though it's hard to be less savory than our presidential candidates this year.

I don't care who you voted for. I don't care how passionately you did or did not support them, or with what reluctanceor eagerness you cast your ballot. This election cycle was a hot mess and I hope we can do better in the future.

Here's what made me happy about voting: when I went to the polls, I signed my name in the local registered voters log. Above my name was my daughter's name. Below my name was my son's. Both had the signature lines blocked with VOTED EARLY, because they both did.

I may not like the candidates and it remains to see how well I or any of us will like the results. But I voted, and I raised two children who voted too. That's what we've got for now.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubs win!

I have a bit of a Cubs hangover this morning. It's not because I was drinking while watching the game--I wasn't, because I was desperately, futilely, trying to stay up for the end of it.

I am not a night person. I am very much a morning person, and I do love my sleep. I usually head to bed around 10, or, in baseball parlance, about the bottom of the fifth.

Sheesh those games were going on forever. All of them. The Cubs were the last holdout against stadium lights--I remember watching the first Night Game at Wrigley from the living room of my college dorm--and that's because God ordained that baseball should be played in the day. Or at least early evening, for the love.

Still. This was the first time the Cubs played in a World Series in not only my lifetime, but my mother's lifetime. It was historic. How could I miss it?

"I can't marry you," I said to my fiance, "until I've seen a game at Wrigley."

He knew I meant it. We spent the night in my grandparents' apartment on the outskirts of Chicago, him in the tiny guest bedroom, me on the hard black couch, and then we sat in the outfield and watched the world's most boring baseball game. The second guy up for the other team hit a solo homer and the final score was 1-0. But I watched it from the bleachers, which rocked.

Last night's game was not nearly boring enough. Started off well, but then suddenly, eighth inning (ok, not suddenly--approaching midnight, eighth inning) it was tied 6-6. You could see the Curse of the Cubs climbing the outfield wall.

We took our children to Wrigley when they were very small. Day game. A very nice usher brought them Cubs coloring books and crayons. I remember my son staring at her in amazement--did she HONESTLY think he wanted a COLORING BOOK at a BASEBALL GAME?

All tied up through the 9th. My husband, who had to wake at 5:30 to put knives in peoples' eyeballs (true story) had gone to bed long before. He loves the Cubs but he cares about his patients more. I was fighting sleep, wondering if I should set my phone to ring every three minutes or something. I thought about calling our son, who was watching the game at school in Indiana.

Rain delay. I couldn't do it anymore. I went upstairs and crawled into bed. My phone beeped. It was a text from my son. Still watching? No. Soft, he wrote. I turned the volume off and slept.

I woke to exclamations of joy ricocheting all over the internet. My son posted a Facebook photo of himself at around age 5--even younger than when he made his first trip to Wrigley--a baseball bat on his shoulder, wearing a Cubs hat and a huge grin. My sister posted a photo of herself and my son at Wrigley perhaps ten years ago. They're both wearing Cubs shirts and hats.

Man, oh man, am I tired today. I slept in and I'm still worn out. Oh, am I happy.
Cubs win, Cubs win, Cubs win!