In Memoriam: Trayvon Martin

I’ve been largely silent regarding the issue of Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. As a white woman living in Boston, I don’t see the ongoing effects of racism in the same way that I did when I was living on the north side of Poughkeepsie, or growing up in a housing project in Stamford. But racism still affects me and those I love. I’d like to take a moment to honor the friends and loved ones whom I know deal with racism on a daily basis — and the friends and loved ones I never met or never got to know well because of the racist and segregated society in which I live.

From a New York Times editorial published July 14, 2013:

While Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis, we would still be a country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms despite the Supreme Court’s sanguine assessment that “things have changed dramatically,” as it said in last month’s ruling striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.


This is the sort of memoir piece I aspire to write. It’s also a wonderful reminder of a few of the advantages I took for granted growing up. Compassion grows from an understanding that we are more alike than we are different.

I shall be a toad

MailboxI was 20 or 21. He couldn’t have been more than a few years older. I can’t remember his name. Once a week, we would meet at the Trenton soup kitchen. I was volunteering. He was forced to be there. One of the conditions of his probation was that he would work toward his GED. We had a long way to go. He didn’t know how to read.

I had heard of people who went through life not knowing how to read, but the concept was completely foreign to me. I struggled with reading in 1st and 2nd grade. They even held me back a year. But I had a great teacher the second time I was in 2nd grade. I had an incredible mom who worked with me at home and read with me every night. And I loved books. I loved books so much I…

View original post 562 more words

Gratitude Day 25: Cranberry, Turkey, Pumpkin, Pecan, Peace

To do something imperfectly is better than to not do it at all. I wish I believed this axiom. I was raised in the school of do it perfectly and then check to make sure it’s really perfect. I was raised in the school of what do you mean you didn’t know that. I was raised in the key of G Minor.

I don’t remember how I learned to cook a turkey. It’s possible my Mom was involved, but the story I tell myself is that she never cooked. She cooked, of course, in between working long shifts at the light company, practicing piano, teaching piano, driving us to and fro, imagining we were being followed. Upon I reflection, I remember the following:

  • corn tortillas warmed on the gas burners (flip flip quick, until they were tinged with fire)
  • minestrone with the beans too hard
  • bread. lots of bread. she once said that the thing she missed the most when we left California was her sourdough

My brother and I learned to cook from osmosis, trial and error, and the encyclopedic Rodale’s Natural Foods Cookbook. It includes instructions for roasting, braising, broiling, frying, et-cetera-ing every kind of meat one could find in the grocery store. I started with chickens. I can’t remember the first turkey.

The last turkey before this one I shared with my roommate from mainland China and his girlfriend. Mom was supposed to come, but she called in sick — as she has done for more than one holiday since I hit my majority and started paying my own rent consistently.

This year, M’s family came to our house. I cooked the turkey, the stuffing (stuffing is my favorite), the green beans, the broccoli, the butternut squash. His sister brought her own delicious interpretation of mashed potatoes. His mother came early, made the cranberry sauce and the gravy, brought her graceful maternal presence into our home and negated all my mother-in-law fears.

Of course, technically, she is not my mother in law. She’s not even my mother in common-law — I believe it would take another seven years for that to take effect.

For most of my twenties and thirties, I scoffed at the traditional family model, bristled at the term “family values” with the rest of the queer feminist pagans. But to have eight or more warm animals gathered in my living room, brought together not by choice but by the accident of birth, people who in spite of the slings and arrows of outrageous genetics have gelled into a cranberry sauce of a family — bitter and sweet, whole cranberries suspended in a pudding made of the simplest ingredients — to have that in my living room, which is his living room, to be a part of that, was really quite an experience.

One that I wouldn’t mind to have again.

Also: she who cooks the turkey keeps the leftovers.

30 Days of Thanks

Gratitude Day 15: Moment in the Sun

This morning on my daily walk, the woods were bare, barren, still in disarray after Sandy. Branches and whole trees strewn across the trails, the trails themselves obscured under a carpet of rust-colored oak and beech leaves. I’m fortunate enough to live next to not one but two different pieces of conservation land. On the opposite end of our townhouse complex, past a grove of eastern hemlock, is a circuit through a wetlands, boardwalk in spots, bare earth, rock, and mud in others. Closer to our house are the woods. Maintained by a different municipality, they’re the local stomping grounds of all the discontented youth in the area. We regularly come across the vestiges of bonfires and parties: carcasses of beer cases, crushed and empty cans, glass sparkling among the mica on the granite outcroppings. Once, an entire couch, or rather what remained after most of it was consumed by flame.

This morning, the woods were fully Novembered, bare branches and trunks rising over that russet-brown carpet, and the sky above marshallowed with clouds. The cold nipped along the edges of my fleece and I was glad I’d thought to bring gloves. Underneath though, legs swinging through the empty crunch of the bare woods, I felt myself opening, enlivening, made vital in the way that only the cold air can make one vital. Sweat ran down my stomach, cooled when I stopped to stretch against a boulder at the top of the hill, drove me on to greater exertion to bring my body temperature up again.

On the way back, I picked around the edges of a red oak, its entire crown fallen over a pathway as wide as a street. Someone had already visited the swamp’s pathway, taken a chainsaw to the trunks that had fallen. Who will come to tidy these woods, one small island of wildness in the city of Boston?

Later today, I drove from an off-site meeting to my office under skies still glowering and chill, skies that seemed to promise snow. Instead, at 11:00am, just as I pulled up to parking spot, the sun came slanting through my sun roof. I opened it, and basked for a moment in the November sun.

Day 13: Nothing Lasts Forever, Not Even Guns & Roses

Five things I’m grateful for today:

  1. The guys who called to request “November Rain” by Guns & Roses after a day installing sheet rock.
  2. The DJ on 100.7 who played it during a particularly hellish commute home this evening — through cold November rain, early November dark, and crosstown Boston rush hour traffic.
  3. The excellent speakers in my car so I could blast Slash’s solo in the last two minutes of the song.
  4. The peculiarly layered sensation of hearing the song in my car now, the memory of the first time I saw the music video on MTV, and reliving in an instant the twenty-plus years between the release of Appetite for Destruction, their brief stardom, their decline into obscurity, and their return as retro metal stars. The whole concept of retro metal still boggles my mind. Those years in the late 80s when hair metal ruled seem preserved in amber, out of time.
  5. I will never have to live through the winter of 1989 again.

It Gets Better

I got my 10 seconds of Youtube fame in this video put together by the Harvard Medical School community for the It Gets Better project.

Link in case the embed fails:

Living well is often the best revenge. Every GLBT person who lives through the hell of childhood and adolescence in a homophobic society is a hero in my eyes.

If you have the time, the resources, and the intestinal fortitude, I also encourage you to take more direct action to improve the lives of young people currently living through that hell. Things have gotten better than they were when I was a child and a young woman. And in many places there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Make it Better Project is one way you can make a difference in the lives of GLBT, questioning, and allied youth today.

Open Letter to Senator Scott Brown Regarding SOPA

Dear Senator Brown:

I’ve been watching your first term in office with interest. I’ve also been a web developer since the early days of the web. The entire course of my life has been affected by its tides. So I have a personal stake in the passage of the SOPA bill.

This new piece of legislation promoted by powerful industry groups like the RIAA and the MPAA would stifle the free exchange and flow of ideas that has allowed many people — myself included — to change the course of their lives. It is essentially unenforceable and flies in the face of the spirit of collaboration that allowed nerds, geeks, hackers, designers, writers, and artists to make the Internet the thriving, global, decentralized entity that it is today.

There’s a lot of talk in the media these days about how large corporations are using their money to shape policy and legislation to benefit themselves instead of the American people as a whole. In your newsletters, you often talk about bringing jobs to Massachusetts. As you well know, the Boston metro is a hub for innovation in technology. Its residents even helped to develop the technology that made the Internet as we know it today. SOPA would kill the ability for thousands of small companies and individuals to express themselves freely and even make their fortunes on the web — all so that a few greedy corporations could keep even more money for themselves.

I know that you receive a great deal of funding from the lobbying groups promoting this bill. I and people like me — and there are a great many people like me in the state of Massachusetts — will be watching closely to see how you vote on this issue.