Category Archives: Uncategorized

Remembering my pantsuit-wearing mom on this historic Election Day

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Look at these powerful pantsuit-wearing women of the’70s. My mom is second from right.

I chose my first presidential candidate when I was in 4th grade. My dad told me if I watched the news and read the newspaper he would vote for whoever I told him to. He called me from his office and told me he was on his way to the polls and asked for my recommendation.

“Jimmy Carter!!” I screamed.

I might not have imagined then I would have the chance to vote for a woman running for the highest office, but my mom probably did. Were she alive today, my mom would be a couple of years older than Hillary Clinton, and she would have no doubt have campaigned for her – and voiced her opinions about what she should have done differently.

Growing up in Alaska in the ’70s and ‘80s, we talked about politics and current events a lot in our house. My mom was committed to making sure women were involved in the process – and on the ballot. When my sister and I were young, she lobbied for the Equal Rights Amendment and was an officer in the League of Women Voters. She and other strong women had raucous conversations in our home and worked hard on the issues and for candidates they believed in.

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My  mom made the news when she was elected president of the Anchorage League of Women Voters.

My mom ran campaigns and enlisted our help going through rolodexes and making phone calls. She helped elect school board members and state lawmakers, and she also campaigned for candidates who would have brought about real change but didn’t win. She volunteered at polling places, let us go behind the red, white, and blue curtain with her, and even took us to some election night parties.

Alaska is a small state, and Anchorage was a tight-knit community in those days, so many of these people were our friends. I babysat for the former mayor and governor’s kids, went to sleepovers with the daughters of legislators, and greeted many past and present lawmakers at my mom’s memorial service.

My mom was always trying to show us what women could accomplish. When I had to write a report on a historical figure in 6th grade, she suggested I research Golda Meir, who was Israel’s first (and only) woman prime minister. I did.

I remember my mom and her friends cheering when Geraldine Ferraro was chosen to be Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate in 1984. They were crushed in the election, of course, but the progressive women who surrounded and influenced me over the years considered it progress that a woman would be nominated for such a high office. Even though she would have disagreed with her politics, my mom might have even felt the same about fellow Alaskan Sarah Palin.

We talk some politics around our house too. My 9-year-old son helped me fill out my ballot (mail-in state that we are – it’s just not the same. I want my sticker!) He formed his own strong opinions throughout these prolonged campaigns about who he wanted to see in the White House.

“It seem strange that a woman has never been president,” he told me recently. “I always thought they were the most intelligent.”

The grandma you never met, my dear, would be proud.It looks tonight as though my son’s statement remains true and we won’t have a woman president. Still, though disappointed and shocked at the results I saw unfold tonight, I raise a glass to my mom and the many women of her generation who fought so hard to make a difference that led to Clinton’s historic run.

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GTA? N-O

I’m back on Ravishly today talking about the challenges of  boys and video games:

No, I will not allow my child to play Grand Theft Auto. Please check it out!

And if you’re not reading Ravishly, you should be. There’s so much great stuff there — a little bit for everyone.

 

Why this mom is mad for Macklemore

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I mean, what’s not to love? Photo (c) Zoe Rain. Used with permission.

If you pay any attention at all to popular culture, you know about the meteoric rise of Macklemore, especially if you live in Seattle like me.

The hometown boy is pretty beloved around here, but he’s getting some unfair and harsh criticism over his latest album with Ryan Lewis, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.” Some call him preachy, others call him cheesy. Critics have excoriated him for “White Privilege,” in which the white rapper takes on racism, and others just don’t like his music.

But for a lot of reasons, this suburban mom – who admittedly most often has the car radio tuned to the news or ’80s hits – is a major Macklemore fan.

Ever since “Thrift Shop,” blew up after Macklemore and Lewis put it out independently I’ve been listening. “Same Love” really hooked me. Then he seriously won me over with his sweet ode to impending fatherhood, “Growing Up.”

If you’re a Macklemore naysayer, give him a try for these reasons:

At least he’s trying to address issues of racial injustice.

He didn’t just make a song about institutionalized racism; he seems to be honestly delving into the complicated and emotional systemic problem. He and Lewis say they educated themselves and partnered with community organizations like Black Lives Matter.

They released “White Privilege II” with an accompanying website, on which they say they are “committed to a long-term investment of our time, resources, finances and creative capacities towards supporting black-led organizing and anti-racist education & discourse.”

Hate the song, if you want, but at least he’s speaking his mind and trying to make a difference. That’s a lot more than many of us do.

He brings other artists along with him.

I love that it’s always “Macklemore and Ryan Lewis,” even though everyone always just says, “Macklemore.” He makes it clear they are team, that he couldn’t produce his music on his own.

As more proof, Macklemore looks for talent, collaborates with lesser-known artists – and gives them credit.

Part of what made “Thrift Shop” so fun was the deep voice of Wanz singing the catchy hooks, “Only got 20 dollars in my pocket,”  and “I look incredible…” Before Macklemore asked him to sing about popping some tags, Wanz was Michael Wansley, a software engineer who dreamed of a music career. After the overnight success of the song, Macklemore invited Wanz on tour and put him up-front in the video for the song.

He also enlisted the help of unknown Seattle songwriter Mary Lambert, who wrote the tender, beautiful melody and lyrics, “My love, she keeps me warm,” for “Same Love.” She was on stage to perform the song at the 2014 Grammys, and launched a solo career after the song’s success. (Check her out too.)

And what about that epic gay wedding at the Grammy’s? Call it schmaltzy if you want, but I was in tears.

He says no to drugs.

Many interviews have detailed Macklemore’s battle with substance abuse. A Rolling Stone reporter even accompanied him to a 12-step meeting. But he’s not just doing it for press. Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, gave a candid talk at the 20th anniversary of the King County Drug Court.

“I’m Ben. I’m an alcoholic,” he told those in the courtroom.

It hasn’t been an easy road, he said, and he admitted he has had some relapses after his huge success. But he wants more for himself – and others fighting similar demons.

“The thing that is clear, what is evident is that if I do put those things in my body I cannot be a fulfilled happy content person,” he told the rapt audience. “If I put those things in my body I don’t love myself….If I’m going to continue to be successful, I need sobriety in my life.”

That’s an important message, especially for his younger fans.

He has a good heart.

With his big smile, Macklemore seems like a genuinely good guy who wants to give back to his family and his community.  He shows up at Seahawks games and is devoted to our continually disappointing Mariners. He lent his name to raise money for homeless youth and supported kids at an anti-bullying event.

To mark the release of “Mess,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hosted a free show at a Seattle club and signed autographs at a record shop. Fans spent the night on the street hoping to get in.

He filmed an episode on E! TV, in which he arranged for a surprise makeover of his mother-in-law’s house. He thanked her for her support over the years, recalling how he got to know her around her kitchen table in Seattle. Throughout, he also earnestly proclaimed his love for his now-wife Tricia (who is incredibly beautiful and yet seems like one of us.)

A friend of mine – who is both much cooler and way hotter than me – met him a few times through her work. She confirms my sense: he really is a nice guy.

He loves being a dad.

He wrote Growing Up as he awaited the birth of his daughter, Sloane. The advice he offers are things I say to my kids, like read a lot, and tell the truth.  My 9-year-old son and I listened to it repeatedly. (Disclaimer:  my kiddo only listens to the clean versions on the radio. My buddy Macklemore does drop a lot of F bombs.) Some of my favorite lines:

“You put the work in, don’t worry about the praise, my love.
Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love

And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”

“The quickest way to happiness?
Learning to be selfless.
Ask more questions, talk about your self less.”

Oh, and this: “Every day, give your momma a compliment.”

I probably repeat that line to my son more often than I should, but thanks, Macklemore, for acknowledging us moms.

He goes through the same things we do.  

I haven’t heard much about one of my favorite songs on his new album, the upbeat ditty “Let’s Eat” that humorously looks at the challenges of dieting. He struggles with wanting a donut and bemoans the fact that he hasn’t used him gym membership in four years. And he’s going to change his eating and exercise habits … tomorrow.

I mean, what woman doesn’t relate?

Among the lyrics he raps:

And today man I gotta go big cause it’s my last day
Before I lose that weight, I gotta get one last plate and go big…
I should probably start on Monday instead.”

Oh Ben, you so get me.

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My first post on Ravishly!

ravishlyI am so excited that the cool new site Ravishly has published a new post of mine! Ravishly celebrates “the mess of being human” and offers a diverse array of voices on just about any topic. Please take a look!

10 things I’ve learned being a sudden stay-at-home mom

And here’s the post.

10 things I’ve learned from being a sudden stay-at-home mom

I have always been a working mom. Until I suddenly wasn’t working. Balancing the needs and activities of a young son and a demanding job was always tricky. Some days, I felt like Supermom and others I felt like the smartest woman at work. But usually not both on the same day.

Once I wasn’t commuting and working 50 or so hours a week, I admit I had no idea what to do with myself. But as my family has eased into this new normal and found our rhythm, and I’ve figured out a few things.

Quality time all the time is a fairy tale.

Because my routine had always had to revolve around my career, I had no idea how to schedule these days that didn’t involve work. It was easier in the summer when this was brand new to me and we had free days for outings and kept busy with swim meets and tennis matches and meeting up with other moms also looking for ways to occupy their kids.

Once school and the rainy, dark days began, it was more of a challenge. Where before I had to squeeze homework, dinner, bath, and quality time into a couple of hours, now we have lots of time after school. My son always want to do something or go somewhere. I have to remind him it’s not a nonstop party just because I’m home with him. Sometimes we paint canvases, play games, and head outside, and other times we just need to chill. Sometimes that involves my Kindle and his Xbox.

I am just not a good housekeeper.

I always blamed my dirty floors and cluttered countertops on my crazy busy schedule and the fact that I didn’t want to spend what little family time we had cleaning the house. But I have a lot more time now, and I don’t spend much of it dusting. I really should be scrubbing the toilet right now instead of writing this. I get no joy from making my stainless steel shine, and I don’t see that changing.

This cooking thing is overrated.

When I was working, I was always scrambling to pick my son up 30 seconds before the afterschool program closed, then rushing home to make a healthy dinner everyone would eat as fast as possible (or stopping at Papa Murphy’s) or running to sports practice. We were lucky to be done with dinner by 8.

Now I have time to grocery shop in the morning, plan meals, and experiment with recipes. I impressed my family by making my first-ever apple pie (no I did not make the crust, are you crazy?) but spending hours in the kitchen is not my thing. Plus, when you put time and effort into making homemade chicken tetrazzini and your kid still asks for a hot dog, the thrill is gone.

I understand why SAHMs put their kids to bed so early.

I have friends who routinely put their kids to bed at 7:30 or 8. I always thought it was crazy, because if I did that, I would hardly ever see my son. We’re still kind of a late night gang around here, but I understand the need for a little downtime in the evening after bedtime. I don’t get that time, but I understand it.

I have to get out of the house.

I always dreamed of just one day alone in my house – just one day. Now I am sick of being home with only the dog for company. I enjoy the uninterrupted time to write and focus on my burgeoning freelance and consulting career, but getting out – whether walking the dog, lunching with friends or meeting with clients at coffee shops — keeps me sane.

Beware the dangers of day drinking.

I love being able to meet my friends who don’t work for lunch during the school day, especially when it involves a nice glass of chardonnay. But just because I don’t have to head back to work doesn’t mean the drinks can keep coming, as learned after a couple foggy afternoons. I still have to get home (safely, I must add) and be a mom.

It’s a lot easier to get to know other moms.

When you’re dropping your kid at the curb in front of the school and picking him up at daycare, it’s pretty hard to know parents at school. Now I meet the bus, chat with the other moms outside, and get to volunteer and see what goes on inside those walls. Plus, it’s nice to be the one receiving a text asking me to pick up another kid when her mom is running late instead of always being the one asking for help.

I pay closer attention to our budget.  

When you’re not bringing home the same bacon, you can’t bring home the same bacon.

My kid and I can annoy each other.

Yes, it has been a joy to spend so much time with my son. We have always been close and he consistently cracks me up. But we have also gotten on each other’s nerves like never before. When our time together was limited, I never wanted a cross word. Now I recognize that it’s normal to get a little sick of each other once in a while.

I actually like this.

There is no perfect situation. My friends and I always debate the pros of cons of working. But this formerly ambitious but continually exhausted career woman is pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this situation. I may go back to a full-time job – I might find something perfect or have no choice financially – but I’ll be sure it’s something that fits into my life, rather than fitting my life in around my job.

 

Finding acceptance at the dog park

dogs.

Everyone is welcome at the dog park.

Our energetic year-old puppy loves to play with other dogs, so when our city opened an off-leash park a few blocks away from us, she was in heaven. She has little interest in running after a ball there. She just wants to play – with each and every one of the dogs she finds.

This whole dog thing is still pretty new to me. (Ask my friends how many of them thought I would ever be writing about my dog, and the answer would be a big zero). I was wary of the crowds of canines when we first started going to the park, but we’re regulars now.

This morning, she dragged me as fast as she could toward the gate leading to her freedom. Sensing a new playmate, other dogs raced up to meet her. One of them was a pit bull. I have always been a little afraid of these dogs, so I was nervous as I opened the latch on the gate.

Our excitable Borador (black lab-border collie mix) and the pit bull sniffed each other out for a millisecond before they ran off together. They were joined by a docile cocker spaniel, two boisterous golden retrievers and a little Westy with a face right off a can of dog food.

Our last visit, she ran around with a chipper Chihuahua, a stately Siberian husky, and a rambunctious Rottweiler. When she was just a tiny puppy, a huge Bernese mountain dog approached her and I was terrified, only to see that mammoth dog cuddle up to her and place a protective paw on her back.

At the dog park, black, brown and white dogs run around with abandon. I’ve seen dogs with three legs, dogs with one eye, purebreds and mixed breeds mingle without a thought. If a dog misbehaves, he is removed by his owner and likely won’t be back.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were so accepting of those not like us?

Imagine if we didn’t judge people based on the color of the skin or their ethnic background. If we didn’t make assumptions based on their short skirts or hoodies or hijabs or tattoos. If we didn’t care who they love or how they worship or what they do for a living. If we didn’t prejudge an entire group based on the bad actions of a few of its members.

I was scared of pit bulls because I’ve seen horror stories about attacks by these dogs. But the one my dog made friends with today was nothing like I’d imagined. When it was time for him to leave, my dog followed him up the hill and watched longingly as he walked away with his owner.

Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying, and I am in no way comparing any human being to a dog. I just would love to live in a world in which everyone is welcome, where newcomers are greeted at the door without prejudice. I think when we open our minds to those who are different than us and get to know them, we discover that we have a lot in common. Most of us just want to be accepted for who we are and judged on our behavior rather than any preconceived notions or the actions of another.

I hope that pit bull is back again tomorrow. He taught me a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you stick to your guns when it comes to video games?

I have been arguing with my 9-year-old son for weeks about why we won’t let him play Grand Theft Auto. I kind of blame myself.

He was at an older friend’s birthday party where they were playing games he knows we don’t allow. He texted me from his iPod: “I feel left out because everyone is playing video games I can’t play.”

I was proud of him for being honest and following the rules, so I told him it was OK to try them out with his friends. I didn’t expect him to like them so much. Up until now, our biggest challenge had been pulling him away from Minecraft, which is pretty universally praised as an educational game that encourages creativity and critical thinking.

He had tucked his Christmas cash into his homemade duct-tape wallet, and my son was determined to spend that money on GTA, a game that “EVERYONE plays.”

He kept telling me he doesn’t want to do all that bad crime stuff, he just likes to drive around and play tennis and stuff. Are there really scenic byways and recreational facilities in this violent virtual world that I heard mostly consists of bank robbers, guns, hookers, and drug dealers?

For weeks, he’s been alternating between sweet talking us and screaming at us about why he should get GTA.  He has negotiated and promised, and we have threatened and researched. I don’t like video games and detest guns, so these allure of these games is lost on me. But I read the online reviews from other parents. I watched YouTube videos. I talked to friends who do and don’t let their kids play GTA. And I came to my conclusion: No way.

“Mom, it is not as bad as you think,” my son insisted. “And I know right from wrong. It’s not like I’m going to go out and rob a bank or steal a car.”

He has written too many persuasive essays in third grade, this kid.

My son, like seemingly all boys, likes video games. But he also swims, plays basketball, baseball, soccer and tennis. He’s active. He’s a good student. He likes art and music and jumping on the trampoline. Like all moms, I wonder how much screen time is too much? How damaging are these games to his precious psyche?

Finally, he wore me down. My husband and I took him to Game Stop to ask about the game. The first salesclerk warned me about the mature themes. I asked him about this “just driving around” thing, and he said you really can’t do that for very long.

Then the clerk told us if you buy a used game, you can return it in seven days if you don’t like it or decide it’s a mistake. That sounded like a reasonable option. We went over the ground rules, and our son said he understood that if Dad or I objected to it in any way, we would take the game back with no backtalk. Against my better judgment, I told him he could try it out under close supervision.

Beaming, my son walked up to counter with the GTA case in his hand. A different clerk was there and looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You sure this is OK?” he asked.

The conversation began again with this employee. He told us it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the violence, sex, and profanity.  “It’s really the worst game out there for kids,” he said, confirming my fears.

This conscientious clerk directed us toward another game we’d never heard of that he said was just as fun, without the inappropriate language and crime sprees. He backed us up, without knowing how much we needed it.

These guys are the experts, I told our son. They are super gamers. It’s their job to sell games, and they are encouraging us NOT to buy this one.

I reneged on our agreement. I knew I was in trouble. We’re all about keeping our word in our family, and our kiddo was not happy that I broke mine. But I also knew I was right.

Thank you, Game Stop guys for making this mom stick to her guns.

My mom’s last words

My mom was a woman of words.

She taught us the words to “Jesus Loves Me,” and she told me what menstruation meant.

When I was 8, she gave me a blank book, with an inscription: “To Katherine, for your poems.”

A former English teacher, my mom taught me the meaning of “colloquial” when I was reading my favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I used it in an essay on the book for my 9th grade Honors English class. I got an A.

Her final words, uttered 13 years ago today, were perhaps her most important. I feel fortunate my Dad and I were in the hospital room to hear them. Not all families have this opportunity, I know. I wish my sister and brother had been there too.

She had been quiet and unresponsive for several hours when we noticed her struggling to speak.

“I want to say that I love you,” she told my Dad, in a stronger voice than we expected.  “And I love the kids.”

Thank you, Mom, for the words.