Thursday, July 09, 2020

dozens of narrow fault lines

Denise's mother flip-flopped onto campus
in a white tennis skirt each afternoon.
Smoker's cough, sun-browned legs
heels a jigsaw of fissures. Her feet were a wonder
to my shade-grown, eight-year-old self.
Perhaps Denise's mother made a choice:
tennis over moisturizer and a pumice stone.
Perhaps in the hours between work
and ferrying Denise to gymnastics,
she had time for just one luxury.

In the months between March
and the relentless now, I became reacquainted
with my feet. Saw them emerge from boots
to meet air and driveway dirt.
Was the nail on my second toe always so thick?
Dozens of narrow fault lines
spread across my soles, and I was helpless
to stop them.
I always think that knowing should save me.
I knew about time and it happened anyway.

It was a place where anything was possible
I told someone yesterday, through my cotton face mask,
referring to my work with former gang members.
There was the guy who started
a solar panel installation company
with twenty men who called him boss
but other things were possible too:
relapse, suicide by cop,
the woman who had two babies in two years
and lost both to foster care.

Our days have a rhythm now:
cereal, Star Wars, visits from the girls
next door, more Star Wars, work
squeezed between the cracks,
always so much work.
Our lives are comprised of aftershocks
and a sense that we re/built all this on sand.
So much has changed, I said.
So little has changed, my partner said.
This is no one's fault and everyone's.

If pandemic then why not cancer?
Why not a shiny new job and a unicorn
extending her long neck toward us
flaring her wet nostrils, whispering,
I'm an endangered species and so are you. 
There's a phrase that medical types use:
If you hear hoofbeats, it's probably horses, not zebras.
A migraine, not a brain tumor, but people
in rare disease groups post zebras as their avatars.
Black stripes like cracks in the hard white desert.

Monday, June 15, 2020

what would finn do?

Among the celebrities lending their voices to the movement for Black lives, John Boyega has stood out. Not just because he’s put his body on the front lines at protests and because he’s shut down Twitter trolls with delightful wit, but because—in our house—he is Finn.

You know: the ex-Stormtrooper stolen from his family and raised as FN-2187. When he refuses to kill for the First Order, he defects and eventually joins the Resistance. It’s not the subtlest metaphor, and I’m not the first to say “Yes, this guy! The guy who took off his blood-smeared Stormtrooper helmet and refused to be a cop for the last gasp of the Empire!” But at this moment in history, I am especially grateful for how much Dash, at age 5.5, adores him.

Before schools closed in March, I had never seen a Star Wars movie all the way through, although AK, Dash’s other mom, flew her toy Millennium Falcon around her childhood living room and, as a forty-something adult, has been known to read Star Wars fan fiction online when she needs to unwind.

Dash’s entry point into the franchise was The Force Awakens. He liked Rey, the scrappy scavenger-turned-Jedi and instant feminist hero, and BB8, the snowman-shaped droid who bleep-blooped adorably. But he was fascinated with the Stormtroopers, Finn, and their leader, Kylo Ren, who is torn between good and evil. 

Dash often puts a trick-or-treat bucket on his head, wields an umbrella as a “blaster,” and extends his palm toward me in an attempt to control me with the Force. We have never given him a toy gun, and we’ve talked about what to do if he ever encounters a gun, even if he thinks it might be a toy: Don’t touch it, tell a grownup, real guns kill people. 

I fear firearm accidents, but I also fear that the police will see my Brown kid—when he’s taller and older, or looks older—playing with a toy gun and shoot him.

I’m not so worried about him running around the driveway shooting me with an umbrella. Power play is developmentally appropriate; it makes sense that kids—who are constantly being told don’t slam the door, don’t climb that fence, don’t put that tiny LEGO Stormtrooper helmet in your mouth—would want to be the enforcers now and then. 

He went through a cop phase this fall: Blame Paw Patrol, or the police officer he met at the train station, who gave him a baseball card that had a Dodgers player on one side and an LAPD officer on the other. He and his friend Jasmine still periodically throw me in “jail” and issue me Post-It-note tickets for things like “being mean.” I talked to him about how police officers needed to follow rules too, and how people who went to jail were not “bad,” but had broken big rules or may have made bad choices. We talked about how courts decide whether people are guilty or innocent. But how to describe the prison-industrial complex to a kid who hasn’t started kindergarten? How to explain that being labeled guilty or innocent has very little to do with being guilty or innocent?

Guilty as charged.

Now that his attention has turned to Star Wars, I’m observing his obsession with two men torn between good and evil—the Black man raised to believe he was a bad guy, who chooses good when he has nothing to lose, and the white man born to heroic but imperfect parents (Leia and Han Solo), whose power and privilege mix with his daddy/grandpa wounds to form a perfect storm of evil (basically our president, if he were smarter and broodingly handsome). 

In the original movies, the lines were more clearly drawn, although Luke and Darth Vader’s “I am your father” moment hinted that good guys and bad guys weren’t so far apart. I hope that pop culture is veering toward a more complicated understanding of how people are shaped by systemic forces (or Forces?). 

Dash loves his Stormtrooper pajamas. He loves stomping around and talking in a deep voice. He also frequently talks about how “some Stormtroopers are nice. Finn didn’t want to kill people.” 

Yet if Finn had stayed a Stormtrooper, killing people would have been all in a day’s work.

When I’m not worrying about my son and other mothers’ children getting shot by police, I worry about—and I’m just gonna say what so many white people are hiding behind defensiveness—losing the nice life I have. America has been largely good to me, an educated, white, middle-class, somewhat-able-bodied person. I have a job. I have a lawn. 

When I saw images of overturned cop cars ablaze in Los Angeles during the last week of May, a part of me was transported to April 1992, when I was a high school freshman in suburban LA. My little white beach town behaved shamefully back then. I don’t even remember how rumors spread, exactly, before the internet, but they were hot as fire: “First they’re coming for three B’s: Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Brentwood,” someone said with faux authority. “Then they’re coming for the three beaches: Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo.” 

Ash from South Central fires rained down on us, but even it was white. All those neighborhoods were fine. Parts of South LA still bear scars.

I was disheartened but unsurprised to see a handful of hometown Facebook friends-of-friends traffic in similar rumors about what “they” had planned. I typed strongly worded comments, but meanwhile, my stomach was a knot of fear I couldn’t quite untangle. Was I, too, scared that a real revolution was coming? Or was I scared of what the cops and the National Guard might do to the revolutionaries? Both? Was it possible to crave order and understand the need for periodic chaos? 

When Finn escapes the First Order and crash lands on the desert planet of Jakku, Rey mistakes him for a Resistance fighter. 

Finn gets a look on his face like he’s bullshitting in a job interview: “Obviously. Yes, I am. I'm with the Resistance, yeah…. This is what we look like. Some of us. Others look different.” 

I’m not usually a fuck-the-police type. Can I be a legit Resistance fighter? The imposter syndrome is strong in this one. I’m a rule follower by nature, but one of my least favorite feelings is being trapped in an unwinnable game—whether it’s my boss asking about the status of a project that was never explicitly assigned or Dash railing against a snack he asked for a minute ago. And that’s what policing has created for communities of color: an unwinnable game. 

Proposal: All cops should wear their undies on the outside.

When AK was in grad school, she left class in West LA one day at dusk, and sat in her car eating a bag of almonds before beginning the long drive back to the Eastside. A cop knocked on her window. What was she doing? Where was she going? 

AK has cinnamon-brown skin and indigenous features. West LA isn’t entirely white, but it’s white enough that there are people invested in keeping it that way.

“You had your hood pulled up and you took it off when you saw me,” he said. 

“No I didn’t,” she said, because she didn’t. 

“Yes you did.”

He was letting her know the rules. He was letting her know who would be telling this story. Never mind that a hoodie on a person of color is considered a weapon in America. 

An unwinnable game. 

When I remember that AK’s experience is the norm for people of color—when I devote time to imagining what I can’t imagine, but must—I can step out of my own wound-gazing, where I just feel like Why does it seem like all of social media is vaguely mad at me? I’m not a Karen.… Am I a Karen?

The other day, Dash was running around as AK and I were doing what he calls “arguing,” meaning any debate conducted in a mildly serious tone of voice—figuring out our work schedules, reacting to the shit-show news feed. 

He grabbed a dish rag and thrust it at us like a weapon. “You don’t know the power of the dark side!” he roared. 

We do, though. And we don’t. And sometimes it feels like we’re armed with a dishrag.

We stopped our serious talk and broke into laughter. 

There’s a scene in the 1995 movie Jeffrey in which the titular gay man, played by Steven Weber, gets mugged. “Whaddya got?” growls one of the homophobic perps. 

Jeffrey looks up from the ground. “Irony?”

Queers, communities of color, kids, and artists have learned how to use whatever we have at hand to push away evils in the shadow zone, wielding laughter and play. 

As a middle-class white lady and as a parent, it’s easy to leap to keep the lid on the status quo. But I’m glad I can still be knocked off my guard, diffused and disarmed.

As Hayley DeRoche and others have pointed out, part of the work of anti-racism is sitting in our own discomfort. For me, that means acknowledging not just American history, not just my own biases, but my deep-rooted fear that I might be a bad guy, simply by benefitting from what other bad guys have done. So who am I to shout fuck-the-police from the rooftops? 

It sometimes feels like biting the hand that has fed me, but it’s not feeding my son and other people I love. It might start as a whisper. I might only have a dishrag and irony and the spare time to call one council member to politely ask him to defund the police. 

Last night, I was texting about fear with my friend Shea and she said, “So many fears are about self-preservation. [There are situations] when you get a gut fear that’s important to follow. That’s self-preservation that’s positive, right? It’s kind of the same thing when you feel privilege threatened--but in that case, that instinct shouldn’t be authoritative.”

I’ll try not to let fear drive this bus. To make a world that is more comfortable for Dash and his peers by, in the words of the wise Fiona Apple, “travel[ing] by foot, and by foot it's a slow climb / But I'm good at being uncomfortable, so / I can't stop changing all the time.”

In the words Finn repeats to himself, breathlessly, as he’s making his escape: “I can do this. I can do this.”

Sunday, June 07, 2020

the only story she knows


On my first day off in weeks
I stand with my son
watching a spider who has spun
a web in the bamboo
a floating silver blanket
that has snared a ladybug.

The spider pedals his back legs
a busy typist or a mother preparing dinner.
The ladybug yields,
all squirming undercarriage
her red jewel of a shell
consumed by white thread.

I wonder if I should intervene
and what the metaphor might be.
This is the week protesters stood up
in the name of Black bodies
and our president wielded the military
in the name of the bible.

I sat home, a typist, tangled
scared and tired.


Dee Dee Blanchard named her daughter
Gypsy Rose, and that's half
of what you need to know. Smile, baby,
she told her child after ordering
a dentist to pull out her teeth.
I let them entertain me.

She pushed her in a wheelchair,
a pink blanket over her strong legs.
Gypsy stood up in the night
took off her oxygen mask
ate frosting by the light of the fridge
looked up "kissing" on the internet.

After ordering her boyfriend
to stab her mother while she slept,
Gypsy Rose tried a few more medical scams
for old times' sake. Just tell the truth,
I coach her from the sidelines
but sick child is the only story she knows.

The web is frayed;
she dangles like a tooth.


On my first day off in weeks
I make a list--write, hike--
but exhaustion snares me
and when I'm not putting toys
back on shelves or scrubbing a pan
my heart races.

My body has come to believe
this story in a few short months:
This is what you were made for,
housework, email, telling children NO.
How quickly I learned, how tiring
the work of unlearning.

I cover my nose and mouth
and walk away from my house
past buildings webbed in plywood
a spray-paint declaration that this business
is Black-owned, which may be a lie.
This neighborhood, once Brown, is paling every day.

My mask fogs up my glasses
as the fog of the everyday lifts, and lingers.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

the toll of chronic uncertainty

On Friday night, I scrolled through a feed of burning cop cars, protesters in cloth masks, and cops in riot gear. On Sunday morning, I looked at pictures AK texted me from the park: Dash next to a glassy green pond. Trees stooped to touch their branches to the water.

I stayed home to catch up on work, which meant writing this blog post about my org's work in the context of police violence. (Official Organizational Statements declaring solidarity with Black people have become a thing in the past few days, which is part of what makes this time--this violence, this uprising--feel like a tipping point, like the moment homophobia finally became an unacceptable default mode. Of course, homophobia has not gone away and even most of my nicest straight friends are casually heterocentric. So tipping points are not victory, but they are a victory, a big wave in a sea of incremental change.) (Official Organizational Statements also bump up against my dislike of platitudes and virtue signaling, but if I want people to accept me when I'm awkwardly doing my best, I will try to return the favor.)

I felt good about the post. I didn't consider going to a protest, and I wondered if it was because I didn't care as much about police violence or Black people as I did about other things I've protested in my life: children in cages, gun violence, Trump's election, the end of affirmative action in the UC system, the failure of McDonald's to put veggie burgers on the menu in the nineties. That's probably something I should think about more. But also there's a pandemic going on, and cops and the National Guard are doing scary-ass shit. A better person would say "I'm going to use my white privilege to put my body between a Black person and a police officer." I am a frightened person who would rather use my hopefully long life to do quiet, decent work in the general direction of justice, to interrogate my thinking and lurch unsteadily forward. It takes all kinds...right?


Working this week has been emotional and confusing and frustrating. We were supposed to have a virtual gala last night, which was already our Plan B. We postponed it because our board and staff agreed it wasn't the right time. But it took a lot of fast-flying emails and Zoom meetings to arrive at that decision, and in the meantime, I drafted a half dozen mass communications that never saw the light of day.

But as I told the handful of people I talk to these days, If the biggest impact that police violence has on my life is that I have to write a blog post on a Sunday, I'm doing okay. 

"Okay" right now means exhaustion on top of exhaustion. I was already fried from trying to work and parent at the same time, which is totally unsustainable yet somehow being sustained, and now plans have shifted again. My life feels like one big inbox of unanswered emails.

Carvell Wallace, a writer whose worldview and approach always resonate with my own, has said his mission is simply to describe what it feels like. Sometimes I think I'm not an activist because the language of protest so often fails to describe what it feels like. I mean, that's not its job. Its job is to be loud and to disrupt and to get attention.

But when I imagine what it feels like to live with complex trauma, I think this is what it boils down to: Chronic uncertainty takes a toll. And the toll, when the repeated traumas are big enough, is not just a dull headache and a constant, unfulfilled desire to spend a weekend watching Netflix under the covers. The toll is addiction, dropping out of school, turning on people you love, and sometimes your own life, in big ways and small.

Photo by munshots on Unsplash

For the first couple of years after cancer treatment, I hated making plans more than a couple of weeks out. Every time AK wanted to book a vacation a few months in advance, I would clearly and superstitiously issue a disclaimer: Yes, I wanted to visit our friend Emily in New Zealand, but I had a doctor's appointment between now and then, and if I got bad news, all bets were off. I still have a complicated relationship with the calendar, but in the seven years since, more things have worked out than not (knockonwood), and so my neuro pathways are like, Okay, we get that all plans are subject to change, but not all plans DO change. 

But what if almost all plans changed? I remember interviewing a Homeboy trainee who lived in Vietnam as a child in the late 1970s and '80s, where he saw people shot and set on fire at the grocery store. When he came to the US, he landed in East LA in the late '80s, another war zone. At school, kids made fun of his English. At night, he drove around town with his cousins because they had nothing better to do. A cop pulled them over and smashed their tail light with his baton.

Or maybe he put drugs or a gun in their trunk. Or maybe both. There were so many trainees with stories like this that I can't keep them straight. For a long time, he did okay--miraculously, thrivingly okay--in a world that, when not actively trying to kill him, was busy reminding him it could. But last I heard, he was living in a tent on the streets.

Photo by Laura Allen on Unsplash

My friend Shea wrote wrote in her book, Exactly as You Are, about the reassurance of Mister Rogers' everyday liturgies: changing his shoes, feeding his fish. As someone who ruminates about The Big Shit (cancer, whether we're on the verge of civil war), I tend to dismiss "do something small for yourself" self-care advice. How can I take a relaxing bath when we're on the verge of civil war?! But then a stressful work thing gets postponed, or I get a good night's sleep, and I do feel better about The Big Shit, which makes me realize that my daily stress dovetails with my Big Shit stress. It's useful to realize, and it makes me feel like a dumb little animal, easily appeased with a treat. (And I am that.)

But also, what if liturgies aren't just about soothing neural pathways (though they are that), but a sort of cosmic reminder that there is constancy in the universe and connectedness to this troubling material world? What if trauma/evil is anything that gets in the way of constancy and connectedness? And, needless to say, trauma/evil is unequally distributed in this world, where Black people cannot be reasonably confident that they won't be shot in their own living rooms.


Right now, I feel too old and cranky for social media, which is like "Don't forget about this issue as soon as the news cycle changes, you big jerk!" (but, like, has that person posted about children in cages recently?) or "White people are not allowed to post anything until Thursday" or--in the case of certain Manhattan Beach types--"Oh no, [favorite yuppie store] is boarded up! Stay safe, [favorite yuppie store]!"

Right now, I also think about my uncle, a former cop who now works as a psychologist, counseling cops and advising police departments. Yes therapy for all cops, please. Yes therapy for everyone traumatized by cops, please. I think about my college friend who became a police detective, and Jill Leovy's thesis, in Ghettocide, that the solution to community violence is to better fund and investigate homicide, and lighten up on pervasive, oppressive prosecution of petty crimes/"crimes."

This statement is really heartening to people like me, who often feel crushed by the weight of perfectionism. But perfectionism is a stupid luxury we don't have time for.

I'm not sure it's as simple as "defund the police." (Although AK just informed me how much the police actually get in LA and, wow, okay, let's look into this People's Budget.) It's not as simple as working for a nonprofit that does nice things. It's not as simple as posting a black square on Instagram; it's not as simple as telling people not to post a black square on Instagram for various hashtag-related reasons. But none of that means we get to stop trying.

Friday, May 29, 2020

choices every day

As soon as various hot takes on Myka Stauffer started creeping into my feed, my stomach twisted into a knot. I'd never heard of her before yesterday, but apparently she is a very pretty person (even when crying!) with a YouTube channel, who adopted an autistic toddler from China and announced recently that her family has placed him for adoption again.

The judgment dripped off posts about how she exploited her children and what a hypocritical Christian she (possibly?) was--ostensibly promoting adoption as a solution to abortion, then aborting her adoption mission (the latter was from Sarah Schaefer, a writer and comic I love). And yes, that would be hypocritical. And no, I am generally not a fan of people who monetize their photogenic lifestyle.

But as someone who believes it's okay to abort a pregnancy, my conflicted take--which is not about Myka Stauffer at all--is that it's acceptable to abort one's parenting duties. Not great. But human, and possible.

Adoption, when not coerced, is about a parent saying "I don't have the ability to give this child what they need. I'm going to find someone who can." It's not "selfless," nor should it be, but it is in the best interest of the child. By definition. Because children should be raised by someone who feels equipped to raise them.

A lot of parents of special-needs kids say things along the lines of "I didn't choose this path, but I wouldn't change it for the world." They didn't choose for their child to be born with or acquire a disability, but they did choose to parent, and they re-choose it every day. It's a choice that should be admired and celebrated, and society should shower those parents with every resource possible.

Hubris in the post, judgement in the comments. Never change, internet.
Years ago, This American Life produced a piece about a family who placed their autistic teenage son in an institution. He was their biological son, and they didn't place him for adoption, but they did hand over his care to someone else. The story was difficult and complicated and moving. I can't imagine anyone with a heart judging Dave Royko, the father who narrated the story. But hey, dads get points just for showing up, so.

I wonder--if we understand that bio families sometimes make heart-wrenching decisions when they are in over their heads, but we expect adoptive parents to stick it out, aren't we holding them to different standards?

I don't know what was in the Stuaffer family's heads, nor do I particularly care to find out, and maybe it is as ugly as they are pretty. In a video, Myka said they were misled about the extent of Huxley's needs, and while I believe that (even in domestic adoption, information is often partial or inaccurate), there's an ugly disgruntled-customer undercurrent to it. Maybe they gave up on him more quickly because he wasn't "their own" or because he was Chinese.

But whether they're loving parents who want what's best for their child, or exploitative assholes who adopted out of delusions of grandeur and came to resent that Huxley was cramping their Instagram-ready lifestyle, or somewhere in between, the result is the same: They couldn't do it. They ceded the job to someone who could. Their son will be better off because of it.

Every hopeful adoptive parent fills out a form saying what they are open to in terms of the birthmother's alcohol/drug use and the child's disabilities. There are a series of checkboxes ranging from mild to severe along each axis. AK and I have been presented with a bunch of possibilities that fall outside our checked boxes, and we're fine with trying on each story as it comes, imagining it overlaid on our own.

We've said no to a few situations in which the child had a high risk of a severe disability. Each time, I've contemplated, guiltily, what this says about my ableism. I live in this world, so I am most definitely ableist (and racist and ageist and homophobic), but, ableist? Pregnant people holding the results of prenatal tests may find themselves wondering the same. Where I've sort of landed, even if I'm not entirely convinced, is that it's not contradictory to say "Disabled people are every bit as valuable and human and interesting and perfect and flawed and annoying as non-disabled people" and "I do not personally have the financial and temporal resources required to give a severely disabled child the life I think they deserve."

Or even "I am not willing to completely upend life as my family knows it for this child." If we can be completely fine with people choosing a job that pays more over one that pays less--and I'm not saying we should be fine with that in every situation, but it's a widely accepted "duh"--why is any choice short of complete and continual sacrifice virtually taboo when it comes to parenting?

To admit defeat takes humility (see "Limited" from Wicked). Maybe humility is what the Stauffer family lacked in the beginning, and what they developed too late (yet better than never--better than neglecting or abusing Huxley).

We believe that mothers should be infallible, adoptive mothers even more so, and in buying into that belief, we fan the flames of savior complexes. We should all be against hubris and hypocrisy, but I can't muster a lot of excitement about joining this particular bloodthirsty judge-pack.

Friday, May 01, 2020

labor day

The kids are slipping
and sliding on an inflatable rainbow
our lawn turning to mud.
We have a lawn
and there must always be a pause
for that: our good fortune.

My boss has ideas,
and these too are luxuries
born in her former hunting lodge
in the folds of Laurel Canyon.
She watches mountain lions
on webcams stalk their prey.
She outlines her vision
and speaks of strategy.
I say I'll try.
Our most famous local lion
crossed two freeways
to get to Griffith Park
and so maybe she believes
in exceptionalism
as much as conservation.

The kids chant their demands
like labor activists
and I suppose that makes me management
delivering Jell-O in plastic bowls
shaky and blood red.

I was pregnant once
but never went into labor.
The years between that unbeating
ultrasound and eventual adoption
created a wild beast in me.
It crossed freeways. It looked back
at the rushing cars and saw
what might have happened.

Our son has formed a union
with the neighbor kids
whose parents are out of work.
The crunch of big-wheel tires
on concrete is the sound of summer.
My boss wants to know
why I am not on top of things.
But it is April, the weather
falsely warm, school falsely canceled.

Our tortoiseshell cat brings roaches
through the dog door at night
watches their antennae twitch
bats them with a curled paw.

Each day I make a list with two sections:
work and life. The kids rule the driveway
between our homes, the border
unenforceable but fraught.
The school opens
only to give out the free lunches
now stacked in orange plastic boxes
on the neighbors' kitchen table.

Pfizer donated medication
when our famous mountain lion turned
up pocked with mange. McDonald's
is donating $250 million
to Black communities
and health care workers.
What is a donation?
What is labor?

My son says, "Mommy, there's a cockroach"
and I tell him his other mom will get it.
Last night she cut his hair in the kitchen
and nicked his ear. She applied a band-aid
before he saw the blood.
If there had been a mirror
he would have screamed.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

what our days are like now

The first week or so of the quarantine was strange for a dozen reasons, which I wrote about for MUTHA, but because we're living (knockonwood) through one of the most momentous non-moments of the past century, I thought it might be good to jot down some notes on this part of it too: the new-normal aftermath, the long days that are mostly okay but missing something.

I have nothing special to add to the already overwhelming amount of content about the challenges of working from home with no childcare, or the dueling manifestos of "Now is the time to write that novel/build that treehouse" and "It's okay to just survive, we're in a fucking pandemic." But this is my blog, and maybe someday I'll want to look back at how we stitched together time during this time.

I wouldn't say we have a schedule, but we have a rhythm. We're not really homeschooling Dash, but he's learning. We've never been especially strict about screen time, but we've kept it to a minimum mostly by doing other things: seeing family and friends, going to parks and museums, going to Target. We still go to Target, but now we is just me. The other day our friend Amy said "My kids have watched all of YouTube" and I was like, yep, accurate.

Dash loves this one extended family of horrible actors with kids named Jannie, Wendy, Emma, Lyndon, and Liam. I think they're Filipino-American. They seem to genuinely like each other, and they live in big homes with very little furniture. The girls all wear tulle dresses and headbands. The aunts and uncles pretend to be shop owners and customers and teachers in little plays with vague moral lessons about being nice and eating healthy food. Recently we watched a video in which a couple of the kids are eating candy, and an uncle comes along to lecture them. He gives them bottled water instead. I kept thinking, Water is not food.

A whole lotta this.
Whenever they're mad or scoldy, they shake an index finger like "no, no, no." Dash does this to me now. Yesterday, AK told him Jannie videos don't come on on weekends.

Dash has also gotten into a couple of educational (or, you know, "educational") game apps. You could argue that one of them has "math" in the title (Moose Math) and that at least they're interactive. But I'm semi-addicted to the two games I play on my phone, and I know how twitchy they make me, how they've shaped my plastic brain, even though I didn't touch a computer until I was eight years old.

The only people we're seeing IRL at a distance of closer than six feet are our next-door neighbors, Jasmine and Juanita, and thank fucking god for them, but also I'm so sick of them. I love them, they're basically my nieces now, but because I'm basically their aunt now, they are comfortable incessantly demanding cheese sticks and playing annoying pranks and hiding in my closet and telling me the beans I just cooked smell like poop. Don't get me wrong: I'm sick of Dash too. I'm sick of myself (that's pretty much always a given).

Yesterday we went on a nature walk/scavenger hunt in our neighborhood because for about an hour a day, I am one of those good moms who comes up with activities. The three kids fought about who got to hold the box or markers, who got to push the toy stroller. Dash complained his legs were too tired to walk. Jasmine is seven, the older sister, and a relentless score keeper about who hogged the swing in our driveway last time they played, etc. She is karma for my own childhood as the petty, perpetually frustrated older sister who forced my mom to police a universe whose laws she did not give a shit about.

Highland Park nature walk, where you can also find a pile of spray paint cans in an alley.

On our walk we met a Siamese cat named Blue, who had giant furry brown balls ("It looks like she's starting to have a baby," Jasmine said) and was in the process of torturing a lizard whose tail he had already amputated.

Fucking nature, man.

Some things are nice: Seeing more of AK. Zoom cocktails with our sisters and Kendra and Rob and Amy and Maria and Holly and Joel. Why were Zoom cocktails not a thing before? You get to drink in bed while talking to your friends. I hope this is one change that stays.

I try to find time to myself when I can. That's the irony of this time: Introverts who live with people are smothered, extroverts are lonely. If you know me, you know that of course I have a list of twenty little household projects and four or five writing projects I'm trying to do between post-play-date cleaning sessions. I finished a comic I'd been working on for Dash, about his birth and adoption story. He's been anti-book lately, but I've managed story time with him the past two nights, so I'm hopeful it was just a tunnel and that there are specks of literate light at the end. I wrote that thing for MUTHA. I don't know what's next.

Whenever we talk about the Time Before Him, Dash says "You were a yiddle bit lonely?"

On solo walks, I feel how much I miss the baby who was almost ours.

We're following the ever-shifting guidelines of social isolation, but we're not bleaching our vegetables and I haven't yet worn a mask outside (I probably will on my next Target trip; don't @ me). I've had my moments of Taking It All In, of fear--especially when my dad's health seemed edgier, especially when we had a one-month-old in our house--but I've also spent nine years living with health- and medical-related anxiety.

I mean, I don't want to brag and jinx myself. And worrying about infectious disease is certainly a new and unwelcome subtype of my hypochondria. (Theory: I worry more about chronic illnesses not just because they've killed my family members and tried to kill me, but also because "There's something inherently wrong with you and only you and it's in your cells" is a narrative that plays to my insecurities more than "There's something wrong externally and it could come for everyone.") But on some level, dividing death rate by incidence rate and calculating my chances--and then, most importantly, trying to get on with my life in spite of it--is a daily practice for me. So yeah, I'm saying I was into this band way before you were.

I miss my family. I miss driving (I know! LA hell has frozen over!) and podcast-listening time. I miss chatting with my coworkers instead of a thousand formal video meeting check-ins in which I hear how they're working twelve-hour days and doing yoga (while I dodge shouting children and feel guilty for trying to compress my workdays). I miss movie theaters. I miss feeling the ineptitude of our administration as an abstract threat rather than a personal one (#privilege, I know). I miss thinking I might get a haircut any minute now. Several months after this is all over, I will probably maybe get a haircut.