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Out Of Plumb

We’re in the home stretch. I close on my condo in a month. Unless I change my mind. There are pros and cons to being unpartnered (or partnered). Not having a partner to make this decision with feels tough right now. So I’m still wrestling with this on my own. My gut is telling me this is the right move, for my son and me. But my gut has been misguided before. I’m in dire need of five things that brighten my mood:

Yesterday we spent a good chunk of time outside. At the beach with friends and a patio dinner after. I’m barely keeping up with the household basics, let alone packing for the impending move. I am only one woman but I will make it all happen. I always do.

Self, after a haircut

Tell Them, I Am

This weekend I experienced some serious deja vu / Groundhog Day syndrome. Though the circumstances are different. This time last year I was also preparing for a move. But then it was hastened by black mold blooming in our rental and a shitty landlord who refused to remediate it. We quickly moved to the first good spot we could find, for my health. Now I’ve had the past year to consider what we need and, most importantly, where. Hence the impending purchase of the perfect condo. But we need to kick our purging and packing into high gear. This morning I made some progress. Loaded up three grocery bags of clothes that definitely do not spark joy. We’d gotten rid of so much before the last move but more stuff has accumulated somehow. Oh yeah, late stage capitalism - that’s how.

Five items to fascinate and delight:

While packing and fretting over my finances I slipped into hypothetical travel planning mode. Recently I received my school schedules for Fall/Winter and Spring. I’ll be teaching without a break from mid-January to late May. Looks like the second week of January would be the perfect time for me to take off. I plugged in a variety of locations to see what would be the most affordable. Somehow packages to Paris or Berlin beat out everything else, including Mexico and domestic locales. There’s a deal for a direct flight to Paris plus five nights at a decent hotel for $775. Dangerous knowledge. And yeah, it’s Paris (or Berlin) in January but that would still be milder than Minnesota. The more you know?

All aboard Zena's party bus

Perish from the Earth

I have complicated feelings about many things today. This country is at the top of the list. I’ve never fully embraced the 4th of July anyhow and the racist Star-Spangled Banner, but this year? There are tanks in the nation’s capital and concentration camps at the border yet many white Americans are more upset about black mermaids and Nike. As Americans, we need to reprioritize and demand human beings seeking asylum are treated humanely. Donate to RAICES and contact your representatives (in Minnesota). Listen to the Seeing White and Code Switch podcasts to understand how we got here.

Another 4th of July, another CONvergence. But this year it moved from the suburbs to downtown Minneapolis, which means my son can take public transportation to and from. He was a little too eager this morning. He was up at 6am and out the door soon after, in full cosplay. I hope the bus drivers get a kick out of it. I’m working tomorrow so I’ve had a quiet day to myself. Had a lovely walk around the lake, identifying new plants with the Seek app. But on my way back to the car I encountered a horribly injured but still living squirrel. Big mood, right there.

4th of July with friends

The Body Is Not Permanent

My birthday wound up being one of the best I’ve had in a while, despite some stress and a few bummers (mainly my love life). Overall, I was able to focus on the fun times with friends. Two fantastic women spent the night with me in a yurt, surrounded by a field of fireflies. We could also see the constellations above. The next day we were treated to peak summer weather at the beach. Later on, we drove alongside Lake Pepin, stopped at Stockholm Pie Company and met up with a good-sized crew at Pizza Farm. All right, all right.

Five (of the many) Things On My Mind:

After my birthday adventures, I returned to work on Wednesday. And stayed way up too late Wednesday night, to retrieve my offspring from the airport. Whenever I think I’m not really that old I just need to take a look at him, with his big shaggy beard. Last week I turned 46 but he will be 20 soon. No longer a teenager. Yet another milestone I’m not quite ready for. But I don’t have a choice. The mad dash continues.

Beach Birthday
Birthday Yurt
Birthday girl - never too old for fun

The Architect of My Own Joy

My birthday is tomorrow. Live long enough and you’ll see patterns repeat. This time last year I was seriously ill and about to move. This past week or so I’ve been under the weather - not so acutely, thankfully, but a lingering headache is wearing me out - while also preparing for yet another move that involves a great degree of uncertainty. Hopefully the last for a good long while. I’ve made the tough decision to buy property again. For the first time since 1999. And it’s all coming back to me. The anxiety and stress of making an offer, coming up with earnest money, all the paperwork, getting the financing approved, etc. Once again I’m wishing we could fast forward a few months to post-closing/moving. But I’ve just got to live through this. With what feels like an ulcer. Ultimately this will be for the best, to have a more permanent home base again for my son and me. And this time around it’s a maintenance-free condo in the perfect location (if it all works out) rather than a money pit of a house in a strange out of the way spot.

Five bits of relatable content:

Yesterday I shot a lovely wedding for a wonderful couple. This afternoon I’m leaving to pick up a friend and we’ll be staying overnight in a yurt for goth lady yurt party times. Tomorrow night I’ll be having my annual Pizza Farm birthday - even better this year because my actual birthday falls on a Tuesday again. And then my offspring returns from his 2+ weeks of West Coast adventures. I’ve got to keep my chin up and find joy where I can.

Gorgeous wedding cake

Cosmic Microwave Background

On the drive into work Tuesday morning I listened to icon Kathleen Hanna on the Going Through It podcast. And went on to have a Le Tigre sort of morning. Just the thing after a long holiday weekend. But then I went out on my lunch walk. Curse you, Phoebe Robinson! Listening to her podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, got me on a U2 kick. All afternoon I listened to The Joshua Tree for the first time in years.

Five More Things That Bring Me Joy:

My son and I enjoyed the Museum of the Moon exhibit at the Bell Museum, along with a showing at the Planetarium. Check it out before June 9th if you can.

Bell Museum Moon Exhibit

Superheroes Who Create

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. I don’t want to talk about how busy I’ve been but let’s just say life has been full. Very. Full to bursting. There are a number of half-finished drafts cluttering up my folder. Some of this may be old news but it’s still worthwhile. As we head into a long holiday weekend, I give you Five Compelling Things:

darsombra in Amsterdam

It’s Getting Kinda Hectic

Mother’s Day has always been fraught for me. I barely survived a terrifying mother and have, thankfully, been estranged from her most of my adulthood. My own motherhood has been complicated but joyful. My surviving child is an amazing young man. Our lives would have been very different if those two interrupted pregnancies had not failed. And I boggle at the complexities of human reproductive biology and the horror of politicians attempting to regulate it. The erosion of women’s rights in the US, and abroad is beyond discouraging. With headlines like:

US Stance at UN a Backward Step on Women’s Rights
Trump Administration Threats to Veto Security Council Resolution on Sexual Violence

What You Can Do to Help Women in States With 6-Week Abortion Bans
This past week, Georgia became the sixth state to pass an ultra-restrictive law banning abortion at six weeks. Effectively, these bills outlaw nearly all abortions, since they leave a prohibitively short window for women to both confirm they’re pregnant — six weeks is just two weeks after a missed period — and then schedule and obtain an abortion.

We have these politicians attempting to exert control over women’s reproductive health, while revenge porn and worse are also rampant problems. So dire we have law professors like Danielle Citron, who has written an article on Sexual Privacy, published by the Yale Law Journal.

ABSTRACT. Those who wish to control, expose, and damage the identities of individuals routinely do so by invading their privacy. People are secretly recorded in bedrooms and public bathrooms and “up their skirts.” Such images are used to coerce people into sharing nude photographs and filming sex acts under the threat of public disclosure. People’s nude images are posted online without permission. Machine-learning technology is used to create digitally manipulated “deep fake” sex videos that swap people’s faces into pornography.

Each of these abuses is an invasion of sexual privacy—the behaviors, expectations, and choices that manage access to and information about the human body, sex, sexuality, gender, and intimate activities. Most often, women, nonwhites, sexual minorities, and minors shoulder the abuse. Sexual privacy, this Article contends, is a distinct privacy interest that warrants recognition and protection. It serves as a cornerstone for sexual autonomy and consent. It is foundational to human dignity and intimacy, and its denial results in the subordination of marginalized communities.

Traditional privacy law is increasingly insufficient to protect this interest. Its efficacy is eroding just as digital technologies magnify the scale and scope of the harm. The Article suggests a new approach to protecting sexual privacy that focuses on law and markets. Law should provide federal and state penalties for all types of sexual-privacy invasions, remove the statutory immunity from liability for certain content platforms, and work in tandem with hate-crime laws. Market efforts should be pursued if they enhance the overall privacy interests of all involved.

Times like these I’m ready to hide my head in the sand. Or flee the country. It’s all so exhausting. A never-ending shuffle of one step forward, two steps back. Today I haven’t got any fight in me. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the Bundt cake my son baked for me. And the company of a few close friends and family members. And think of those mothers who have lost children, those who have lost mothers, those with strained relationships with their mothers, mothers with strained child relationships, those who have chosen not to be mothers and those still yearning to be mothers.

My son, up a tree, watching the May Day Parade 2019

The Complexities Of Time, Space and Grief

Grief can be relentless. Other times it gives you a little more breathing room, only to sneak up on you with a sucker punch. Anniversaries have always been the hardest for me. Thirty years ago today my brother Tom died. I have been grieving for 2/3 of my life. I still think about him every day. This morning I stuffed that grief deep down so I could go about my work day. Though I did create a playlist of his favorite music, to keep me company and to celebrate our shared interests. And I was doing all right. But over my lunch break, I watched the trailer for See You Yesterday. Bam, sucker punch. I had to choke down a sob or two. The movie is about a lot of things - sci-fi commentary on Black Lives Matter, police brutality, time travel. But at its core, it is about a young woman whose older brother dies.

My older brother was the one person in my life I could count on, who looked out for me. We grew up in a toxic environment. Even before he died there had already been so much trauma. Afterward was even bleaker. And memories associated with trauma remain more static than regular ones. Tom was sick in the hospital over a particularly long winter, and Spring was slow to start. Not unlike this year. I’d started sleeping at the hospital as the staff told us it wouldn’t be much longer. That he was fading fast. I knew the facts but stubbornly clung to the absurd hope he would bounce back, somehow. That he would go into remission. I didn’t want to acknowledge how leukemia, chemo and eventually pneumonia had utterly destroyed my beautiful 18-year-old brother. And that morning the sun had finally come out. It was the first hint of actual Spring. After a lousy breakfast in the hospital cafeteria, I went outside. And lingered in the sunshine a little too long, listening to the birds sing. Cheerfully I headed back inside to see if Tom was awake yet. But when I went back up to his room he was gone. Everything about that morning, up to that point, is burned into my brain. The weeks after were just a blur. I clearly remember being at the funeral home to pick out my brother’s casket and carefully selecting which of his favorite clothes he would be buried in. But I barely remember the day of the funeral itself. I mostly remember being dazed. Though the night before, after we held the visitation, I vividly remember a school building - across the street from our house - going up in flames. And no, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the one who started the fire.

But I don’t want to dwell on how he died. My job as his surviving sibling is to remember our good times together. And to tell my son all about him, and his interests, and his dry sense of humor. And to remind those who knew him that it is more than ok for them to talk about him with me. That I welcome their memories more than anything. Especially when they share stories I wasn’t around for, like some of his classmates and co-workers have over the years.

Woman wearing a raincoat on a cold and wet walk

Reality Is Thin Enough

The Heart of the Beast May Day Parade has been a huge part of my life since I was a young adult. I’ve taken my son nearly every year of his life. Yet there have been rumblings for a while that the organization is struggling, like many other arts organizations locally and nationally. From MPR:

For 45 years, the May Day parade has ranked up there with robins and daffodils as a sign of spring’s arrival in the Powderhorn neighborhood of south Minneapolis. But now, financial setbacks have made the parade’s future uncertain.

I do hope they are able to continue. After traveling to other countries I’ve seen how some value and fund the arts in a more sustainable way. It makes me even more disgusted by what gets prioritized in the US (along with the greater disparities between rich and poor). We already have an incredibly busy weekend ahead but there’s no way I’m going to miss Sunday’s parade. And I will enjoy the heck out of it. Keeping to that theme, how about Five More Things I Have Enjoyed recently:

Olive the cat, patiently waiting for a treat in the kitchen