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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

Take Your Pleasure Seriously

When things warm up in Minnesota people begin to reconnect. Last Saturday I attended two brunches. Today a friend/former co-worker reached out to me for photography advice and would like to get together for happy hour. Tonight I’m catching up with an old friend I haven’t seen in years. We hung out when our kids were babies and now they are both legal adults. This past winter was a rough one. I would have felt more isolated except I started seeing someone just before the holidays. We’ve made jokes about “cuffing season” but our arrangement has endured…because Game of Thrones season 8 started. And Killing Eve S2. And there was just the Star Trek Discovery finale we had to watch. And The Expanse S4 is coming. You get the picture.

Five Fantastic Things:

Spring also means cosplay season, for my son. Free Comic Book Day, SpringCon, CONvergence prep. He’s been working with his Dad on his Batman Mask of the Phantasm cosplay and it is looking good. The final piece for them to craft is some sort of arm scythe thingie. The mask was 3D printed. I bet the filmmakers didn’t foresee that back in 1993, when the film was first released.

Mask of the Phantasm cosplay

Surrender to the Air

Since returning from vacation I’ve been feeling out of sorts and tired all the time. Last weekend I barely made it out of the house. Instead, I had my man friend over to catch up on TV (including the Game of Thrones premiere, of course - which also means the return of Gay of Thrones, thankfully). As always, there have been all kinds of awful saturating the 24 news cycles but I am just tired. Trying to focus on the more hopeful side of things.

Five Good Things:

Tomorrow night I return to teaching, after my day job. This session the class is a little less about coding and more focused on design. I’m hoping my students respond well to using Figma for creating mood boards and personal logos. These classes have been teaching me something about teaching, but also reminding me how much I enjoy web design and development.

Surrender to the Air

Tilting At Windmills

The same thing happens every year. I take my son away for a delightful Spring Break adventure. And we return home only to be greeted by more blizzards, in April. It’s so discouraging. That, combined with the added bonus of jet lag, has made it particularly hard to find my footing. We’ve been back just over a week and I’m still dazed and confused. But Amsterdam was a goddamned delight. Since 2015 I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in Canada (Montreal, mainly), Denmark, France, Croatia, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, and The Netherlands. These travels have only reinforced the idea that it is time for me to move on and away from Minnesota. Never mind the political messes of local, state and federal governments here. I returned home to all this nonsense just in the past week:

It is just about time for me to bug out. But I’m trying to get my now adult son prepared first. A few days ago I took him to a college open house. He was drawn to the art classes, naturally. We were given some paperwork for him to fill out. Once that’s turned in his orientation will be scheduled. This is what we’ve been working toward for a while but it’s all happening now and it’s a little surreal. I’ve been looking into programs like Remote Year for myself. Though I have seen some negative comments about it on Reddit, it is the sort of experience I’m looking for, as a single woman. I’ve done plenty of solo international travel and haven’t experienced any major problems yet, but I appreciate the safety-in-numbers argument. And this program would get me to South America and Asia. Places I would like to visit but not on my own. We’ll see if I can make this - or something like it - happen within the next year or two.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Tiny car, average sized teen in Amsterdam 2019

Blinking At Reality

It’s easy to feel defeated. The news is filled with the headline-worthy atrocities humans inflict on one another and on the planet. I remember growing up, I was regularly horrified as I learned about another new way everything was wrong in the world. Apartheid, the Cold War, chlorofluorocarbons and the Ozone Layer, the Lebanese Civil War, homophobia, female circumcision, sex trafficking, serial killers, factory farming, Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners around the globe. It was all too much. But I was young and spirited and became involved in activism. Sadly little seems to have changed. And has grown worse, really, in many ways. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized I was trying to change symptoms when the root problems need to be addressed. Over and over again the main culprit seems to be capitalism. Young people like Greta Thunberg give me some hope:

School climate strikes: 1.4 million people took part, say campaigners - Activist Greta Thunberg, 16, says action proved ‘no one is too small to make a difference’ and Greta Thunberg calls for ‘system change not climate change

The system that needs to be changed to avert climate disaster is capitalism, which is losing its legitimacy largely due to the system’s failure to respond effectively to climate change.

How About Five Satisfying Things, Related to Nature?

Oh, and Happy Equinox! We got an early start on Sunday, spending the day on a friend’s goat farm (said friend pictured below). From the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy online:

Astrological and Cultural Significance of the Vernal Equinox
Throughout the history of mankind, the Vernal Equinox has been a time of celebration for many civilisations. For some, it signified the passing of the old year and the rebirth of the new and has, for a long time, been considered the beginning of the Pagan New Year, when the Sun reaches the First Point of Aries (2,500 years ago this was at the Cardinal, Fire Sign of Aries, the Ram). It was a celebration of the return of the Sun God from the winter underworld. The Lupercalian fertility festival also took place during the Vernal Equinox. Likewise, Easter - originating from the ancient Germanic fertility festival Ostara in honour of the goddess of spring, Eostre, but is nowadays all about fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs - celebrations take place on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the Vernal Equinox, when the barrenness of Winter is overcome by the fertility that comes with Spring.

Mark, post-sauna, posing in his bedroom

The Scourge of White Supremacy

Don’t watch the videos. Please. It’s horrific enough that white nationalist terrorists committed these atrocities. I’m terrified of these internet trolls who are moving their hate from online to the real world. And feeling empowered to do so by right-wing politicians.

At least 49 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, in a horrific and methodical afternoon slaughter, part of which was broadcast live on the internet after the publication of a white supremacist manifesto online.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/world/asia/christchurch-shooting-new-zealand.html

New Zealand mosque attacks and the scourge of white supremacy: Shootings at Christchurch mosques are only the latest on a long list of acts of white supremacist terrorism in the West.

Although US media and political elites spend considerable time discussing “Islamic terrorism”, far-right, white supremacist terrorism is far more common. A recent study showed that two-thirds of terrorist attacks in the US are carried out by far-right individuals and groups. Research by the Southern Poverty Law Center, meanwhile, shows that most far-right violence is unambiguously linked to white supremacy.
https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/zealand-mosque-attacks-scourge-white-supremacy-190315090752857.html

As usual, I feel overwhelmed and powerless. This morning all I can do is offer up five hopeful or inspiring Muslim stories and events:

Dreary

Dancing on My Own

Still blissed out when thinking about last week’s Robyn show. The City Pages write-up: Robyn offers shortcuts to ecstasy at her euphoric Palace performance. Photos from my friend Jon at Reviler. And here’s the audience singing Dancing on My Own. I’d thought that was pretty impressive. But later that week NYC had their own singalong while waiting for the E Train and watching it gave me goosebumps. Make sure you have your sound way up!

Today’s Top Five:

It’s nearly mid-March and our Spring break trip is less than two weeks away. Yet here I am, giving up or giving in, by buying Yaktrax. For both the boy and myself. Current temperatures are just above freezing and it’s been raining for days. I’m happy to see the snow melt, making our alleyway more navigable, though it means flooded basements for some. What’s disconcerting is the forecast. We’ll be back below freezing tonight through Saturday. It’s going to get slick out there. And we’ve had enough of falling. Too bad I can’t get Yaktrax for my car as well.

Robyn
Robyn

Embrace the Unknown

The other night my therapist was talking - again - about viewing events as neither good nor bad, without making a value judgment. And making a distinction between value judgments and observations. Well, yesterday morning I observed my little hatchback being rear-ended by a giant Dodge Ram. I am ok and I think my Volvo is as well. I had taken a different route to work than usual. At one intersection I started to turn right on red before realizing this was prohibited (there was a text-only sign reading “No Right Turn On Red”). So I stopped but the truck behind me did not. Well, not until it ran into my car. Randy, the Ram driver, tried to blame it on the ice but I think it was just morning commute impatience. We pulled over around the way and exchanged info. Such an exciting start to a Tuesday.

In other news, last week I was reading a roundup of local Twin Cities saunas (Rooftops! Mobile units! Infrared technology! Space eggs!) and posted to Facebook, asking if anyone wanted to join me in the golden egg. Thankfully a friend reminded me he has his own sauna. That I would be free to use, for free (instead of shelling out $35 for a half hour). On his farm. That also has goats. Thank you, yes! So we put a plan together to co-host a party at his place. I’m so very excited. I’ve already obtained the groceries needed to make BBQ tofu and more. And we’ll be drinking LaCroix instead of alcohol because - sauna. Safety first.

Five Things I Am Interested In And/Or Thankful For:

Last weekend I was feeling motivated. I had just listened to an Imaginary Worlds podcast episode about Margaret Brundage, who illustrated some of the best Weird Tales cover art in the 1930s. And then I saw a call for submissions, from women writers only, for 1930s Weird Tales style short stories. Sign me up! Initially, I had just been excited by the idea. Saturday morning I woke up with a fully formed story in my head. And I managed to flesh out the whole thing Saturday and Sunday. Now I’m making the final tweaks before I send it off. Whether or not my submission is accepted is irrelevant. It was just incredibly satisfying to write fiction again.

Sunday brunch bed head