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Random Act of Happiness

A new week and a fresh start. Woke up early thanks to another burst of prednisone. After walking out the door I realized my outfit is full on Golden Girls tropical loungewear. One of the last times I wore this I was on vacation in Palm Springs. Sign me up for AARP already! It is my birthday next week, after all. To that end I set up one of those birthday donations that Facebook pesters you about. But this one is for RAICES, the largest immigration legal services non-profit in Texas, focusing on underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.

Every Father’s Day my step-mother mandates a combined celebration. I was born on my Dad’s birthday so Father’s Day is a three-in-one. Yesterday my son and I drove out to the burbs. In typical Dad fashion he showed off his lovely garden (I did not inherit his green thumb), then bumbled around his house searching nooks and crannies for his treasures. They’re always hidden away in little miniature yellow legal folders. Yesterday it was an assortment of old belt buckles he wanted me to see. Then he asked me to find his old high school girlfriend online. Apparently she had Heterochromia - two different colored eyes - and was Miss White Bear Lake 1963 (and Miss Minnesota 1966, apparently). Just another Sunday with the Morrows.

Five Good Things:

Random bonus: This video about How the Internet Works was just the thing this morning.

Yeti Records RV sunroof

Dignity is an Illusion

What ICE is doing - tearing families apart at our borders - is unconscionable and horrific. This is America but it doesn’t have to be. On this Father’s day our local Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) organized a protest. I hope it was well attended. I wanted to join them but my doctor cautioned me against it. Yesterday I wound up at Urgent Care, again. My breathing problems haven’t improved. An x-ray showed my lungs are at low capacity. A nebulizer treatment may have helped but really it’s another burst of prednisone again that seems to be reducing inflammation. That and Atarax, a prescription antihistamine I had never heard of. I don’t even want to read the list of side effects. I’m finally being referred to a pulmonary specialist but I have no time to go see them, the way work has been going. Obviously I’ll have to make time. And, once again, I’m very grateful for the high quality health insurance plan provided by my employer. Maybe we’ll figure this thing out one of these days.

Also disappointing? Chris Hardwick. I had been a long-time fan. Watched his show @midnight, listened to his podcast, followed him on social media. No more. He seemed to be a fellow nerd who grew up at the wrong time, in the 70s, who was picked on for his interests. And as an adult he’s been in therapy to work out his shit and always advised his followers to “be nice to each other, goddammit.” I can relate to these things. But I believe his ex, Chloe Dykstra. Her allegations are awful yet unsurprising. This, not too long after Joss Whedon. Nerdy men who have created things I’ve enjoyed, who seemed like they would be allies, but surprise! Worlds of nope. And yes, women can be shitty and abusive and manipulative in relationships. Everyone can be. But the power dynamics have to be acknowledged. In the case of Chris Hardwick he was 17 years senior to his ex-girlfriend and in a more successful point of his career. When their relationship ended he had the influence to get his buddies to blacklist her all around LA so she couldn’t get work. Likewise Whedon preyed on young actresses whose employment depended on him. With the #metoo movement these types of situations finally have repercussions but this shit should never happen to begin with.

Let’s take a 180 for Five Good Things:

  • This is incredibly cool and I adore Berlin: “raubdruckerin” is an art collective turning manhole covers, grids and street tiles into printing presses that capture the unique footprints of European cities. I’d wear that.
  • A friend joined me for an impromptu screening of Ocean’s 8 and wow, representation makes a huge difference. I’m all for more women on the big screen. The Bechdel Test is such a low bar yet so many movies still don’t pass it these days. It’s inexcusable. Recently on twitter I suggested that imdb and rotten tomatoes should include a brief line of text with an inclusivity rating for a movie, right along with its runtime, filming locations, etc. I don’t want to bother watching movies that render women, people of color, or LGBTQ+ people practically invisible. Those movies have all been made already. It’s time for the film industry to reflect real world demographics.
  • We Strange Girls are hosting a Summer Night Market at Modist Brewing. I had a rough day in my booth at Art-A-Whirl last month, which I wrote about. But the weather was working against us. And I hadn’t printed any new, smaller pieces to sell. Next month we’ll be indoors in air conditioning and I’ve already made photo magnets (how do they fucking work?) and photo gift cards that turned out really well. I have a good feeling about this.
  • Tuesday night I’m seeing Denmark’s Iceage for the third time. I’ve really been enjoying their new album, Beyondless. And they’re always fun live.
  • Queer Eye season 2 is on Netflix! And I may have binge watched it all too quickly. I did so much crying. “There are more tears and hugs and social commentary in the Queer Eye season two opener than there were in the entire first season.” For real.
Mom trying to make her son smile

Change Is The Only Constant

Last Sunday I put on a party to celebrate my son’s high school graduation. Unbeknownst to him I’d put together three 20′ x 30′ posters - all collages of photos from his childhood. Normally he would find this sort of thing incredibly embarrassing. Thankfully he attended several friends’ graduation parties the weekend before his and now views this as an annoying yet acceptable thing for a parent to do. Especially after a number of his female classmates showed up and gushed over the pics.

Creating the posters was an incredibly emotional process. So much nostalgia! All the feelings! And wow, this kid - like many of his generation - has had a well documented life. Only a handful of photos were ever taken or printed from my childhood and most are yellowing and faded. While I worked on this project I happened to catch an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast and that got me thinking about timeslice errors and the stories we tell ourselves. It makes sense that our brains aren’t machines, storing perfect copies of memories. Rather those memories can change each time we access them and be colored by information we’ve learned since or how we’re feeling at a given moment. Although this doesn’t apply in the same way to traumatic memories. I find it all fascinating.

Five Good Things for Mid-Week:

  • Since winter finally ended I’ve been outside as much as possible. I already have a ridiculous tan line on my feet from my hiking sandals (it makes my feet look filthy). But this weekend we’ll be indoors a bit when going to see The Incredibles 2. Our lives were so very different in 2004, when the first one was released.
  • Over the last two days the world has been fascinated by a wayward raccoon in our very own Twin Cities: High-Climbing Raccoon Finally Reaches Top Of St. Paul Skyscraper And America Exhales. My pal Danielle is from MN but lives in Rome. She watched the hand-wringing raccoon situation unfold along with the rest of us, and created some art! It can be purchased on a t-shirt or a tote bag.
  • Northern Spark is this weekend. Organizers are changing things up and making it two nights, from 9:02am - 2am, instead of one night from dusk until dawn.
  • In the Dark season 2 has been riveting, but also infuriating! So much systemic racism. And yes, I realize that’s everywhere but dang. This case. Makes me want to slap some sense into the District Attorney and juries and some witnesses from all six trials. Everyone should be listening to this podcast.
  • We missed Open Streets Lyndale last weekend, because of grad party prep, and that was just blocks from home. But there are still loads more coming up in other neighborhoods. Summers in Minnesota are filled with activity. I’m particularly excited by the Bell Museum’s grand opening but that’s the same weekend as a cool event up on the Iron Range. Dilemma.
Party mode?
Parker's graduation party

Pain is Just a Program

This week I’ve been taking Prednisone. For the first time in years. It helps me breathe when my asthma is rough, which I appreciate. But I’m not a fan of its side effects. For me it’s restlessness, moodiness and hunger. It can be far worse for others with possible side effects ranging from “inappropriate happiness” and bulging eyes to bruising, vomiting and more. Only five days of it (just took the last dose) but I’m ready to have this out of my system. And it’s been a particularly emotional week for me, for so many reasons. Life stuff like ongoing feuding with my landlord. But mainly? Because my amazing son graduated from high school last night. Many proud mom moments.

That brings me back to emotions and mental health. I’m a big fan of empathy and kindness. We can’t imagine what others around us are going through. The kind of physical pain or mental anguish they may be carrying with them. I believe everyone should see a therapist, if they are able to. Anthony Bourdain is on my mind this morning. Growing up my family never traveled beyond the tri-state area. I didn’t board an airplane until I was 17. But I read constantly - books and glossy travel magazines - and dreamed of being anywhere other than where I was. As an adult I’ve been able to travel a bit. Not as much as I would like but more than many. And I’ve shared my passion for travel with my son. I’ve emphasized the importance of life experiences over buying/having stuff. As a longtime vegan I overlooked Bourdain’s mocking of my tribe and enjoyed watching his episodes featuring destinations I am likely to visit as well as ones I probably won’t get to. Often I found him endearing.

“An octogenarian columnist who’d written a review about a new Olive Garden in her small city was ripped to shreds by pretentious assholes in the food blogging community and beyond.

Anthony Bourdain flew her to New York for a meal at Per Se. Then he wrote the forward to her book.”

Amazing. I missed his Montreal episode before my first trip there but enjoyed watching it prior to my second visit. We had wildly different experiences in Paris and Berlin and Croatia and Copenhagen but it was fun to compare notes, and pick up the flavor of a place from his take on it. He had incredible experiences in Lebanon, the country my family migrated from that I have yet to visit. I’ve had dreams about Bourdain and my Dad once smoked cigarettes with him outside of a book tour event. In the Fall I’ll be thinking of Bourdain and his no bullshit attitude to travel and life as I travel around Dublin, Rome and the Italian countryside on my own.

But today I woke up to the news that Bourdain took his own life. A perfect example of someone who appeared to have everything they could ever hope for or dream of, but he was still battling his own demons. Mental health is just as important as physical health but our society doesn’t value it in the same way. And suicide rates are climbing in the United States.

From Dissonance:

This week has been hard with prominent suicides. If you are suffering, reach out. Call 1-800-273-8255 or text MN to 741741.

It took me years to finally start seeing a therapist. Before that I dealt with my own mental health issues (the tag team duo of trauma and grief) through escapism. Mainly science fiction and fantasy books, films and shows. And this is how I still cope, to a degree. The rise of nerd culture means I have too many amazing options everywhere that feel like they were tailor-made just for me. Last Sunday morning I took myself to see Upgrade (with MoviePass) before running errands. I’ve never been a fan of reality TV and generally prefer fiction to non, but I’m working on it. There are more non-fiction works I am a HUGE fan of these days across mediums, especially related to social justice and self-improvement.

Five good things:

  • Queer Eye season 2! In one week! So excited.
  • This documentary is at the top of my queue, because it is Pride month, and because I’ve been wanting to see it: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
  • Pose isn’t non-fiction, but it’s a fictionalized take on NYC’s very real Ball culture and house system scene in NYC and I adored the pilot episode. It reminded me of the 80s when I would devour Interview magazine cover to cover and wish I lived in NYC.
  • I’ve read all of Matt Haig’s fiction, but I have yet to tackle his memoir about depression called Reasons to Stay Alive. It’s time to bump that up to the top of the list.
  • And this, for some levity: “you haven’t experienced life until you’ve seen Muppet outtakes
High school graduation with Mom
High school graduation

The Uncertainty of Our Experiences

Breathing is something we all do, right? But since I was a small child it’s been a problem for me. Some of it was medical. I grew up in a house with a heavy smoker parent and was frequently sick. From a very young age I had croup, pneumonia, bronchitis, frequent strep throat and allergy-induced asthma. But I was also prone to hyperventilating from panic attacks. As an adult this has all been under control, more or less. But in the last week there was a convergence of events:

  • On Memorial Day temps hit 100 and triggered air quality alert warnings. My lungs were on fire for days. My inhaler is out and to refill the prescription I have to make an appointment with a primary care doc first.
  • I listened to a podcast episode with a conversation between two people discussing panic attacks that went into so much detail that I started having a panic attack. I also listened to a different podcast with an amazing episode about accessibility activists that included polio survivors who needed iron lungs to live and got down on myself about my dumb anxiety attack induced breathing problems.
  • My therapist has me practicing body scans, for meditation/mindfulness, but I’m finding that just gets me stuck on my breathing issues.

So right now I’m stuck not knowing how much of this is asthma vs anxiety but this conscious breathing is causing me to hyperventilate, feel lightheaded and dizzy, and then yawn deeply to try to get more oxygen in my lungs when the problem may be that I have already gotten too much oxygen. While reading about others who struggle with this I found an article: When Automatic Bodily Processes Become Conscious: How to Disengage from Sensorimotor Obsessions. And I am just feeling like a barrel of fun.

Colin Stetson

What a Feeling

What a weird holiday weekend. We managed to blend plenty of productivity with loads of downtime, which was solid. But there were plenty of frustrations as well. Between the mold problems in our home, excessive heat and air pollution warnings plus high pollen alerts my lungs are burning. I feel like I’ve been huffing paint thinner or nail polish remover. It hurts. Yesterday we took my Dad to see the Solo movie, which we all enjoyed, but we did not enjoy emerging to 100 degree heat which quickly developed into an End of Times looking storm.

On a more tragic note, Sunday night a fire completely destroyed the Roberts Shoes building, displacing dozens of artists who had studios and homes there. Just awful. A displacement fund has been set up. Contribute if you can. That’s been on my mind a lot. Especially after seeing a lot of friends and acquaintances posting their remembrances of the space.

After that downer it’s hard to stay positive. But I’m back at work today and my son is back at school (with just three days of high school left). So let’s roll with it, with Five Good Things:

  • The news coverage around the Solo movie has been oddly negative. My dad, son and I enjoyed it (especially Donald Glover as Lando). And I’ll agree that Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 is one of the best Star Wars characters ever.
  • This is from the end of 2017 but still relevant, and a great read: The Women Who Run the “Star Wars” Universe
  • Somehow I forgot Mary Ocher was playing the Entry last night. I’m sad I missed it but I was so wiped out from yesterday’s weird heat I turned in early anyhow. Woke up to photos of her show in my social media feeds. At least it served as a reminder to listen to her The West Against The People album while working today.
  • I stumbled on an older episode of The Kitchen Sisters podcast I hadn’t heard before. It’s a fun one. Prince and the Technician: “In 1983 Prince hired LA sound technician, Susan Rogers, one of the few women in the industry, to move to Minneapolis and help upgrade his home recording studio as he began work on the album and the movie Purple Rain.”
  • It’s nearly June, which is usually one of my favorite months of the year. This one will be particularly eventful. I’ll be photographing a wedding, my son will be graduating from high school, my Dad and I will celebrate another one of our shared birthdays and it’s time for me to organize another Pizza Farm adventure. Soon.
Dancing Darth Vader

Three Strikes

The housing and rental markets have gotten really tight in Minneapolis. Not much is available and what is for sale or for rent is more expensive than ever. So I recently renewed our lease for another two years. The duplex I’ve been renting for the past four years has been relatively comfortable for my son and I, except for when it’s not. Like now. For the third summer in a row there has been a water damage event where my bedroom carpet has gotten soaked. The carpet has never been replaced and this time it’s much worse than the others. My duplex neighbors’ water heater was leaking FOR DAYS. The property management company confirmed this last Friday but allowed it to leak all weekend long. When they finally replaced it Monday my bedroom had already morphed into the mouth of an Exogorth (giant Star Wars space slug). I’ve been sleeping on a couch for days now. To make matters worse, there’s another leak in my downstairs bathroom ceiling, which maintenance has started pulling apart. And the stench of mold in our lower level is overpowering. I keep asking about mold remediation but I’m being blown off. When I’m not home I’m afraid I smell of mold. It may be time to file a complaint with the city but I’ve never gone that route. I don’t relish this but something needs to be done. This is a health hazard. We weren’t planning to leave town for the long holiday weekend but I’m tempted to now, considering the musty state of our home.

Life has been a mixed bag, as usual. There have been long walks while listening to podcasts, live comedy shows, happy hours, cosplaying (one of my son’s favorite things) and backyard BBQs. I am trying to accentuate the positive. So how about Five Good Things:

  • Last weekend was a particularly busy one. I spent much of Saturday freezing my ass off trying to sell my wares (unsuccessfully) at a booth at Art-A-Whirl but it gave me time to go into problem-solving mode and come up with possible solutions. It was a satisfying exercise.
  • My son has five days left of high school. Ever. That is surreal.
  • Our friends’ band, Rabbit Holes, are almost famous. Their band appeared in the movie The House of Tomorrow and a group of us are going to see it tomorrow night. Been looking forward to that for a while.
  • This growing season our office building will be a drop off site for a Community Supported Agriculture program. I am grateful that one of my colleagues did the legwork to pull this together for us. It has been too long since I’ve been part of a CSA, and this is a great organization: “Open Arms of Minnesota is a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities.”
  • We’re probably taking my Dad to see Solo: A Star Wars Story this weekend. And this is a fun interview with the new Chewbacca actor. And we’ve just learned that my son’s uncle will be working on visual effects for Star Wars Episode IX. Star Wars is an intergenerational family affair for us.
Nicole at the Minneapolis Passport Program launch party
Tiptoeing through the tulips

Accessibility = Inclusion

At this time last year I was in Denmark. I was there with work for several wonderful days before taking the train to Berlin (a train that loaded on to a giant ferry to cross the Baltic Sea before popping back out onto train tracks), then I flew to Edinburgh and took a train to Glasgow before returning home. Every other year my employer pulls together a Global Meetup, for all branches of the company, and plans it to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Yesterday we stayed local but I was able to join my colleagues, including Keith Bundy, as he taught a class of aspiring web developers about assistive technologies and why web accessibility matters and how they should bring those ideas with them into their future careers. I like to emphasize that accessibility isn’t about disabilities, it’s about inclusion. Ensuring that everyone is able to access the same information and services online. Oh and our event even made the nightly news.

Five More Good Things for GAAD:

  • Mashable posted a decent roundup. What you need to know about Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
  • Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with disabilities
  • I just learned about Able Gamers: We give people with disabilities custom gaming setups including modified controllers and special assistive technology, like devices that let you play with your eyes, so they can have fun with their friends and family. We’re using the power of video games to bring people together, improving quality of life with recreation and rehabilitation.
  • Last night I visited my former employer, Clockwork, for their GAAD event co-hosted by WeCo. They had a great panel for people who use, design, build, or sell technology and a Device Expo afterward.
  • I’d like to include this in a non-cheesy way, but I appreciate these quotes about accessibility.

A few photos below from GAAD 2018, and the full album can be found here.

Keith Bundy being interviewed by local reporter for GAAD 2018
Working with students on GAAD 2018
Interviewing students for GAAD 2018

Hitting the Homestretch

Hard to believe my son’s senior year is coming to a close so soon. He is reaching one of those endings that will be a big beginning. Adulthood. Technically he reached the age of majority last Fall, when he turned 18. But the boy has got a lot to learn. This afternoon we met with staff who will help him over next school year. He’s eligible to attend a fantastic transition program until he’s 21, to work on college and life prep, before moving on to community college. This year of prep will help him better take advantage of the free freshman year of college he qualifies for, when he’s ready for it. I am so thankful to have these supports in our school district.

Five Good Things for Tuesday:

Another highlight of the day? Finding something precious that I had misplaced, months later. It was one of the dreams my wonderfully weird Dad writes down for me. So I’ve started transcribing them again. This latest one features a surprise guest and weaponry. You can really tell we’re related.


Galaxy of Women

Growing up I was terrified of women. So much so that I didn’t want to become one. My role models were lousy. The women in my immediate family belittled one another, ganged up on each other, tore each other apart. They taught me to be afraid of everything and to trust no one. I walked on eggshells around them. They only pulled together to viciously judge others before turning on each other, again and again and again. They were cruel and petty and manipulative and lacked any shred of empathy. I was relieved to be labeled a tomboy, especially since my brother’s name was Tom and I was mainly dressed in his hand-me-down clothes (that made extra sense to my young brain). This was the 70s and 80s, long before the rise of nerd culture. Then it was less accepted for an androgynous little girl to be obsessed with fandom that fell into the more stereotypically male-dominated camp. Star Wars, Legos, robots, Evel Knievel, sci-fi, space opera, fantasy, comics, Muppets, Weird Al, Dr. Demento, wrestling and video games were my jam. And I preferred to have my nose in a book than to play or watch sports. Nothing has changed.

Growing up my brother and father were more consistent. Consistently reserved but more rational, calmer, easier to be around. I wasn’t on high alert all the time with them. All of these factors caused me to internalize misogyny more than most probably, because the women around me were so toxic and I wanted nothing to do with that. My attempted relationships with other young women were doomed to fail or at least feel strained. I projected my misinformation and insecurities on to our interactions and misinterpreted their intentions. Likewise I trusted young men too easily which led to confusing and unpleasant situations.

It took a lot of time, distance, and effort. The punk rock/hardcore scene was my oasis but often only reinforced misogyny, unfortunately. In the 90s the riot grrrl movement helped. Figuring out what feminism means to me has been a process but eventually I grew to appreciate and trust other women. And I love being a woman, though I identify as somewhat gender queer. All of this is on my mind as it is Mother’s Day, again, and I have a complicated relationship with motherhood. I’ve been estranged from the woman who gave birth to me for years, by necessity, and in therapy largely because of her. My own motherhood has brought me incredible joy and extreme sadness. My living son has been a delight. My efforts to give him a sibling ended in horror-show pregnancies. And raising him mostly on my own has been a struggle financially more than anything else. A few examples:

Moms, Beware: The Gender Pay Gap Hits You Hardest
Is This How You Treat Mom? Mothers Earn 28.4% Less Than Fathers in the United States - Nearly three-quarters of American households with children include a working mother, and one-fifth are headed by a single mother.
Working dads make more money than working moms in every state

How about Five Good Things for Mother’s Day?

The Fallen