Today I Wore A Mask To Target

Today I wore a mask to Target.

I was hot.

I was uncomfortable.

My glasses were foggy.

No one could see my really cute lipstick I had just applied before I put my mask on because I still have standards to uphold, people. (Also the lipstick thing is automatic and I keep forgetting about the mask.)

I smiled with my eyes at my fellow mask wearers to encourage us all in our mission of love.

Friends, masks are not a symbol of fear.

They are a symbol of love.

We know wearing a mask protects us some, but even more so, it protects those around us.

If we know there’s a chance we could be sick and not know it, even a small chance, we care for those around us by wearing this bit of fabric around our faces.

Today I Wore A Mask To Target: woman wearing face mask
Courtesy of Amy Betters-Midtvedt

We accept being uncomfortable and living differently and taking this extra step as a way of serving those around us.

As a way of acknowledging we are all connected and what we do might in fact affect others.

“You do you” is really no way to plow through a pandemic.

We need each other, like it or not.

So we wear a mask as a way of saying we are all in this together, and even if I am just fine, I still care about what happens to you.

As a way of trying to get back to living in community together outside the walls of our homes.

It’s such a simple thing to do really…this mask wearing.

It is not living in fear.

Close-Up Of Woman Wearing Mask Looking Away
Panuwat Dangsungnoen/EyeEm/Getty

It is siding with the science.

It has nothing to do with politics…I couldn’t care less about your politics as I keep my breath off you in public.

Today I wore my mask for you. And for your child with asthma. And for your daughter who is pregnant. And for your mom who just got done fighting cancer. And for your perfectly healthy coworker who could still get it. And for your husband who is working as a nurse taking care of those fighting the virus. And for your cousin who just really needs to open up their restaurant again. And even for your Uncle Bill who is in his 80’s and doesn’t believe the virus exists.

Mask-wearing is about living in love and in service to our fellow humans…all of them.

If there is a chance what I did today kept someone safe, I will sleep better.

And who doesn’t want to sleep better?

So for the time being, let’s all keep our breath to ourselves, tucked behind a jaunty piece of fabric (I’m eyeing up one with a Golden Girls pattern) as a way of saying, “Hey, I might not know you, or ever see you again, or even agree with you about anything — but yet I care.”

Mask wearing for the win.

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Pandemic Walks Are Exactly What I Didn’t Know I Needed

I’m not sure exactly when it started, but at some point, my kids and I started our “pandemic walks.” I think it started with my younger son asking to go for a walk one day, and then again a couple days later, and before we knew it, we were taking mid-day walks on an almost daily basis.

Eventually my older son started joining us too, and before long we were walking on a fairly regular basis. Some days my husband will join us if he doesn’t have a Zoom meeting or a conference call, but for the most part, it’s my two sons and me. And it is magical.

Don’t get me wrong, most days, it takes a good amount of nagging to get going, and sometimes we spend more time getting ready to go for a walk than we do actually walking. There’s a fair amount of bickering that goes on, and at some point someone is usually whining that they are hot, thirsty, or tired.

But despite all of that, and even though I sometimes have hard time closing my computer or getting off the couch to go for our walk, our pandemic walks are a definite silver lining in the midst of the gloom that is 2020 for two big reasons.

First, I have two sons (no daughters) and while I have good relationships with both of them, there aren’t a lot of activities we all enjoy doing. Whereas my husband can spend hours playing basketball with them in the driveway or throwing baseballs in the backyard, and legitimately have fun doing those things, I struggle through these things. I’ve never been the “fun parent,” and we don’t enjoy the same sports (I’m an uncoordinated former swimmer who enjoys a long, solitary run, whereas they are all about the popular team sports). I prefer reading; they like video games. I like emotional dramas and biopics; they like action flicks and slapstick humor. I prefer the quiet; they prefer loud, loud, LOUD.

But our walks? Well, once we get going, we all settle in and – dare I say – enjoy it. Or rather, it’s something we enjoy doing together. A few weeks ago, we decided that we would set a goal for ourselves: walk a marathon (26.2 miles) over the course of two weeks. Suddenly there was something the three of us were working toward, we had a common goal, and we had a consistent activity we could do together each day.

But the second (and perhaps more significant) reason I love pandemic walks so much is because of what happens on them – we talk. We talk about anything and everything, from the silly to the serious. We’ve talked about things like systemic racism and body image, along with oddly specific things like how hard it would be to drive a Class A motorhome through the mountains. My kids have asked some really pointed and insightful questions, and we’ve had a lot of impactful conversations.

Given that most of the time when I try to have “serious” conversations with my kids – or just try to talk to them about what’s going on in their lives — I get one-word responses in return. Sure, they can ramble on for hours about Fortnite, Minecraft and Call of Duty, but if I ask them something more substantial, they’ll shrug and mumble with grunts or sighs.

I don’t think this is unique to my family either, especially with tweens and teens. It seems like since the beginning of time, parents have been lamenting the struggle that is getting their teens to engage in meaningful conversations. The one piece of advice that seems to actually work is to seize on the moments when they happen. And for us, these moments happen on our walks, our pandemic walks.

An added bonus? It’s at least 30-60 minutes when the kids aren’t on electronics. Sometimes we walk past a friend’s house and have a socially distanced yard visit for a few minutes. Other times we just wander. Either way, we’re getting a little fresh air and while giving their eyes a break from the screens. Like most parents, we’ve really relaxed our screen time limits during the pandemic, but I still feel guilty. So any activity that can get my kids (and me too!) off the screens is a welcome distraction.

I think we can all agree that just about everything about the coronavirus pandemic – and 2020 in general — sucks. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. People have lost – are will lose – their jobs. The world is a dumpster fire, and it all feels so overwhelming. We have to take our small victories where we can – and by “victories,” I mean moments when things don’t feel quite so awful. And for me that is pandemic walks.

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I’m Addicted To ‘Doomscrolling,’ But It Gives Me A Sense of Control

Since March, I’ve been consuming news in almost scary amounts. Then, the breaking news alerts were fast and furious and I hadn’t finished reading one article before the next flashed across my phone. That first Sunday, when Apple told me how many hours I’d spent on my phone, I cringed. Certainly it can’t be healthy to spend that much time staring at my phone, reading about how the world outside my home is falling apart, piece by piece. And yet, I persisted.

Because four months later, I’m still reading, and lately, the breaking news alerts aren’t fast enough for how fast I’m consuming the news. I’ve also added a morning numbers check. Every morning I wake up and press refresh on the websites that track the number of positive COVID-19 tests in my town and my state. I refresh to see how many new deaths were added to the already too high number from the day before. I look to see whether the hospitalizations have decreased or increased and whether more or less ICU beds have become available. Then I move to the news and read every word of every article that is no doubt pointing to the end of the world. (As an avid dystopian fiction reader, I believe I have a particular skill set when it comes to spotting end-of-the-world themes.)

In summary: I am doomsurfing. Or, more accurately, doomscrolling, because I prefer to read my end-of-the-world content on my mobile device.

And I have been doomscrolling every day for four months.

And woah, is it exhausting.

I first stumbled upon the word “doomscrolling” in an article in — yes, it popped up on my phone as a news alert and I read it instantly. The New York Times’ Kevin Roose described doomsurfing, or doomscrolling, as “falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.” Also, “an endless scroll through social media in a desperate search for clarity.”

I then learned doomscrolling is so common that Merriam-Webster included doomsurfing and doomscrolling in their “Words We’re Watching” and defined it as such: “Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.” added doomscrolling to its list of New Words We Created Because of Coronavirus (along with other pandemic life defining words like covidiot and quarantini).

There is no question doomscrolling is bad for you in so many ways. All this scary news consumption is taking a toll on my anxiety levels, my sleep, my time management—too many things are falling by the wayside as I read article after article, and I’m losing so many precious hours to a tiny handheld device on my screen. I know the experts say to limit news consumption. I know the experts say to disconnect—I’ve even interviewed some of those experts who say it’s important to disconnect and during each interview, I’ve nodded along and vowed to try and I’ve broken each and every vow about three minutes after the interview ended.

But I have a few good reasons for doomscrolling.

One: because I’m wholly and completely addicted to my phone more than ever and probably need a technology intervention. My usage has gone down significantly since those first weeks in March, but the number of hours I’m staring at my phone screen is still significantly higher than it had been in February.

And two, and arguably more relevantly, doomscrolling makes me feel in control because it turns something vague and terrifying and invisible into something quantifiable, particularly my early morning state and local number study. Doomscrolling turns something intangible into something I can whittle down into numbers and statistics and facts.

I’ve dealt with scary, invisible diseases before. I’ve dealt with intangible, unseen monsters that infect the people you care the most about and turn your life upside down, and I learned then, that there’s value in information and channeling something that feels too big to even wrap your arms around into very digestible facts and statistics. I learned years ago that information, being armed with facts and statistics and every single word written about a particular subject, makes it easier to believe the world isn’t as unpredictable and terrifying as it sometimes seems.

The truth is: in a very ironic twist, doomscrolling, reading about all the ways the world is falling apart, makes me think I can somehow keep my world together. Because knowledge is power. Maybe because it means I’ll be prepared, or, at the very least, not completely caught off guard if the worst happens. Maybe because invisible monsters aren’t so scary when they’re reduced to charts and graphs and words on a screen.

Make no mistake. Doomscrolling is trouble. My anxiety is higher, my sleep is less quality, my productivity is often laughable. But I know that when it comes to uncertainty, I need to doomscroll. I need to quantify that invisible monster that’s too big, because I need the feeling of control, even if it’s nothing but the illusion of control.

There must be some happy medium, some way to get that space to breathe and extra mental bandwidth, while also finding a way to wrest some control from a world that constantly feels completely out of control. And hopefully, I’ll find it. Or the world will stop falling apart.

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Teachers Union President ‘Dares’ Trump To Sit In Class Mid-Pandemic

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, tells CNN that schools can only reopen if they can do so safely — Trump disagrees

On Wednesday, July 8, Donald Trump not only threatened to cut school funding if they don’t reopen in the fall, but that he “disagreed” with the CDC’s safety guidelines for reopening classrooms. “I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” he tweeted.

A day after Trump announced unwillingness to give schools the proper funding to reopen safely, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, went on CNN to stress why reopening schools with proper safety precautions is an absolute must. “This isn’t a bar. We’re talking about second graders. I had 39 sixth graders one year in my class. I double-dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breathe that air without any preparation for how we’re going to bring our kids back safely,” Garcia said.

Garcia also pointed out that the Trump administration felt perfectly justified handing out businesses loans so companies wouldn’t need to lay employees off or shut down entirely. Yet, when it comes to funding schools, the administration is not so much on board. “One of the things that we know is that when Shake Shack needed some money, the Congress joined hands, sang Kumbaya and threw money at businesses so they wouldn’t have to lay people off. There is a bill sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk right now called the HEROES Act, passed by the House, which has billions of dollars dedicated to schools so we could do this right,” Garcia said. However, the bill was immediately dismissed and considered “dead on arrival.”

Many teachers and parents want the schools to reopen. Staffers want to continue working and spending time with their students, and parents are exhausted playing teacher while simultaneously working. But the point is this: If the Trump administration feels like allocating the proper budget to the safe reopening of schools is too big of an ask, then reopening schools is a dangerous plan that will put millions more lives at risk.

One Twitter user echoed what Garcia had to say, and tweeted, “Let’s see Donald Trump sit in a classroom of 35 kindergarteners who are picking their noses and putting their fingers in their mouth all day. Let’s see him sit there for 1 full school day. Then he can chime in.”

They added, “To be clear, Democrats are not advocating for schools to remain shut down nationwide. They are advocating for precautions to be taken and for parents to have the option of virtual schools. Stop trying to make this a political issue. It’s about our children, not your re-election.”

Another Twitter user pleaded, “Parents shouldn’t have to make a choice between working and feeding their families or sending their children into an unsafe school situation. Make the schools safe and fully fund them.”

Trump is allegedly still thinking the plan over and feels like the administration has time to make a final decision. During an interview with Nextstar on Tuesday he said, “Well, we have a long time to think about the school stuff. Because, you know. But we want to have the schools open. I would say that when we talk about the fall, that seems like a long time. It’s a long time.”

However, according to CNN, many school districts in the south start their school year in just a few weeks. And a recent model from the University of Washington forecasts that the COVID-19 death toll will increase to over 210,000 deaths by November. As we nervously wait for a plan from the Trump administration, the math keeps getting more grim.

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‘Silent Spreaders’ May Be Responsible For Half Of U.S. COVID-19 Cases

Presymptomatic and asymptomatic carriers might be contributing to half of all COVID-19 cases

A new study claims that half of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are being contracted from “silent spreaders” aka asymptomatic carriers or pre-symptomatic carriers, which means people with COVID-19 in the days before their symptoms begin to show. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has shown that the virus is most contagious in the pre-symptomatic phase and that effective contact tracing would be needed to truly flatten the curve.

The study used existing research on the coronavirus and how it’s contracted and found that pre-symptomatic people would account for 48% of transmission and asymptomatic people account for 3.4% of transmission. In layman’s terms, people are getting COVID-19 from coronavirus carriers interacting with others just days before their major COVID-19 symptoms kick in.

The bad news here is that even if all symptomatic patients are isolated “a vast outbreak may nonetheless unfold.” The study says that the only way to implement their findings and truly contain the virus is with contact tracing and isolating (which is where you call people that have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person and tell them to get tested and self-isolate). However, contact tracing is being rolled out in fits and starts, and states like Massachusetts that announced ambitious statewide contact tracing programs are now scaling back, claiming the program was “unreliable.” According to the study, “over one-third of silent infections must be isolated to suppress a future outbreak below 1% of the population” and since most people aren’t just willy nilly getting tested on their own to see if they might have COVID-19, we have to rely on government-organized contact tracing programs.

The good news is that this study provides some clarity on asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers as just last month the World Health Organization gave very conflicting information about asymptomatic carriers, first saying it was “very rare” for asymptomatic carriers to spread the virus, then backtracking and saying they don’t actually have enough information about asymptomatic carriers just yet to make that statement. This new study, at least, clarifies that it’s really the pre-symptomatic carriers that are doing most of the harm and brings up other questions about things like temperature checks and how they’re unlikely to be helpful in determining who has COVID-19.

So what can you do with this information? CNN points out that randomly getting tested may not be the answer, but you know what is? Masks and social distancing. Wear a mask whenever you leave your house and even if you’re wearing a mask, try to stay six feet from anybody who doesn’t live in your household.

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Bill Nye Calls Mask-Wearing ‘A Matter Of Life Or Death’ In New PSA

Bill Nye does not mince words in TikTok mask PSA

As the “mask debate” wages on with conspiracy theorists spouting off false facts about carbon dioxide and masks “not working,” the anti-mask community can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that you don’t wear a mask to protect yourself from contracting COVID-19, you wear a mask to protect the people around you. But since anti-maskers don’t read the CDC website and the President certainly isn’t doing a good job disseminating that information, maybe the people will finally listen to…Bill Nye. The Science Guy posted a series of videos on TikTok about face coverings and masks, how they work, and which ones are best — and this should be required viewing.

In the first video, Nye explained that masks and face coverings prohibit the “movement of air” which means that “face masks…prevent particles from my respiratory system from getting into the air and then into your respiratory system.” Like we said, masks don’t necessarily protect the wearer from contracting the virus (though studies are now saying they do provide a small amount of protection for the wearer) their primary function is to protect everyone around you if you happen to be carrying the virus.

He then demonstrated how effective masks are by attempting to blow out a burning candle from under his mask. Nye was unable to blow out the flame while wearing a basic cloth face mask like they kinds most of us are wearing, making, or buying on Etsy and Nye called the homemade mask “very effective.” He then tried to blow out the flame while wearing a scarf tied around his mouth and eventually the air from his mouth made it past the scarf barrier and extinguished the flame.

@billnye##WearAMask ##LearnOnTikTok ##TikTokPartner♬ original sound – billnye

In the second video, Nye demonstrated the effectiveness of the N95 masks that healthcare workers wear which is when he proceeded to pop the eff off. With a TikTok filter we can only describe as “fire and brimstone,” Nye reiterated what he already said about masks, telling his viewers that “the reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect you, sure. But the main reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect me from you and the particles in your respiratory system from getting into my respiratory system. Everybody, this is a matter literally of life and death. And when I use the word literally, I mean literally a matter of life and death!”

@billnye##WearAMask ##LearnOnTikTok ##TikTokPartner♬ original sound – billnye

So the moral of the story here is that homemade face masks are very effective at keeping your respiratory particles from infecting someone else and refusing to wear a mask means you’re an a-hole who doesn’t care if you spread the virus to someone who may die from it. Listen to Bill Nye the Science Guy and wear the damn mask!

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I’m Bonding With My Tween Over ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’

My obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club was reignited during a pre-COVID bookstore visit with my tween. We were on a rare one-on-one date, enjoying tea from the café and book browsing. I promised her that she could choose one book and to my delight, she picked up a newly-released graphic novel of none other than one of The Baby-Sitters Club stories. To say I was thrilled is an understatement. You’d better bet that the moment she was done with the book, I was reading it.

I grew up devouring every single book from The Baby-Sitters Club. I adored Claudia’s artistic endeavors and Kristy’s take-charge attitude. Remember when Mary Anne got a makeover? Poor Stacey had type 1 diabetes and couldn’t eat candy. Dawn was the cool girl from California. Later, the five added two younger sitters to the club, Jessi and Mallory. I remember wanting to be in their club so badly. Their friendships and entrepreneurship gave me some of the feel-good vibes I needed to survive my tumultuous tween years. Those girls were my friends when my real-life girlfriends were being petty. I’d pop a Jolly Rancher in my mouth, pull my hair up in a scrunchie, smear on some Lip-Smackers, and read my favorite book for the eighth time.

You can imagine my joy when Netflix announced that they’d be releasing a series featuring the fab BSC, the trailer promising to showcase all the nostalgic struggles and triumphs. I wrote the release date in my planner like it was a holiday to prepare for. My oldest tween and I watched the trailer a dozen times, and we were counting down the days until the show’s release.

Being a mom of four children, two of whom are tweens, can be challenging. Why does no one prepare or warn parents about the tween years like they do with the toddler and tween years? One minute, tweens are all lovey-dovey, wanting to have mommy-daughter chats and play LEGO together, and the next minute, I’m the worst mom ever because I simply asked that they make sure the laundry is fully dry before putting it away. Tweens are teens-in-training, but they also still have a good dose of little kid in them. Every day, there’s a good chance I’m in a damned-if-I-do and damned-if-I-don’t situation. There’s no winning—most days. That is, until the BSC resurgence. Now, we can’t get enough togetherness.

Snuggling on the couch while we watch Kristy answer the landline? Now that’s magical. Anyone else get goosebumps? Our mommy-kid struggles melt away, for a whopping 20-something minutes, while we watch another chapter of the girls’ lives unfold. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve read the books or how familiar the characters are to us. The suspense of whether or not the BSC will land a babysitting gig is something fierce.

We’re popping the popcorn, grabbing blankets and pillows, and watching The Baby-Sitters Club on repeat. Because there are enough dumpster fires going on in the world right now, and we crave a happy distraction. We need the BSC more than ever before, a situation where no matter what adversity crops up, the ladies aren’t going to give up. They have their female power and, more importantly, they have each other.

We watched the first five episodes as a family, and my tweens had a lot of questions. Mostly, they noticed that the books depict the girls in one way, but the show took the liberty of dishing out some serious diversity—much to our delight. Mary Anne is biracial, for example, in the show. Like in the original books, Stacey has type 1 diabetes, though in the show we watch her manage her disease (the same one I have!) using an insulin pump. The modern twists, such as multiracial families, a gender nonconforming child, and same-sex couples, has brought about important discussions about how families are created and how they can evolve. There’s a Black mom and Asian child, a multiracial and implied-adoptive family, that mirrors our own. One theme that stands out to me is that the parent-child relationships are rocky at times, but there’s always resolution and love to be found. (Cue the heartfelt music.)

I'm Bonding With My Tween Over 'The Baby-Sitters Club': group of girls from The Babysitter's Club on Netflix
Liane Hentscher/Netflix

Sharing the BSC with my oldest tween has been an interesting experience. There’s 27 years between us and finding a common interest hasn’t been easy. Plus, I have four kids. There is limited time for me to focus on just one kiddo. The updated version of The Baby-Sitters Club is engaging and clean family entertainment, not to mention, just cool enough to hold my tween’s interest. The opening episode includes Lizzo’s song Juice, for example, proving the show’s relevance to tween viewers. The girls’ individual sense of fashion, Claudia’s love of art (and disdain for math), Kristy’s anxious demeanor, and Stacey’s disease are some of the many ways the show (and books) are giving us all the feels.

It’s funny how there’s so much of my childhood trending now, capturing the interest of my daughter. My tween owns a serious stash of fluorescent scrunchies, a Caboodle, and high-waisted pants and crop tops. Reliving my younger years with my daughter has been such a joy—enough to help me tolerate the tween drama, including eye rolling, door slamming, and mood swings.

We have plans. We’re reading more of the graphic novels together, and we are going to binge the second five episodes of the show tomorrow. I know what’s coming (having read well over one-hundred BSC books), including a wedding, boy trouble, and menacing children. I also know that the BSC won’t let me or my daughter down. They are predictably awesome—exactly what we need right now.

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If You Grew Up In The ‘80s And ‘90s You Weren’t ‘Neglected’– Your Summers Were The Best

My childhood friend sent me a Sinead O’Connor video the other day with a caption that read This song makes me remember lying out at your house while our parents were at work.

It takes me back too. In fact, the two of us would listen to that tape over and over during the summer of ‘91 in between applying a tanning magnifier and looking through old issues of my Young Miss magazines, blasting it as loud as we wanted.

Then, we’d take a break from the rays, float into the kitchen and look into the avocado-green refrigerator for some snacks before settling into my basement to watch Days of Our Lives.

There were no phones to distract us. Summer camps weren’t such a big thing. We had each other’s undivided attention, and those memories will forever be marked in my ‘90s soul. 

My mother didn’t feel the need to call constantly to see what me and my sisters were up to. She had to work and knew we’d figure it out. 

This wasn’t neglect. This was her doing what she needed to get done and it taught my sisters and I how to entertain ourselves and be self sufficient. Other than taking a week off during the summer and sneaking in a few beach days with us, my mom wasn’t around to entertain us. She left us a chore list that we were expected to complete if we wanted our allowance (we did), and for her to chip in when we went clothes shopping (we wanted that too).

By today’s standards some might say we had a long leash. The thing is, we didn’t look at it that way because all of our friends were in the same boat. During ’80s and ’90s summers …

You drank from the hose.

There was no time to go inside because we were so busy with Willy The Water Bug, or making mud pies. I still remember the taste and smell of the warm water coming out of the faucet on a hot summer’s day.

You walked everywhere.

Boys playing in water
San Bernardino, California. 1989 Universal Images Group/Getty

My mother wasn’t afraid to let us walk places. She asked where we were going, and we had to be back at a set time. It didn’t matter if it was a few miles away. We made it an adventure to walk to a friend’s house, or into town to spend our money on Big League Chew and Fun Dip. 

Fro-Yo was your jam.

There was nothing like walking into the air conditioning and smelling the sweet soft serve coming out of those machines. We’d be hot from the walk and excited to sit and hang out for hours in the fro-yo shop and see who else showed up, since it was the place to be. There were times we’d all chip in change and share, and others we could afford our own. It didn’t matter though– it was always a treat and I miss fro-yo shops so bad.

If you argued with your siblings, you figured it out.

My mom rarely felt the need to micromanage a fight between me and my siblings. Since she worked and those long summer afternoons involved fighting over what to watch on television, and who got the last Carnation breakfast shake, she saw that we figured things out on our own a lot faster without her involvement. 

You waited in the car.

My siblings and I waited in the car all the damn time while my mother ran into the store to get a few things. She was never worried someone would call CPS, or that we’d go missing. Her biggest concern was we’d try and pee in the seat belt slot because, well, it happened once when I really, really had to go and she wouldn’t stop chatting it up with her friend Patty in aisle four. 

And while we had these freedoms, we didn’t even see them as freedoms; it was just our life. But one thing is for sure: we weren’t left to fend for ourselves at every turn. If you grew up in the ’80s and ‘90s you also:

Had a bedtime.

boy Hanging upside down from some playground equipment
1998. David Bohrer/Getty

Hello, we all remember going to bed when it was still light out a lot of nights. The evenings weren’t a free-for-all. Our parents told us to go to bed and we listened. That doesn’t mean we didn’t stay up late to play tag with our flashlights on the ceiling.

Had rules to follow.

We knew how far down the street we could walk. We knew we had to ask before going to a friend’s house. We knew we had to clean up after ourselves and complete chores like washing the car if we wanted a ride somewhere. We complained about the rules and structure, but we sure as hell had it.

Had parents that did, in fact, know where you were.

We weren’t ‘free-ranging’ as some think we were. My mother always knew when I was. Even when I didn’t think she knew, she knew. It’s not as if the sun came up and it was a mystery as to where we were. Our parents knew the safe paths to take and told us to stick together when we went on an adventure. 

These generations didn’t grow up with zero supervision. Things were different then. As my own mother tells me, people didn’t talk about how others parented, unless it was something awful. She remembers that the moms that worked and the moms that didn’t work weren’t on teams. She also says everyone in the neighborhood was aware of the kids and what they were doing, and reminded us often that we would get caught if we did something we weren’t supposed to be, ’cause all of those mothers had eyes on the backs of their heads and watched out for each other.

I can attest to how true that is. I once tried to have a boy over when my mom was at work; news traveled fast and it didn’t end well. Oh, and the time I decided to drive a car when I was fifteen without a license and ran into someone’s yard, my mother knew before I even had time to process what happened. 

If you were growing up thirty or forty years ago, yes, you had a different childhood. But that in no way means you were neglected. And if you ask me, it was pretty damn fun and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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As A Black Woman In The Workplace, I Hope Times Are Changing

We heard the cries from mothers across the world, responding to George Floyd’s final plea, calling his mama begging for help, yearning to be heard one last time. Over the last few weeks, we’ve also heard from protesters in the streets marching in communities from Brooklyn to LA screaming, “No justice, no peace” and “Say her name,” a call to action for our federal and local governments and police departments across the country to do better. A call to hold those accountable for their crimes against the very humans they were meant to protect and serve no matter the color of their skin.

As some of us dust ourselves off, push forward, and return to the world of work, as a Black person, it all feels different. How could it not? Particularly as a Black person going back to an all-white work environment, like I am. I work side by side with white women. My boss is a white woman. The small organization I work for was founded by a white woman.

As the only person of color on staff, and the only Black woman in my office, the Black Lives Matter movement has given me the fuel I’ve long needed to use my authentic voice while at work. While many days over the last few weeks have been emotionally unbearable at times, finding my voice and using it has been the silver lining for me — if there could be such a thing at a time like this.

Don’t get me wrong, I have colleagues who understand and truly want to learn and do better. As my colleagues, but more importantly as white people, they understand the need to act now and to keep putting in the work. They read books on race. They explore the hard questions with interest and commit to improving their understanding of the plight of Black people, my people. They attend trainings in hopes of leaving said training with more self-awareness and an unspoken mandate to go out and be an educated ally, to walk the walk.

Yet I can’t help but fear and wonder with great curiosity if my newfound voice will, after, say, a year has passed, be welcomed the same way. Will using my authentic voice push them into a corner, building walls to shield themselves from the truth of my words? Will I retreat back into the cocoon which has kept me safe throughout my entire professional career? Will I revert to being the woman who toed the line to keep the peace? Will I be the woman who worries that speaking from her heart with passion and authenticity will be seen as a threat instead of a conversation starter? I know I cannot go back to being “that woman” who doesn’t use her voice in the way it is meant to be used. 

Trending hashtags like #ShareTheMic attempt to amplify the voices of Black women as white women hand their mics over to Black women for the day, allowing them to be heard — Black women who work in fields like journalism and acting, are business owners, and more. But is the #ShareTheMic Instagram initiative enough? What about the black women who wake up every day, who work in hospitals, who are nurses, who are housekeepers, who work in daycares, who sit in board rooms shoulder to shoulder with people whose skin color does not match theirs — what about those voices?

In a 2019 article in the New York Times, editor and reporter Lauretta Charlton dissects a report called “Being Black in Corporate America.” A year out from when this article was published, I believe we are turning a corner — and we didn’t need a study to get us there. We needed the bravery of everyday people, Black, white, brown, and all bodies willing and able to take a stand against racism, injustice, and fight for equality. George Floyd’s murder in May was, and will remain, the catalyst for the changes ahead of us. They must stick.

For Black women like me, I am hopeful that the words that leave our lips can help tame the troubled waters ahead. The fight for equality in the workplace, the right to be heard, and the battle yet to be won, will continue to propel us forward into what I hope is our new normal.

I, for one, am foregoing the opportunity to mop up the perceived hurt feelings of my white family members, friends, and colleagues. I am standing in my skin, ready to be heard. There has been a shift — albeit a slow one, but it is happening nonetheless. It is spilling over into the workplace and trending hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #sayhername and #alllivesmatter stir a pot overflowing with emotion.

As a community of many, we are entering a new world and have a better view of what it looks like to give a Black woman her voice back. 

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Feelin’ Good As Hell

“Hair toss, check my nails, baby how you feelin’? Feelin’ good as hell!”

Lizzo’s voice rang out clear and strong in the shower. And I was feeling good. Good as hell, as a matter of fact.

It was one of those lazy summer quarantine mornings when the kids were (miraculously) playing quietly with one another, breakfast had been had, and I stole some time for a nice long, hot shower. I turned on a little waterproof speaker I keep in the bathroom and found my “confidence playlist” on Spotify.

I haven’t always had the best relationship with my body (kind of in the way that France and Germany weren’t besties when the Nazis were occupying Paris), and have struggled with weight and body image since I was about twelve years old. This 38-year-old body has been through so many weight loss gimmicks, over-enthusiastic exercise routines, hyper-restrictive diets, and the equal and opposite reaction of bingeing that came when my willpower ran out.

In that time it also birthed and nursed three babies, hiked in fifteen national parks, summited mountains in three different ranges, kayaked in bioluminescent waters, and sustained me over the course of three graduate degrees. All while I was scanning my reflection and mentally taking inventory of all the parts of my body I wanted to change. Tying my hopes on the next cabbage soup diet that would “fix” me once and for all.

Spoiler alert — the cabbage soup diet didn’t fix me.

Partly because that wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle for me (and oh dear God the gas…)

Partly because I hadn’t looked at the emotional component of my relationship with my body (something I’m still in the process of sorting out).

And partly because I wasn’t broken. I was a body (and a person, and a life) in progress.

And I had (and still have) a lot of growth to do when it comes to learning to joyfully inhabit this body. It’s something I’ve been working on with an entirely different focus and urgency, now that I have a daughter who is looking to me to tell her what the value of women’s bodies are.

While I haven’t quite figured out the whole “joyfully inhabiting” thing, my body and I have reached something of a truce. We try to do right by one another, mess up a lot, apologize, and try to do better (and acknowledge that whatever the right balance is has to involve ice cream sometimes). We do our best to parent these three children so that hopefully they won’t be forming awkward truces with their own bodies when they’re nearly forty.

That day, though, my body and I were having a good day. On this particular morning, the water was scalding hot (because in my mind it’s only a shower if I come out looking like I have second degree burns all over my body), the music was exactly right, and I was dancing in the shower with all my usual grace. (For reference, I’m the kind of graceful that regularly bumps into doorways. I’ve had to limit my dancing in the kitchen, because last time I did, I spilled hot coffee down my arm. So when I say “my usual grace,” I just mean that I’m lucky if no small children are accidentally harmed in the process of me dancing around the house.)

In the middle of my assumed-to-be-private dance party, I saw a little shadow through the frosted glass of the shower door dancing with me and heard a little voice piping along with the music. It was Lila. I peeked out of the shower door, and she gave me a conspiratorial grin. It was just us there, dancing away to Lizzo. After a few minutes, the shadow had gone from the door and I was alone, rinsing off and getting ready to move forward with my day. I was grateful, though, that my daughter had caught me enjoying being in this body of mine. This imperfect body that I was working toward strengthening (by the way, has anyone else noticed that boxing is wonderful stress relief? Who’s been keeping that secret all these years?). Lila saw me in a brief moment of moving joyfully in the body I have right this second, and I hoped that she took that in.

Because while I’m always so careful to use nothing other than body positive language around my kids, I know that they are watching us so much more than we think they are. I hope that she hasn’t seen me staring my body down in the mirror, like it was high noon in the wild west and we were preparing to draw our weapons. That she hasn’t noticed how often my eyes flick up to the shelf in the pantry where we have the little container of treat foods.

I hope that she remembers when I told her my stretch marks were her and her brothers’ first art project, and that they make me smile when I see them. That my feet are calloused and cracked from having hiked so many wonderful trails, and that I’m grateful to them for carrying me where I want to go. That the creases by my eyes are because her dad has a great sense of humor and makes me laugh, and we’ve been together so long that I have lines to remind me of all of the fun we’ve had. So many stories fade away as we grow up, though.

Later in the evening it was shower time, and I was working on an assignment for a class while keeping an ear out in case Lila needed anything. I heard something and went to check on her, but it was a little voice from the bathroom singing out “Feelin’ good as hell! Ooh, child, feelin’ good as hell!”

And I hoped she was dancing.

More than that, I hoped she would keep dancing in her amazing, strong body her entire life long.

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