Do you hear what I hear?

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The Scream

“I have passed through the initial five stages of grief: Denial anger bargaining depression and acceptance. Now I am in fascination–cobra hypnosis, newly apoplectic every day by the latest. I believe I have actually keened within recent memory. At this rate, i may have a flickering tic in my eye by sundown.” ~ Anne Lamott in a recent post-election Facebook post

As usual, author Anne Lamott writes what’s in my head only it sounds almost lyrical instead of the ALL CAPS RAGE AND DESPAIR that marinates inside me these days. Oh, and my eye tic has manifested as a pain in my right arm. No, not the heart attack kind of arm pain. It hurts the most when I undo my bra. Sorry, if that’s too much information from this nasty woman. My doctor, Web MD, says that this could indicate stress in the rotator cuff muscles. My symptoms started shortly after FBI Director James Comey released his now infamous letter to Congress regarding Hillary Clinton’s damn emails 10 days before the election. Coincidence?  I think not. Case closed.

Lamott also writes about stress eating during these troubling times. I have no doubt that Weight Watchers will be inundated with an influx of chubby liberals come January. Carbs are one of our sole/soul comforts these days. If it weren’t so unbelievably frightening, it would be funny. Lamott prefers Oreos and Cheerios. I feel for her because her options are limited. She’s been in recovery for over 30 years, so wine is not a viable option for her. By the way, did you know that Aldi’s carries some decent wine? What? A friend told me – just putting it out there.

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Limiting myself to just one glass a day.

I ran into a dear and much admired colleague right after the election. I was leaving a professional function as she was pulling into the parking lot. She put her window down and we lamented together about the results and she picked up a McDonald’s cheeseburger sitting on the passenger seat next to her, took a big bite and garbled, “Look, I’m stress eating!” She’s a very petite and trim woman which made the whole thing even more amusing to me.

I’m trying to practice good self-care so I’m pretty much in a news blackout, which I guess is not really that different from the actual campaign, right? There was so little news about policies and issues. It was Reality TV at its very worst and it helped elect the least qualified presidential candidate in the history of our great nation. We were punked. Bigly. Faux news is the new news. (I just got one of those shooting pains in my shoulder.)

So I’m under a TV blackout except for every liberal’s lifeline these days. Yes, on the eighth day, God created Netflix. And it was good. And ironically, the show saving me in this post-apocalyptic election world is one about a monarchy – The Crown. If you’re reading my blog, you’re most likely watching The Crown, too, but for those in the royal dark, the series is about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a fascinating behind the scenes look at her marriage to Price Phillip and her relationship with Prime Minister Winston Churchill. And it’s a glorious diversion from the reality of the Park Avenue president-elect only without as much gilded furniture.

the-crown

Who needs term limits?

I haven’t been able to give up social media but I’ve made my Facebook world a kinder, gentler place. And for the record, I think “unfriending” is a misnomer. We can be friends in REAL life and not be “friends” on Facebook because in real life, I might not ever know that you get your news from Breitbart or that you really think that all Muslims should be deported. Another irony – people are more their real selves behind a keyboard than in actual conversation. Social media is like HD TV – it makes all your warts and blemishes that much bigger.

And honestly, it makes it easier for me and my wife to worship with you at church if I don’t know that you supported a ticket that opposes our marriage. What I don’t know can’t hurt my heart. And spare me the “how can we ever find unity if we don’t talk about our differences” crap. Tell me what I should have said to a friend I have known since the 7th grade when she accused Michelle Obama of being a “race baiter” because she talked about the White House being built by slaves. There is no middle ground to find on scorched earth.

I haven’t slept through the night since the Cubs won the Word Series. Granted, that was a short night since the game didn’t end until after 1 AM. I’m not much for drugs but Tylenol PM has been my constant companion. But even with my version of the little blue pill, I still wake up at 2 AM and immediately start worrying about so many of the things I care about. Many – most actually – of the folks closest to me are feeling the same way and while often comforting, it can be an exhausting burden, too – trying to be present to their pain while holding my own.

My best friend from college is a chaplain in California at a large urban hospital. She is a woman and she is gay and she is Muslim. Damn, there goes my shoulder again. She’s struggling and she has to be available to everyone she encounters in her work – there can be no “others” in her day. She has observed that it is only white people who ask her if she’s okay – because she doesn’t seem “like herself”.  She’s come up with a brilliant response. She tells people that she is “soul sick”.  And there ain’t enough chicken soup in the world for this kind of sick.

I’ve been going to the movies – always a balm for me. I can highly recommend Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Fantasy is so superior to reality these days. And I just want to pinch Eddie Redmayne’s ginger cheek. Spoiler alert: Love really does trump hate in this movie.

But I made the mistake of going to Costco the other day. How can it be time for Christmas again already? The decorations made me feel disoriented – like going into a Christmas shop on the boardwalk when you’re at the beach in July. They seemed garish and out-of-place. Bell ringers are out now, too. I have plenty of valid issues regarding the Salvation Army so I’m never excited to hear those bells, but this year, the tone sounds almost ominous to me. It’s a tolling, not a ring.

A few days ago, my mourning changed to anger – white hot anger about what has happened in our country. My shift was not subtle. It came the moment I read who Trump had appointed as his chief strategist – Steve “Darkness is good” Bannon. Let’s be clear – the term “alt-right” should only ever be used with the word DELETE. Even Sarah Palin knew that if you put lipstick on a Nazi, it’s still a Nazi.

Yep. That was my tipping point. That day I signed up for the Women’s March on Washington – the Saturday following Not My President’s inauguration. Initially, I didn’t think I had it in me – to be in our nation’s capital at such a deplorable time. The last time I marched in Washington was 23 years ago for gay rights. That march changed my life in immeasurable ways. It made me feel empowered to live my life out loud. I hope this march empowers every woman, man and child there to go home and speak up for all of those that this new regime would diminish if given carte blanche. Hell, I might even burn my bra since I may not be able to clasp it anymore by then.

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Resistance, my friends.

Jonathan Capehart, a gay black journalist, had a great piece in the Washington Post last week about the palpable fear that many of us are experiencing post-election. A fear that some of our friends – mostly white, mostly male, mostly monied – don’t feel – the fear of being targeted under the new administration. Capehart sums it up here really well: “But here’s what our well-meaning friends, especially those who have not felt the sting of discrimination or even otherness, need to understand. President-elect Trump has made promises that represent a threat to real lives and livelihoods. Some are unconstitutional. All are immoral.”

So, yeah, we others are kind of worked up over all of this. But we still enjoy your pictures of puppies.

Truth be told, it’s all Hillary’s fault that I’m going to the march. Damn her. A week after the election she honored a long-standing speaking engagement at a celebration for the Children’s Defense Fund, a cause near and dear to her broken heart. And God bless her – she showed up looking like – well, me, a few days after the election – no make up, regular going to the grocery store hair and a weary looking face. Twitterverse went wild with commentary – someone saying Hillary had “no more fucks to give” and another speculating that she was raising a middle finger to patriarchy. Whatever, I’m still with her. And it wasn’t how she looked but what she said that kicked my sorry ass.

“I know this isn’t easy, I know that over the past week, a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was. The divisions laid bare by this election run deep, but please listen to me when I say this. America is worth it. Our children are worth it. Believe in our country, fight for our values and never, ever give up.”

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Truth.

I don’t have super powers like Hillary but I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

So in January, I will march but what about those damn holidays before us?

Pray for peace, people, everywhere.

And pass the cookies.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I’m still with her and our power’s turned on.

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Shit just got real

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Maybe there’s a God above

But all I’ve learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who out drew ya

And it’s not a cry that you hear at night

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

~ Lyrics from Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen died yesterday and this Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year continues.

Funny. I thought losing my job would be the worst thing that happened this year.

Not even close. Losing my country is a hell of lot worse.

I thought Wednesday morning would be my low point but just like all those worthless tracking polls, I seriously miscalculated. Yesterday was worse. Reality is setting in. President-elect Trump.

I have tried to avoid all television (thank you Baby Jesus for Netflix) – even MSNBC, that bastion of liberal news. Nope. I can’t even take Rachel Maddow. It’s too much like looking in the mirror – I can see the pain on her face. I know I should avoid social media, too, but it is comforting to mourn with others. I know there has been a lot of hate chatter on Facebook but I weeded my FB garden of most of that so my feed is mostly filled with folks who feel an awful lot like me these days. In other words, awful.

Get over it. Move on. I hear you but I’m not there yet. Not even close. This wasn’t like my favorite team losing the big game or not getting the house I put an offer on. This was a rejection of almost everything I’ve spent most of my adult life working for – equality – for women, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities – you get it, people.

Yesterday there were several disturbing stories circulating on mainstream and social media about post-election bullying and intimidation that seemed to be empowered by Trump’s election. Students in a middle school in Detroit chanted “Build the wall” to Latino students who were seen crying. Some of these incidents cut close to home. In Durham, a wall was spray painted “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does Your Votes.” The Ku Klux Kan announced a Trump victory parade in Pelham, near the Virginia border. And very near my home in Winston-Salem, a lesbian couple with children came home to find a sign on their door that said, “Lesbian Bitches You Are Sick Get Out Of Our Neighborhood – Trump Train.”

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A sign of the times.

So this wasn’t from some “libtard” website – this really happened to people I really know.

And just an hour ago my sister told me that one of her oldest friends, a woman who grew up right next door to us in our little hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia, was riding her bike this morning on a path in Boston when a man wearing a Make America Great Sign and holding a bullhorn pulled right in front of her and screamed in the bullhorn: Have you read Hillary’s emails? She almost fell off her bike. This happened today in Boston. Boston! Not Podunk, USA.

So forgive me if I’m not ready to move on just yet. On Tuesday, our nation empowered this dangerous extremist behavior by electing a man who ran on a platform of misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and racism. No one should be surprised or shocked.  What we saw during the campaign is exactly what we are getting in this new America.

Is this the change some of you were looking for? Not so great if you ask me. And sadly, anyone who is “different than” may pay dearly for any of your buyer’s remorse. (See moral bankruptcy.)

I’m not naïve enough to think that if Hillary had been elected everything would be sunshine and roses in America today. No, it would probably be even more dangerous had she won since Trump had already planted the seeds for a contested election. It’s irrelevant anyway because this toxic genie was let out of the bottle when  Republican voters made him their nominee for the most powerful office in the land.

There have been some really well written pieces about post-election grieving but I came across one of the best on The Huffington Post website yesterday – I am Sitting Shiva for America written by Vanessa Zoltan, a chaplain at Harvard University.  Shiva is the Jewish practice of grief. It is a seven-day mourning period where family members gather in one home to receive visitors. Zoltan is sitting shiva for a lot of beliefs that died in the wee early hours of Wednesday.

You can read her blog here but here’s a bit of it:

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We’re going to need more than seven days, folks.

I will take action. And man oh man, will I. But for a week I am going to wear my, “Nasty Woman” shirt because while sitting shiva you are not supposed to change your clothes. And for this week I am going to refuse— patently refuse hope. Hope (for me. I am only speaking for myself) this early will be a denial of all that has been lost. Hope this early will be because it’s easier than being mad and reckoning with all that is lost (hope for environmental policy reform, peace for millions of my fellow-countrymen who now fear being deported, what I believed the American experiment stood for, friendships that I can no longer take seriously because of their vote, and on and on).

I wish I could sit with her.

I did sort of sit shiva yesterday with a dear friend from Israel. She’s been an American citizen for about 10 years and voted for Obama twice and was a Hillary supporter. She’s my age but she’s always had a very maternal aura with me – loving and nurturing.  She’s a mother and a grandmother and she’s my Jewish sister/mother. She knew I was hurting and she took both of my hands in hers and looked me straight in the eyes and said, in her marvelous accent, “Everything will be okay.” And when we said goodbye, she said she was going to kiss me like her mother used to kiss her – a series of very rapid pecks on the check. She smothered me with those kisses and told me she loved me.

And it was the safest I have felt since early Wednesday morning.

On my drive back home from seeing her – about 40 minutes in the car – my phone “pinged’’ several times – notifications of messages coming in. (Chill, I did not text and drive.) I often listen to MSNBC in the car on my XM radio but since that’s radioactive now, I turned to old faithful – NPR. Don’t you know they were doing a story on the election. I’m glad I didn’t shut it off immediately because it was an interesting piece about a couple in Massachusetts. The wife is an attorney who voted for Hillary and the husband is a fireman who voted for Trump. They, like most of America, are trying to find some peace in all of this carnage. They didn’t have any pearls of wisdom to share and honestly, at one point, it sounded like the wife wanted to sock the husband. Anyway, it made me feel less lonely for a few minutes.

When I got home I looked at my phone. I had a FB inbox message from one of my dearest friends in the world – a gay man who I have loved for 20 years. We have the most wonderful “odd couple” relationship and we’ve always said that if we weren’t both gay, we would have made a great couple. We both are yellow dog Democrats who love sports and sarcasm. Yep, we’re a match made in Provincetown. Anyway, he has been beyond inconsolable this week and thought getting together for dinner would be good medicine for us all. Only he said it in his uniquely charming way that seems to almost always make me laugh and tear up at the same time. He wrote, “I love you so much and this shit show is reminding me to take stock of the things in my life that are important and you are high on that list.”

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My gay husband, Jeff.

Now you see why I adore him. And he’s right – it’s time to be with people who nurture and restore us.

 

The next FB inbox message was from a friend who is a young mother of two pretty fantastic daughters. She always takes her girls to vote with her and they were all super excited about the historical prospect of voting for the first woman president this year. When she told her girls on Wednesday morning that Hillary lost, they both cried. Her youngest daughter then immediately asked her about marriage equality. I told you these girls are fantastic.

“Will the marriages for everyone stop, Mommy?” Gulp. Then this little supershero said, “If they do, I will make beautiful art and I will give people marriages.” Sign me up.

My friend shared all of this with me to reassure me that as she said “love seeds are planted everywhere and our family plans on increasing the active ways we love others.” Gee, I wonder why those girls are so fantastic. (Their dad is pretty great, too.) She closed her message with some words that actually penetrated the veil of despair that I have been wearing since early Wednesday morning. She wrote, “You are loved. We will stand by you.”

Maybe all the hallelujahs aren’t broken. I’m clinging to them today.

 

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These two make me feel less scared for my country’s future. And they may officiate my next wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories on the menu

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I had the same lunch every day for the entirety of first grade – Campbell’s Tomato Soup and a grilled cheese. I got to come home for lunch because my school was so overcrowded we went on shifts and I got the early one and was done with my school day by 12:30.

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The best thing about first grade

My lunch seemed like a worthy reward for standing in what felt like the dark of night with my mother waiting for the bus. That lunch, particularly the grilled cheese, is still a comfort food touchstone for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between food and memory lately. I just finished watching “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. It’s a wonderful and mouth-watering series about six renowned chefs from all over the world. Each chef talks passionately about the influence of personal memory on their cooking.

“I’m trying to take you back to when you were a child,” says Italian chef Massimo Bottura. He learned a lot about cooking by hiding under his grandmother’s kitchen table as his older brothers chased him. She taught him how to roll tortellini and today that is one of the most popular items on the menu at his three Michelin star restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena.

I miss a lot about my parents, not the least of which is some of those foods of my childhood that they prepared. My mother was a very good cook, far surpassing the casserole queens of her generation. She was modest about her culinary skills and always said,” If you can read, you can cook.”

I’m not sure I believe that. I think most folks can follow a recipe but it takes a lot more than that to be a cook who creates memories.

Growing up, we always got to pick the dinner for our birthday. I always picked stuffed Italian shells with my mother’s homemade tomato sauce. I have her sauce recipe and will make it from time to time. I can see her hands in my own when I open all the cans of tomato sauce and paste and mix them together.

And I think that’s where the secret lies with the best cooks – the hands. My mother had beautiful elegant hands and I loved watching the Dance of the Christmas Cookies as she would roll out the dough and cut the perfect shapes and press them on to the baking sheet.

Chef Nikii Nakayama is featured in "Chef's Table" on Netflix. It's all in the nands.

Chef Nikii Nakayama is featured in “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. It’s all in the hands.

I think of all the best cooks I know, and I’m quite fortunate to know a delicious plenty, and they all have interesting hands that move quite gracefully when they cook. And I loved watching the hands of the chefs in “Chef’s Table.” Their movements are deft and deliberate at times and then tender and almost poetic at others.

I’m telling you – it’s in the hands. I love watching my wife cut up vegetables. It’s sweet and sexy all at the same time. And she’s always smiling while she’s doing it – even when she doesn’t know I’m watching.

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Visions of my mother’s cheese danish dance through my head every Christmas.

Holidays are rich with food memories. My mother made an extraordinary cheese danish from scratch – the recipe was two full long pages. We had it every Christmas morning and while I do have the recipe, I haven’t managed the courage to attempt it myself. Just thinking about it gives me a lump in my throat.

Oyster-Stew

This is Christmas morning to me.

My father made oyster stew on Christmas morning and I have replicated that pretty well but in all honesty, it doesn’t taste as good without him to share it. Dad had a small repertoire when it came to cooking but what he did, he did damn well. His fried flounder is the best I have ever had and Lord knows I’ve done a lot of comparison tasting.

It’s funny when I think about it now, but my father was on to the farm to table movement long before it became trendy. He grew up on a farm and deeply appreciated and respected everything about that – the animals, the vegetables and the people who “worked the soil” as he liked to say.

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Dad’s flounder was lightly fried with a vague sweetness.

He had a large garden and nothing made him happier than making a cucumber and tomato salad every evening for dinner from the bounty he just brought in. He never took food for granted and he was the kindest of audiences when you cooked for him. We never left a church pot luck supper that he didn’t say, “Your mother’s dish was the best.”

I love that part of his ashes were scattered in two different tomato gardens when he died 13 years ago. And the harvest in both gardens that summer was prolific. Coincidence? I think not.

The connection between our taste buds and our hearts is a profound one, marinated in memory. Chef Ben Shewry of Attica in Melbourne, Australia, beautifully articulates this association in an episode of “Chef’s Table” when he says, “I’m trying to take people back to these times in their lives when people who loved them cooked for them in a way that was really meaningful and satisfying.”

It’s time for lunch and I suddenly have a longing for a grilled cheese.

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