Our Son

My kids do not enjoy bedtime. This is putting it lightly.

My husband and I have a handful of tools we use on our kids at bedtime only. One of the  bedtime-only tools I use after especially exhausting days is Reading My Books: “Oh, you’re not ready for your own stories? Cool! I’ll read to you from mine!”

Over the last couple of years, my kids have heard Neil Postman, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit, and a handful of other non-kidlit authors. Typically, my kids don’t have to listen to any author too long before hollering, “Stop! Stop! Please read one of our books!”

Something funny happened a couple nights ago, though. Continue reading “Our Son”

In The Forecast: Lots of Reading

Last month, I wrote about my kids and I getting Los Angeles Public Library cards. We were all enthusiastic then, but we’re even more enthusiastic now. 

The kids’ school and our favorite physical world destinations–including, as of the day before yesterday, the LAPL!–will be closed for at least the next two weeks. While there will be chores and some schoolwork to do here, we’ll also have a lot more time to read. 

Many of the books we’ll read here will come off of our own shelves. Others will come from the library via Overdrive, an app that grants LAPL patrons access to a couple million electronic resources–books and magazines and videos, oh my!*

A smaller handful of books will be paper books my kids and I checked out from our LAPL branch library.

On our last trip to the library, my five-year-old checked out books 2-4 of Kallie George’s Heartwood Hotel series. After ignoring the first book, half-finished, for months, he recently fell head over heels for the tiny critters who fill this tree-forest hotel in the woods. 

This morning, I snuggled up with him and read him the last chapter ofThe Greatest Gift (Heartwood Hotel #2). I said a quiet thanks that, due to the library closure, we’ll have this book on hand to read and reread for an extra few weeks.

Even as my littler one and I read that book, my older son was off reading My Hero Academia Vol. 22. Having never heard of this manga just two or three weeks ago, he’s since plowed through almost all of them the way he’d eat pizza: with gusto, not to mention the keenest of focus! 

I’d recently contemplated checking out some new manga for him. I wish I had! And yet, there’s plenty of manga available on Overdrive. If my son has a will to find more, there’s certainly a way!

* Residents of the City of L.A. can check out LAPL electronic resources even without a physical card. You can find more info here. If you’re outside the City of L.A. and have an LAPL library card, you can use your physical card to register for access. 

Outside that zone, please check your own local library for their electronic resources! Alternatively, you can search Overdrive for your library, or libraries; I’ve added more than one via the app.

As I pointed out to a family member in rural Oregon a few weeks back, even their library has tons of online resources available to check out. Yours might, too!

Turning points

Two years ago, I took a few small footsteps that began my changing the course of my life. Those steps marked a personal turning point, as did many of the more figurative steps that followed them.

Early last year, a friend suggested childhood trauma continued to impact me in ways I couldn’t necessarily see. After first dismissing her words, I soon came to understand how right she was. I began consciously pausing, especially when I felt urgency to respond. This, too, was a turning point for me.

Recently, my ten-year-old asked me, “What’s PTSD again?” Before I had a chance to respond, he sagely continued, “Oh, right! It’s when you can’t tell the difference between the past and the present.” Continue reading “Turning points”

Four decades of libraries

My siblings and I practically grew up at our local library. Apart from having so many more books than even we bibliovores could ever hope to read, it had heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. What wasn’t to love?!

I grew up loving–and arguably surviving thanks to–both books and libraries. It was thus inevitable that my own children would visit their local library frequently, and each have their own local library cards.

We all enjoy our local library, and how we can have books delivered from one branch to another within a day or two.

Recently, we got another delightful library surprise: Continue reading “Four decades of libraries”

I believe you.

Five years ago tomorrow, I posted portions of my own #MeToo experience.

I did so nearly a decade after activist Tarana Burke first used the words “me too” on social media, but a couple years before #MeToo become a movement.

I didn’t hear the phrase “me too” until late 2017, but I was absolutely guided by its sentiment when I wrote in January 2015. Infuriated then by something I’d read from an advocate of Bill Cosby, I began writing about my own experiences.

I wrote because I didn’t want anyone to suffer the aftermath of assault alone, whether after assault at an individual human perpetrator’s hands or subsequent assault by the United States injustice system, or both.

I’m currently reading She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

As I read about the authors’ journey to breaking the Harvey Weinstein case this early morning, I was inspired to search my email for a particular phrase that showed up several times in posts on my old blog.

That phrase? “I believe you.”

These words, heard by a much younger version of myself in an Oregon courtroom decades ago, were–are–some of the most magical words I have ever heard.

Even before rereading my old blog posts this morning, I knew I was going to write a post weaving together my personal experiences with the many aspects of She Said  to which I personally connect.

As I read the posts, I saw that my as-yet-unwritten post will benefit mightily by my being able to reference the older ones I reread this morning. So I’m posting them here, now, knowing I will be drawing on them soon.

And, just so you know:

I believe you. Still. Continue reading “I believe you.”

In a galaxy both far and near

A few years ago, I began reading Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. I was fascinated by its explorations of human cognitive biases, but ended up setting it aside half-finished to explore newer interests.

I returned to it about a week ago. Last night, I was within twenty pages of finishing it when I sat down to watch Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with my family. One particular, quick exchange made me laugh first before then exclaiming, “Wait! I was just reading about this in Kahneman!”

It shouldn’t spoil anything for me to explain this few-second exchange, so: Continue reading “In a galaxy both far and near”

Empathy, hijacked

Until two weeks ago, I misunderstood psychopathy.

I believed that all psychopaths were serial killers, and vice versa. I also believed that their numbers were infinitesimally small.

They were, in other words, not worth much consideration, for the chance they’d impact my life personally was negligible.

My path to learning otherwise began with a simple question: What’s it called when someone treats you not as a human, but a need-meeting device? I figured there had to be a word for it, but I didn’t know what that word was.

Fortunately, I happened across a book that answered the question in a single, succinct sentence. In The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success at Work and in Relationships in a Shortcut World, Dr. John Townsend writes, “When one person treats another as a need-meeting object or as a dispenser of a desired commodity, that is objectification.”

There was my word: objectification.

I was surprised. Seeing this definition, it was immediately clear I’d misunderstood objectification as strictly sex-related. That misunderstanding had barred me from identifying prior experiences with objectification for what they were.

Armed with the word, I began searching for information on people especially prone to objectifying others. What would these people look like? What other kinds of behaviors might appear together with a propensity to objectify?

I found a few articles on “social predation.” In these articles, I found affirmation that objectification as a routine behavior doesn’t often travel alone.

The people who routinely exhibited this suite of behaviors were “social predators.” Having never found that term before, then, I looked up “social predation.” How had I never heard of it? The answer quickly became clear: when traveling together, this suite of behaviors is more commonly referred to as “sociopathy” or “psychopathy.”

I needed more information than I could glean from a couple of articles. I needed a framework. In short, I needed a book.

I first read Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door, in which the author uses the words “sociopathy” and “psychopathy” interchangeably.

As I read, I found myself both intrigued and horrified. Continue reading “Empathy, hijacked”

Words to save lives

A book once helped me, quite possibly, save a life dear to me.

Someone I love had suddenly gone almost completely off the grid. She’d done so soon after meeting a new man.

I hadn’t met her new fella. She barely spoke of him on the now-rare occasion we did talk. I didn’t need to meet him or talk to her about him to be alarmed, especially when she told me she’d moved a long way from home to be with him.

I didn’t need to know him to be concerned. The changes in her behavior told me a lot about his role in her life.

My childhood was practically defined by extensive violence and predation, so that I implicitly recognized its symptoms. I didn’t once need to see violence in action to know something was very wrong.

Unfortunately, implicit knowledge is hard to share. This kind of knowledge, which is intuited instead of learned from books and seminars, is hard to voice in words. It’s a knowing that happens in the body, not the intentionally focused brain, and can thus live in a place where words seldom reach. Continue reading “Words to save lives”

The possibility in a word

When my now-husband, Anthony, first told me he’d majored in American Studies, I was tickled. I couldn’t fathom such a choice, which seemed so … indulgent.

Why study history when we live in the present? Why study culture when the world simply is the way it is? Far better, I thought, to dedicate time and energy to building skills critical to navigating now.

A few years ago, my husband introduced me to Neil Postman. As I read book after Postman book, I began to see some of the many ways the present is a byproduct of processes in the past. The future, in turn, will be a byproduct of processes in motion now.

Different processes, different product.

I began to grasp why two of my siblings are historians, and why my husband would be interested in American Studies.

In one particular conversation, my husband explained that he’d majored in American Studies to find words for his experiences as a Black man in America.

I was incredulous. He already had words. Why did he need a program of study to give him words, available en masse in dictionaries and thesauri everywhere?!

Recently I’ve been eating humble pie here, too.

In mid-June, someone I trust suggested I watch Brené Brown’s Netflix special. I did so, and my mind was blown. The world Brown described was so different than the world I was used to seeing. 

I liked her vision of the world better than my own; there was so much possibility in hers! I watched others of her videos. Having watched those I could find, I then bought and read each of her books, enjoying them in visual and audio formats.

It took me a little while to pinpoint what I found in Brown that I didn’t find elsewhere.

After I’d pinpointed it, I couldn’t help but laugh: Continue reading “The possibility in a word”

Far from alone

I’ve been stalked for a year and a half.

It’s not something I talk–or write–much about anymore. I’m not interested in having my life defined by what others do to me. Much more important to that definition is the choices I make; as I learn and grow by the day, these are getting sounder..

Why write anything about it, then?

If you’ve read my last few posts, you probably suspect it has something to do with Brené Brown,

If you’re thusly suspicious, you’re right. 

I just finished rereading Brown’s first book, Women & Shame. In this book, Brown emphasizes how critical genuine connection is to overcoming shame. Only by speaking shame can women escape it, and, powerfully, help other women learn to escape it. Continue reading “Far from alone”