Lee Family Goes East: Part 1

It was never going to be Spring in New England. The dashboard thermostat read 47 degrees at 5am as I packed the car for the Lee Family trip to Taiwan. I could see my breath as I lugged four roller boards into the SUV to brave all of the morning traffic from Boston to JFK on a workday. We Lees are very talented packers, get to airports early, can navigate a foreign city, and even barter with its weird coins. But travel planning? We suck at that.

Drive from Boston to fly to Taipei from NYC all in one day? Somehow we landed on that plan. It might have had something to do with trying to find seats with AMa and AGong and arranging return travel that could accommodate my sister-in-law’s family who would be joining the gang in July. It took hours of swearing at screens to figure out how to coordinate everyone. I lamented the good old days when people hired some gum-smacking gal in a glass cubicle on Main Street to arrange the whole thing with click clacking shellacked nails and bossy phone calls to the airport. (Not sure if that’s a fair assessment of 80’s era travel planners, or something I totally just made up.)

I had been warned it was going to be… hot. I couldn’t wait. Those who live in these parts know that Memorial Day Weekend was too chilly for any pool, and last day of school parties were thwarted by frigid temps and threatening skies. I had to remember to turn off the goddamn heat before we left. On June 8th. It was dinnertime the following day by the time we got to the Grand Hotel and unloaded into gigantic rooms with huge terraces that we quickly learned should NOT be used. Opening the doors to the elements on a summery eve in Taipei we met a wall of unbreathable heat and subsequently invited every blood-sucking insect into our sleeping spaces. Future panoramic pics were taken through the glass.

Nearly everyone in Taipei knew some English. Bernie spent 5th and 6th grade there learning Mandarin while his classmates were dutifully slogging through our impossible English verb conjugations. The locals were all sweet enough to brave a few sentences before my in laws took over in Mandarin or Taiwanese to make sure we got the spinach-y greens with garlic (NOT TOO SALTY!). I know y’all want the skinny on White Girl in the Orient. Some of you sent private messages to wonder how I was handling the immersion. It would be just like me to start making fun of everything right now. But my biggest take home from travel to see the people we (!) call family was this: it’s all about the food.

After we got married, Bernie and I lived in Manhattan, just a jog away from his parents in Flushing. If our schedules aligned and we weren’t on call, we often went to dinner with them. Over the years, these meals have been very similar… for me. To them, it’s possible the variety of restaurants we frequented were as vast as Chipotle to Peter Lugar’s. But I always experienced the same sort of Lazy Susan evening of shared dishes, many pots of tea, and a meal that started and ended with soup.

Those who have known me forever are familiar with a life long peccadillo I’ve never truly shaken: I don’t like sharing food. Clearly, this was going to be an issue going forward as a Lee. Before I became accustomed to the cold, fatty chicken appetizer, the mini fish with the heads still on, the bony knuckles of pork, or the occasional plate of jellyfish or liver or tongue, I would sit through these meals and pray for noodles. Oh, please let there be noodles– or those medallions of soy marinated fried pork. I always wanted to snatch a whole plate of recognizable food off of the spinning tray and gobble it up myself. But that’s not how it’s done.

“Have you eaten?”

This is how aunties and mothers and grandmothers often greet their (grown) children. It baffled me as a newly married. Finally I asked Bernie why his mother would call at 11pm and ask if we had had dinner. Did she think we’d forgotten to eat? Was it a late night invitation? He laughed and said that is the equivalent of “hello.” And now I get it. Like it is in many cultures, I suppose, food is love.

To be honest, I always thought my in laws were a bit exasperating with restaurant wait staff. I mean, if we were essentially ordering the same kinds of things every time (one chicken, two or more vegetables, a beef, a seafood, noodles or rice, never both) why was there so much discussion? It was always happening in another language, so I didn’t see that they were trying to curate a beautiful, coordinated meal. Didn’t matter if it was lunch on a Tuesday or AGong’s retirement dinner. When you assemble with people at that Lazy Susan there is an endearing respect for the process. And those choices were made like this could be our last meal together… or at all. I endlessly made fun of it in my head. But now I see it differently. And I love them for knowing all of these amazing foods and remembering which ones I like, ordering extra portions of those, and spinning them my way.

The spinach-y garlicky dish is so delicious it deserves its own paragraph. So does any gigantic platter of snapper swimming in gingered broth (even though someone always eats the eye). The beef falls apart in salty, fatty mouthfuls. Beans are snappy and spicy. We moaned over the dumplings. A simple chicken soup is a smooth, winy concoction that takes like it cures things. And across all of this wonderful food—a nourishing togetherness. Bernie’s parents came to this country in their early 20s, leaving behind a multitude of cousins and aunties and uncles, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, and probably a few beloved restaurants. Having grown up with all of those people and logging thousands of hours over shared meals of savory foods, I cannot fathom the homesickness they endured encountering Roy Rogers and Pizza Hut.

During the week we were there, we ate with a multitude of relatives. There are many pictures that look just like this:

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So. Many. Lees.

Some of them were impressed at how very un-American my boys’ stomachs seemed to be. I hope AMa and AGong got the credit for their culinary bravery. We realized that the myriad restaurants they have dragged us to over the years here in the states are the ones that best mimic the classic dishes made in the homeland. The fact that my kids love dow guan (no idea how to spell that) is only slightly less surprising than the fact that their white mom knows how to cook it. Nothing was terribly unusual… except maybe the liver masquerading as “beef.” But the boys gobbled it up even after the menu was translated into English.

Brodie and Teddy were really excited about the famous Night Markets of Taiwan. Many streets are lined with dollar stores that peddle bubble teas, fried squid, horny fruits on sticks, oddly delicious candies, weirdly dusty cakes, and some very unfortunate clothing.

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We begged him not to buy it. And now every travel photo is besmirched with Teddy in a Pikachu hat.

We had been warned by local friends that no matter how much dow guan the boys had eaten in their little lives, their virgin stomachs would not be quite ready for street food. They were right. I’m not writing the paragraph about those moments.

We were absolutely spoiled by every single person we encountered, whether they were old friends or close family. I hope we show visitors to our home a fraction of the generous hospitality we were given. Friends we hadn’t seen since our wedding now had their own children. I’m not sure what they told them about us, but this one climbed into my lap to say hello. We’d only known each other for five minutes before this picture was taken:

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Instant friends.

 

When I asked her if I looked like her Queen Elsa Barbie, she masked a giggle with her tiny, perfect hand. Subsequent pictures have shown Brodie with this cutie on his hip all over town.

After a week, it was time for Bernie and me to leave. The impetus to make the Lee Family Trip East was the World Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery meeting, taking place in Seoul. And so quite bravely and impossibly, we left our children in the very capable and loving care of their AMa and AGong to attend a meeting that deserves its own essay. And then we flew home. To the states. Without the boys. Where it is finally… hot.

More to come, friends. xoxo

 

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Payback

I met Tony a quarter century ago in a small class of budding writers who were handpicked by our Trinity professors to become Writing Associates. Class convened around a conference table where we discussed writing, and writing about writing. We were an eclectic group of college kids: a scientist (me), the stunner (Julia), the talent (Lisa), the boy who knew all of the big words (Ran), the comic genius (Nancy), and Tony.

Tony, despite his bespeckled, Philosophy brainiac persona was essentially a jock. A Jock in the Writing Center. Tony regularly threw balls to and snapped towels at boys I would never know. As a rather serious Biology major who divided her time between the library and the lab, my tiny social circle would never overlap with Tony’s. And yet there he was, all fit and baseball-capped and talking and writing in ways that defied my prejudices. We became fast friends.

Today is his birthday, and I’m all wistful about those moments in our early twenties when Tony and I were sure we were the smartest and most interesting people in any room. One of those rooms was the 35th year reunion for the rather infamous Class of ’63. We were on campus for our own 5-year celebration, but Tony was invited to the swanky dinner with the silver foxes as a special guest: Tony was the first Class of ’63 scholar. They were expecting a witty and pithy update on their investment.

Tony and I quit our classmates and headed across campus. Memory fails, but I probably insisted that Tony let me tag along to dine with the titans of industry and lords of Trinity’s yesteryear. I’d always liked men who were older, men who knew things. They were infinitely more interesting than the boys in the tent on the quad who were lying about their jobs or groping drunkenly in the name of nostalgia. We grabbed drinks, Tony introduced me to our tablemates, and the speeches began.

It went something like this:

Tony (whispering): I have no idea what I’m going to say.

Me: You just graduated from an Ivy League law school. I think they’ll be, you know, proud of you.

Tony: Ok. Yeah. I got this.

And on cue, Tony was asked to stand and share a few words. With a knowing grin that can only mean mischief —which you know well if you know him— Tony stood, probably winked at me, and began:

“I’d like to introduce all of you to my friend Britt…”

The next five minutes he devoted to how we met, my academic accomplishments and accolades and research, his certainty about my bright future, and probably some nod to how pretty I looked. Their first Class of ’63 scholar gave a thorough report about… me. He might have thrown in at the end some little snippet about their support of his college years that led to a law degree and a coveted job at a Boston law firm, but no one would have been surprised if Tony dropped to his knee and pulled out a little box. His very public lauding even made it into their Class Notes, where they wondered, in a very gentlemanly, Class of ’63 way, if Tony’s speech had led to some other action ‘neath the elms.

Though I love Tony madly, we’ve always been buddies. And I’ll always recall that dinner with a giggle. Tony took a moment that should have been all about him, and made it all about someone else because 1. It would make a great story later, and 2. It would be hilarious in the moment, and mostly 3. No one was expecting that. That bizarrely fun evening 20 years ago is a fond memory of a boy who remains a treasured friend. When we’re together, we are still pretty sure we are smartest and most interesting people in any room… and we’re still writing, and talking about writing about writing. In so many fabulous ways, nothing has changed—which is how forever friendships work.

Happy Birthday, to my still sporty, ever-the-jock Tony. I may have embarrassed you the teeniest bit in the very public affirmation of my longstanding affection for all that you are. But payback’s a bitch, old friend, and you’ve enjoyed a 19 year reprieve.

(And if now you want to know more about Tony, go here. It’s fabulous stuff.)

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Tony: lawyer, jock, stud, philosopher, and friend

Social media gaffes… or when Roxane Gay got mad at me

This will be on my can’t-sleep-at-night regret loop for a while. And it’s exactly the sort of fuck up I’m constantly telling my kids can happen. We tell them, “The Internet is INDELIBLE… it’s written with a Sharpie… you can’t take it back… it will haunt you forever. Words are powerful and permanent and can be misinterpreted.” And then we screw up, ourselves.

Well, I did.

Admittedly, I might have been looking for a shout out for my fundraiser. I’ll be honest about that. We had fantasies we could get this SUPER FAMOUS FABULOUS actress/author as our keynote speaker for our annual gala, but she was busy with a book tour. I’d known that for months. But maybe she’d be free next year?

We’re trying to raise big $$ here for a program that is doing great things. Three Steps to Success students got full-ride scholarships this year! I’ll climb the rafters and tweet at celebrities to champion this nonprofit and the accomplishments of the students it serves. When our whole community is involved, this wraparound care of programming begins to feel and function more like family. Spreading the word is how we get more people into our orbit, and social media is supposed to be a useful tool for that. So when I saw that our unavailable book tour babe was going to be speaking with another of my favorite writers, I thought… ooh what fun! But what I wrote was this:

“We were trying to get G for our fundraiser, but looks like it’ll be more fun (for her) with you in LA! Have a great evening!”

Or something like that. Without any context for tone, those parentheses are tragic. It was perceived as snarky: “Y’all suck because instead of headlining my teeny fundraiser, you’re being busy and famous somewhere else!” Which I didn’t intend. And the world famous author called me out for tweeting a manipulative guilt trip. Which is how it sounded to her in that moment. Maybe I need to use more emojis. The only worse response I’ve gotten on social media was when I admitted on Facebook that I don’t make my boys do chores. (They’ll do them wrong.)

Immediately, I was a terrible person– and suddenly there was tweeting proof of it. Disgruntled readers flocked to my “Asian by marriage” Twitter bio and didn’t read that as a silly quip encapsulating 16 years of wedded bliss, but proof of exactly what sort of tone deaf white girl I am. And attempts to clarify my BUT HEY I LOVE YOU GUYS WAIT WAIT WAIT explanations were read as lame and victim-y.

It’s really enough to make a girl want to log off forever. I mean, I’m a writer, dammit. Well, sort of… in that I write stuff and sometimes people read it. I should be able to make my words plain. I’m going to have to ask the teenagers how they navigate this land mine of wordsmith-ing every single day. The very idea that we expect them not to screw up is ludicrous.

An easy remedy is to stop tweeting @ famous people. Or use emojis that convey “Yay, everything!” Either one. Probably I’ll do what I keep telling my boys to do: proofread every email or message as if it were being read aloud to the entire class.

Also, apologize when we forget to do that. The great writer forgave me… I think. Hard to tell without emojis.

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Traveling with Asians

If you didn’t know me super well, you might think I like to travel. Those of you who know me well already did the spit-take on that idea. Bernie and I are big old crabs on the zodiac and prefer the couch to any castle or cathedral. Air travel is disgusting, and the world is still a bit unprepared for the (gasp) interracial couple. I’m used to being waved away from my family with a chipper offer to extricate me from these Asians: “Ma’am, I’ll take you over here!” But this week, traveling home from a week abroad, a French couple actually inserted themselves between me and my children right there in the security queue.

TSA checks are such an enormous stress bummer. I’ve already written oodles of times how it’s additionally fraught for the cancer-ed as a pseudo-scanner reveals our fake bits to everyone on the other side of it. But no one enjoys being berated for forgetting to take out the laptop or being an idiot with liquids while exposing feet and midriffs to surly uniformed staff and impatient (French) travelers who sigh loudly because you have children or difficult buckles or a watch. I was diligently getting all of my things in order when this over-tall and stylish couple pushed my tray back a few feet and plopped their carry-ons right in front of mine.

“What sort of brazen assholery is this?” I asked with my entire face but, you know, not out loud. TSA was blasé. TSA was probably preoccupied with the single dad ahead whose boys packed every electronic they own to go to Europe. Honest to God, Teddy brought a full size keyboard and a gigantic microphone to Barcelona.

To be fair, I don’t look my children. But it takes only 12 seconds of observation to see that I might be associated with or employed by them. Also, while traveling, Teddy is unrelenting with rhetorical questions and observations that include an introductory so Mom? so Mom? Mom? Mom? followed by a dissertation about European urinals or stage whisper wondering if that guy totally just farted or inexhaustibly explaining why his bracket is winning. You know, the sort of charming chitchat you save for your mère. But even when they are exasperating, I still hug them tight and touch their perfect faces. It should be plain that they are mine mine mine.

In June we’re going to Taiwan and probably Japan and possibly Korea–with the kiddos and my in laws. I need matching travel clothes. In the bottom of drawers all of us have I LOVE TAIWAN t-shirts. (Of course we do.) It might be a bit like wearing the ears to Disney Land, but hey, maybe it’ll keep the French from cutting the line.

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Duh. They’re totally MINE.

 

God’s Plan

Submitted a snippet of this for the Sully Award Competition over at:

https://mikeallegra.com/2017/03/21/sully-award-competition-now-open/

200 words and a bustling community of writing types sure to delight!

Blooms and Bubbles

Recently one of Bernie’s (favorite) patients was diagnosed with recurrent, metastatic breast cancer. He’s been at this job for nearly a decade but this news is always a punch in the stomach. And now, we can’t possibly distance ourselves with a we’ll-keep-her-in-our-prayers-and-now-there’s-laundry-to-fold way. Nancy described it like this:

“It must be surreal for the two of you to be pressed so close to the glass between what man can do and God’s plan.”

I keep returning to Hester Hill Schnipper’s* mantra for those diagnosed with disseminated Cancer: “it’s not curable, but it’s treatable.” While I focus on the hope of that statement—that medicines (poisons) can keep this vibrant, beautiful mom around for a long, long time—Bernie reviews the entire case for reassurances that The Team didn’t fail her. Did the surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists have the best plan? Is her cancer unusual, receptor negative, aggressive, (or in all ways unlike…

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Dumber than the thermostat

Conversations with the “smart” thermostat…

Britt:  I’m always cold. You should know this about me. I’ll grab a sweater for 70 degrees, but let’s just hang out at 72.

Smart Thermostat:   I can be programmed 539 ways! You can adjust me from your PHONE! You’ll save SO MUCH MONEY! I am SO SMART!

Britt:   Why is it 64 degrees in here?

ST:  Well, it’s morning. I turned it back last night. After you went to bed. I didn’t think you really meant 68.

Britt:   I did.

ST:   No biggie. You can always click “manual” and I’ll do whatever you want. YOU CAN DO THIS FROM YOUR PHONE!

Britt:  Great. Why isn’t it 72 degrees now?

ST:   I thought you were “away” and when you are “away” I get sad and return to 64 degrees because you always come running when it’s 64 degrees.

Britt:   That’s sweet, but I’m cold. And I clicked “manual,” so really, I got this.

ST:   Awesome. Did I mention I can be programmed 4,923 ways. FROM YOUR PHONE?

Britt:   Yes, I’ve been told. But it’s 68 degrees again.

ST:   I just can’t even with this 72 degrees, Britt. Go get a sweater.

Britt:   Please stop being “smart.” My fingers are numb.

ST:  OK. 72 degrees. FINE. I mean, the tool belt boys must be sweating, but whatever.

Britt:  OH MY GOD WHY IS IT 64 DEGREES AGAIN?

ST:   I’ll only “Hold until 6pm,” Britt. No one keeps the thermostat up that high for that long.

Britt:   I do.

ST:  (Not anymore)

Britt: I HEARD THAT.

*rips thermostat off of wall*

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My thermostat, that refuses to stay at this temperature.

Dear Abby

Frequently this site gets a new visitor who is clicking on the old essays—the ones documenting the scary beginning and slog through a never-ending aftermath. Every week another bing on my phone asks me if I wouldn’t mind making a call, holding a hand, or answering questions for a friend. So I wrote a letter. This is to all of the Kates and Leighs and Laurens… and to Abby.

 

Dear Abby,

I heard. Or I guessed it from the cryptic posts and cried when your status confirmed the damning pathology. Telling people–saying it out loud– makes it more certain than the slides. I hope you had some Ativan for that.

Maybe it’s super early, maybe DCIS, maybe a quick lumpectomy and just-to-be-sure radiation will be curative. Maybe you’re exhausted from all of the tight smiling as people tell you how lucky you are– so lucky to be pushed out of the plane because there is a parachute that opens almost all of the time.

But maybe it’s not the lucky kind.

Maybe it’s the pink ribbon monster hiding under the bed. White-coated well-meaners tell you with practiced concern that it’s not curable but it’s still treatable. Maybe they can tame and starve it for years, turning it into a defeated Voldemort sort of cancer. Maybe they’ll optimistically cite future graduations and weddings and vacations and plans like you’re thinking about a time-share in Orlando right now. As if it didn’t take seven books and umpteen tragedies to turn Voldemort into a fetal worm. As if any of this can have a happy ending.

Maybe it was there all along. Maybe it just came back (why does it fucking come back?). Maybe surgery was years ago and your hair is amazing now but there is still this little hidden part of you that only the other Shitty Sorority members see. Maybe you fucking knew it would come back but didn’t tell anyone because the “lucky” people would whisper that you weren’t being “positive.” Maybe you are scared shitless and praying nonstop or for the first time in your life.

Maybe God is listening and sending warm assurances—not that it’ll be okay, exactly, but that He is there. Maybe it feels like God isn’t listening, or doesn’t bother with things like unrestrained mitosis. Maybe it was just too much begging for impossible things. Maybe prayer doesn’t work like that, or for you, or with any sort of speed… or at all.

Maybe. One thing is certain: no one knows anything. Here’s another: you’re not alone.

Probably you are reading everything you can: the cancer sites, the scary statistics, and the stories of a hundred breastless women, gauging the level of your unluckiness against blogging strangers. Probably one of them is like you. Look, she’s totally like you! Probably you’d be fast friends even if you never spoke a single word to each other. Probably.

No, definitely. Definitely that.

There’s no pledge period for the Shittiest Sorority. Sisterhood is immediate. I have yet to chat up a head-scarfed stranger without finding something to laugh or cry about. Usually both. Our hidden parts–our secret cancer selves–we save each other seats in the bleachers. We’ll watch this peculiar sport of losses and triumphs together. Come sit next to me. I brought snacks.

We have cheerleaders, too. It’s different, but they are absolutely vital. Their pom pom positivity, casserole-toting enthusiasm for health and healing, all that marching in your name for cures– it’s wonderful and adorable. Their cheers are prayers, and their prayers are medicine. They fill in for us when we don’t have the Go! Fight! Win! spunkiness people love to witness in the cancer-ed. But you and me, we know cheerleading is for the healthy. And their prayers are purer than ours with all of the distracted, terror-stricken pleading. Let them pray. Maybe it works. Probably?

I see you, Abby. I’m waving you over here. (I’m still here.) Come sit with me on the bleachers. Get under my blanket. You don’t have to do the wave or cheer the fight song. We’ll just see how this plays out. Together. With snacks. And Ativan. You are not alone.

Definitely. Definitely not alone.

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Roadkill

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, a handful of years into graduate schooling, with a series of rotating apartments and a persistently ring-less finger, my dad and his best friend, Lynn, began referring to my boyfriends as “Roadkill.” I wasn’t particularly promiscuous, but inching up on 30, the sheer numbers of boys who would never be my husband got, well… numerous. More often than not, I was the one who was bored, disillusioned, or unfaithful (sorry, boys) and the one to call it quits. Thus, Roadkill.

Ty was my neighbor and probably one of my closest buddies during senior year of high school. He will always be one of the funniest people I have ever known. Carpooling to school through rural neighborhoods we once saw a horse do a yawn-whinny thing that we imitated often and at impromptu times. It was only hilarious to the two of us. “Are you cereal?” he’d ask. “Not nece-celery,” was the answer. He loved The Grateful Dead, so my Julie Andrews covers were deliciously irritating (to him) and entertaining (to me): Roooolll A-Wheyyyy the Doooo! Do you have that one friend who makes you laugh at nothing—a Jerry Seinfeld with a Pez dispenser? That was Ty for me.

Ty and I spent many bellyaching, laughing-too-hard-to-breathe nights together. Chastely. We were truly just friends. But you can imagine how well Ty went over with The Roadkill. One summer night I brought a new boy home. Ty was over for dinner, which was common. Wine was flowing, which was really common. And everyone was making fun of each other, which is in the Stockton Family Syllabus. Future Roadkill misread the room– or was too thin skinned– and got a little territorial about being the boyfriend (with its implied set of privileges) instead of the friend. Ty didn’t miss a beat.

“Whatever, dude. Next year Britt will be with some other guy, but I’ll still… be… right… here.”

Roadkill was the only one who didn’t find this funny. He didn’t last very long. The next one did, but even he ended up smeared all over the grille. Those were Lynn’s words as he and Judy poured me the tallest and tastiest vodka tonic I’ve ever had, and listened to my latest misadventures in love. After that break up, I drove 7 hours to see them, their daughter, and to languish ring-less-ly on the deck of their gorgeous beach house… and to laugh.

I met Bernie just a few months later.

Thinking about Valentine’s Day, these memories shifted to the top of my mind like the big popcorn pieces when you shake the bucket. Suddenly I’m aware of Great Loves in my life who never gave me flowers or chocolates or rings, but made me pee-a-little giggle and poured me gigantic cocktails as I plowed through the dating years that led me to the best one.

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Ty and me on my 21st birthday. Can’t imagine why all the Roadkill hated him.

Luceo non uro

My middle name is Mewhinney. I’ve always loved it. No one is named Mewhinney. Except me. I’m @mewhinney! And of my dearest, closest, oldest friends, I’m still Mewhinney. I was named after Laura May Mewhinney, who Stockton family lore touts as tiny, adorable, and beloved. Growing up, I assumed all sorts of other stuff about her. Mewhinney is definitely a gal who winks. She’ll slip you candy from a stash in her handbag (and definitely calls it her handbag); she embroiders, drinks gin, and wears dresses with tiny floral patterns. Mewhinney gets all freckly in the sun and never leaves the house without a treat for the neighborhood dogs. Is any of this true? No idea. But this is where my mind goes: always to the pretty stuff.

There’s plenty of ugly stuff in the world right now. Possibly in response, Bernie and I recently left the TV off, turned on Corey Hart Radio on Pandora (highly recommend), shared a bottle of Fume Blanc, and appreciated the genius of Richard Marx. It was restorative. At our respective laptops, Bernie edited research papers and I traded song lyrics with Facebook buddies. The kids were in and out of the room wrestling and giggling and farting and being that awesome mix of adorable/irritating/lovable/gross that is The Teenage Boy. They know all the words to Take on Me and Teddy’s don’t… don’t you want me, well, it’s a parenting perk for sure.

I still unabashedly like Facebook, but I’ve seen at least a dozen friends (threaten to or actually) delete their accounts this week. The incessant onslaught of political HEY-DID-YOU-SEE-THIS posts– what David Brooks aptly describes as “the hyperventilating media”– are literally “trumping” funny quips about toddlers, car repair woes, and check-ins at Shake Shack in our timelines. If you’re like me, you’re sort of jonesing for the good ole days of Throwback Thursday bar mitzvah Polaroids and family-in-ponchos at Niagara Falls. I know it seems like the end of days, but I honestly miss discussions about Tooth Fairy handouts and your latest excuses for drinking on a school night.

But being apolitical is a political stance!

I read this on Twitter every day. Those folks aren’t closing up shop on social media and actually seem to be plowing forward with an increasing number of no, really, I, really, really, really hate him sentiments with funny/angry/poignant/unrelenting tweets. Certainly there are legitimate fears about our political leaders, but is social media hand wringing– or worse, trolling and fighting—is that activism? I’m not sure. Sharing info on how to contact your representatives and where to meet to march, that’s valuable politicking. But me? I’d still rather read your date night yelp review of the new movie theater. I’m Mewhinney!

Trump might be the Death of Facebook as we bore each other to tears with shared outrage. Brodie asked, “Is everyone going to pissed off all of the time for the next four years?” God, I hope not. The children are watching, indeed.

Here’s what I am noticing.

Out in the real world where we stand at deli counters and tip the delivery guy and chat up the waiter—out there, face to face, I feel like we are being nicer to each other. Have you found yourself smiling at a stranger over the lemons and limes, letting the Prius merge into your lane with a you-first wave, or making a more deliberate attempt to exchange even short pleasantries with your fellow line-standers? Are you trying to make fewer assumptions, or better ones, about the people around you… by talking to them? Have you paid for a coffee behind you, or thrown an extra quarter in an overdue meter just ‘cuz? These are the things I have seen.

Internet sleuthing led me to a Mewhinney family crest emblazoned with luceo non uro. Shine, not burn. I love that. Few things other than cardio or cut-and-paste-if-you-care cancer memes can tempt me to write angrily. I also don’t trust most reposted articles, preferring to read the opinions of smart lawyers who have a sober handle on precedent, our men and women of the cloth (of all ilk) who devote their lives to assuaging fears of earthly things, and Steve. But when I’m existentially and emotionally exhausted with world news, it’s a fun breather to scroll through the selfie stick snaps of your high school reunion. More than ever we need the silly things, the pretty things, and I hope that sort of sharing doesn’t die because our President is profoundly (and daily) uncouth. Even so, I guess there’s always Richard Marx, right there, waiting for me.

Luceo non uro. Share the good things, the pretty things, too. The children are watching.

moaenyso

Go ahead. Try to resist the uro gaze of Richard Marx.

President Trump: Getting The Liberal Agenda Done! By Steve Safran

As you know, dear friends, I’m not a political sort. But I love Stevie’s current take on Trump. Is he an evil blowhard or a political mastermind? Who knows? But our reactions to him are reminding us who we are.

In just the past two weekends, we’ve had a nation united in its outpouring of support for women’s rights, immigrants and due process. This past weekend, the ACLU raised an astonishing $24 million, nearly beating M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” at the box office, with only slightly less horror in the storyline. Subscriptions to the New York Times are up. Book sales– actual, physical books made out of paper– are on the increase. And in just a few weeks, scientists and supporters of science will join together to rally in Washington DC.

All thanks to President Trump.

Think about this: Without President Trump, would we have had “pussy hats?” Would people be reading 1984 again and debating totalitarian government? Would people have felt so empowered that, when they heard an executive order was signed banning certain immigrants (the ones that pray to Mohammed but aren’t inconveniently located in countries profitable to Trump companies), they rushed to their local airports in a display of love and selflessness? I mean– lawyers worked for free on that one. Lawyers! For free!

Thank you, President Trump!

Reporters are discovering how to report again. They’ve stop relying on the same-thing-every-day White House press briefings which tell you exactly nothing other than what the White House wants you to know. Instead, the Washington Post is adding 60 journalists. It’s expanding breaking news and investigative news. That’s really the only kind of news worth reporting.

People are questioning the government again. After 9/11, it was unpatriotic to question the president. You were either “with us or against us.” Now, we remembered this whole “America” thing: The government is either with me or against me. America is governed by the people– not by a King or a CEO or someone who thinks he can just Tweet laws into existence. I’ve heard more talk about the three branches of government in the last month than I have in years. “The president doesn’t make the laws,” noted one observer. And by “one observer,” I mean every social studies teacher in America who has been trying to get students to listen for the last 40 years.

Thanks, Trump!

I’m a Republican. Been one since January 3, 1986– the day I turned 18 and proudly registered GOP. Reagan was president, and all I really knew about the Republicans was that they were for money and less taxes. I saw “Wall Street” and missed the satirical point entirely and decided that these were the people for me. But I believed, and still do, in fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism.

Who these people are, these new leaders who have dared to steal the name of my party, I can’t say. They’re not Republicans. Certainly Trump is no Republican. I’m not even trying to insult the man. Here’s his political affiliation history:

1987-1999: Republican

1999 – 2001 Reform (The Ross Perot people.)

2001 – 2009: Democrat

2011 – 2012: Independent (Unaffiliated)

2012 – Present: Republican

That’s not a political leaning, that’s just being against whomever is in charge. Donald likes to be in the opposition, because it gets him on TV. He was a Republican while Bush the Elder was president, true. But he stayed in the opposition while Clinton was president. AFTER Clinton left, he became a Democrat, for Bush 45. Obama wins? Trump’s a Republican again after 13 years. Just so he can go on TV and say he’d do better.

But the takeaway here is that from 1999-2012, Trump was not a Republican. And I have a theory:

Donald Trump is a loyal Democrat.

Donald Trump knew the best way to energize the centrists in the party was for it to join common cause with the base. What better way to do that than to have a common enemy? So Trump, true patriot that he is, that keen mind with the best brain and the best words decided: I have to fall on the sword for the good of America. I will make America great again, even at the cost of my own reputation. I will become the scapegoat that will unite the country.

The U.S. had been becoming outrageously anti-Muslim. Odds of being killed by a refugee terrorist in the U.S.? 1 in 3.6 billion. Odds of being killed by a fellow American with a gun? 1 in 25,000. We had become overwrought with fear of Muslims and not concerned nearly enough with the safety of our fellow countrymen (even our fellow schoolchildren). Trump knew “he alone” could fix this.

And so he did. He signed a blatantly unconstitutional, anti-American executive order that, well, nobody’s quite sure what it did. On paper, it stopped a bunch of people coming in, but even the folks at the borders weren’t sure to whom it applied. See, Trump didn’t want this order to work, so he didn’t run it by the Justice Department or the State Department. Instead, he just had a total idiot outline some garbage about countries people couldn’t come in from. That idiot, Steve Bannon, happily complied because he doesn’t know Trump is using him.

Within hours, Americans showed up at airports, united in their support of Muslims. Americans were hugging Muslims who must have been at least a little confused after their 15-hour flights. You have to believe an Iranian, showing up in New York, seeing a giant protesting mob at first blush is thinking, “This can’t be good.”

But it was good. A federal judge in Brooklyn put a stay on part of Trump’s order because the government couldn’t make a case that people being detained at the border posed any risk. This may have had something to do with the fact that they posed no risk.

What’s next? Science. That whole anti-science agenda that the Republicans want to pass? The one that says, essentially, peer reviewed scientific studies are kind of up for debate? Trump’s totally going to eviscerate that. By which I mean, he’s going to pass it. And in a few weeks, there will be the March for Science in Washington. Scientists, people who like science, and people who simply think that rocks fall when you drop them will be out in droves to march in favor of things like teaching the actual age of the Earth and giving children vaccines so they don’t die before age 3.

Who do we have to thank for that? President Trump, of course! Without his staff of yes-monkeys furiously cribbing policy from the Alex Jones radio show, none of this would be possible. Without Trump, women wouldn’t be calling their representatives in Washington to safeguard their reproductive rights. Without Trump, average citizens wouldn’t have willingly gone to an airport on a weekend, let alone to protest, let alone for Muslims (!) in a show of patriotic unity. Without Trump, scientists wouldn’t be the next stars of the show.

Thank you, President Trump. You’re one hell of a Democrat.

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