Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Grateful for 2020, Welcome 2021

I cannot begin to write about how amazing the past few weeks have been. I am so incredibly grateful for my life. 

Neither Wayne nor I lost our jobs this year due to the pandemic, though my business took a drastic "pause" in late winter/early spring. Still, year-end giving time kept me busier than I've been other years, and I'm immensely grateful for the work and the relationships built throughout this time.

We know of people who have gotten Covid and recovered. Yet, we mourn the loss of Wayne's dear Aunt Margie who passed on Christmas morning. We will miss her welcoming smile and loving nature. It was a treasure to visit with her. She was glad to share her gift of artistry with those who knew her, always unsure of her talents which would leave a person in awe of its beauty. It was a blessing when she passed as she suffered from memory loss for several years and was no longer herself. She is the closest person to us that we know of the more than 345,000 (and counting) souls lost to this pandemic, and I am saddened for those who are experiencing their first holiday without their loved ones this year. 

Our children are healthy. They are sometimes grumpy, moody, impatient and annoyed, as teens are, so we know they are responding normally to the times we are in. Our eldest is planning for college and excited for her future, as are we. Our youngest is forging relationships through the quarantine with new friends and — gasp — a boyfriend, and somehow pushing her way through her anxiety which is telling her to keep in her shell, don't do things that are new and scary. She's doing them anyways. I'm so incredibly proud of her.

One of Marissa's new hobbies, learning the ukelele.

Wayne's work is keeping him busier than ever right now, sometimes in fun and challenging ways, other times in frustrating and seemingly fruitless ways. Still, he gets to work from home, something he was dreading at one point and now is enjoying immensely. Sometimes he takes Beauty for a run over lunch hour, an activity they both love every chance they get.

Wayne ready for a card game.

I look around see and so many people struggling to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their heads and their children out of trouble, and I give whenever I can, which is often enough that I hope I'm making a difference.

None of us will forget 2020; the pandemic, the cries for social justice, the election that wouldn't ever freaking end. 

I will hopefully never forget the gratitude I feel in this moment for the additional time with my family to connect with our teen girls. I was able to spend time writing, exploring new hobbies, baking, being out-of-doors, and doing new things I've never tried.

Happy New Year. Welcome 2021. 

Let's move on, shall we?

Patio dining quarantine-style.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Hey Everybody! Let's market clothing to teens that reduces their self-worth!

Since Marissa's been at home doing distance learning she's no longer in her school uniform and is wearing comfy clothes every day. Her favorite sweatpants finally wore through and she did a little online shopping to replace them. She selected two pairs from PacSun and they were delivered to our door. Unfortunately they were both a little too big, so we went to the local PacSun store to return them to select a smaller size. 

After returning the clothing to a sales associate, Marissa made her way to what I thought was a tasteless display of Playboy branded materials at the front of the store. She began sorting through the sweatpants with little bunnies on them, looking for the right size. 

" are not buying Playboy branded sweatpants," I told her. She looked at me with a shocked look on her face. "Playboy? What are you talking about?"

She thought the little bunny wearing a bowtie was just a cute graphic. She had no idea that it stood for the Playboy brand. And then she informed me that the sweatpants she had bought online were Playboy branded — I just hadn't seen the icon before approving the order because it was so small on the screen! 

We laughed about the fact that she didn't know they were Playboy sweats and I didn't realize she'd purchased Playboy sweats. But then we had a real discussion about why a retailer that caters to teens and young women would carry the Playboy brand and honestly, I don't get it.

The caption on the t-shirt on the far left says "Stretch Limousine Daydreams."
What exactly are we daydreaming about?  

In today's awareness of feminist issues, a soft porn magazine's brand isn't relevant or wanted in our culture. All of the things that Playboy embodies is harmful to my teen girls. I would never support their business by buying their brand. And I certainly would never want my 15-year-old daughter wearing Playboy gear. Ever. Who lets their teens buy this stuff?

I tweeted to PacSun and told them how disappointed I was that they carry the brand. Then again, PacSun also carries Brandy Melville clothing. If you don't know this clothing line, they have really cute items for teens, but they have no sizing. Really. The tags all say "one size." If you don't fit into the size they have, well then, I guess you're not the right size. 

What a great idea, market cute clothes to teen girls in their growing years when self-consciousness is its highest and self-confidence is often at its lowest, and make them feel worthless for not fitting into tailored clothing that assumes that all teen girls should be able to fit into their "one size." We looked through some of the pieces and they were tiny. Some of Marissa's short, petite friends could fit into them, but probably not the vast majority of teen girls. "One size" clothing should be reserved for scarves or hats, maybe a wrap, not jeans or tailored shirts. 

From the Brandy Melville website.

Marissa finally found some sweatpants that weren't offensive and that actually fit. selected from the fraction of the store that wasn't off limits due to its brand or its size. I'm not sure she'll want to shop at PacSun in the future. I'm grateful that she and I could have the conversation that we had on the way back home about the issues with both of these brands. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Living Through History

Marissa and I in the car, where many of our conversations take place.

 Marissa and I had such an interesting conversation tonight, as we often do. 

She was talking about how people have told her that she is "living through history," with the pandemic raging through the country. She said, "I always thought that history was something that happened to you when you were a kid, and once you were grown up history didn't happen anymore. I didn't think about the fact that you and dad are also living through historic times."

I told her about how my Grandpa Vern Floria, my dad's dad, was born in 1901 and died in 1996, just short of his 95th birthday. A few times I would talk to him about what he'd seen in his life.

He remembered a time when cars weren't everywhere, when you were lucky if your family had a horse to get around, and otherwise you walked. 

He remembered when zippers were invented. All the rich kids could afford to have them, while he and all the other poor kids were stuck wearing button-fly pants. 

He was too young to fight in WWI (just 14 when war broke out) but too old for WWII. His eldest son, my Uncle Dean, fought in WWII, his youngest son, my father, in the Vietnam War in the early 1970's. 

"Imagine," I said to Marissa, "Grandpa Vern remembered when zippers were invented, what life was like before cars, and also lived to see the personal computer change the way the world works." 

"Wow," she said, "Omigosh, I just realized something! He was alive when 'Friends' was being broadcast!"

And there you have it, Marissa's version of living through history.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Marissa's Special Elbow

I hope I'm not alone in wondering when to seek medical attention for my kids. When is it appropriate to tell them to "buck up" and when should you seek an expert's advice? I have the privilege of having two kids for whom every ache and pain is deemed worthy a trip to the emergency least in their minds. I cured one of my kids of that by finally taking her. After six hours of sitting around, she was given two ibuprofen and told to go home, they couldn't find anything wrong with her. 

About six weeks into the school year, Marissa started complaining about her elbow hurting. She was careful about bumping into anything, as any touch caused her pain. Eventually we ended up at Tria's urgent care for it, where she was fitted with a partial splint to protect it and keep it somewhat stationary. 

There, the doctor took a look at her record and her many trips to Tria for this same elbow, and said, "Hmmm....we've seen you a lot for this, but we've never taken an MRI. Let's do that." 

The MRI indicated something surprising — Marissa has an extra muscle in her elbow! Only about 4% of people who have elbow surgery have this, and the percentage of people who have elbow surgery is quite small, so let's just say it's pretty rare. 

They did more testing and an ultrasound which showed that as she moves her arm the muscle impinges on her ulnar nerve. A-ha! The source of her pain. Thankfully they could do an outpatient procedure to remove the tissue that was compressing the nerve.  

She was cleared for surgery and we were able to get it scheduled in a week. Dr. Bohn (pronounced "bone," which I thought was ironic considering she's an orthopedic surgeon), was highly recommended and had an opening on Thursday, November 5th. 

Marissa barely slept the night before surgery. She was anxious about the coming day, as anyone would be, especially a 15-year-old. She and I stayed up together from 2 a.m. to 4:30, entertaining each other with stories and laughing. Pretty soon her mind was relaxed enough that she could get a couple of hours of sleep before we had to go to the surgery center. 

Marissa was amazing through all the pre-op. She got an IV with no issues, chatted with the nurses and asked a lot of questions. They gave her a nerve block for her arm, which deadened all feeling in her arm and made it feel like it weighed 100 pounds. She said her arm felt like it belonged to a stranger.

Finally Dr. Bohn came in to greet her before surgery. She said, "Let me check to see how this arm is doing," she picked up Marissa's arm and let it go. It dropped like a rock onto the pillow below. Dr. Bohn laughed and said, "That cracks me up every time." 

Marissa did great and the surgery went well. Dr. Bohn had to transpose Marissa's nerve to another area of her elbow joint, so it will take some extra time to heal. It took Marissa a while to wake up, but eventually she did and we headed home for recovery to begin.

The day after surgery all of the nerve block had worn off and Marissa was in a lot of pain. The meds she had been prescribed made her sleep and she slept most of the day, but whenever she was awake she was in a lot of pain, so we got a different medication that would help more. 

It's been a few days now, and every day is better than the day before. Hopefully no more trips to urgent care for elbow pain for her. 

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Intersectionality. Defined.


Today the media declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

I didn't know how to feel. I was thrilled, in awe. I was sad that it came down to this. That 70 million people had voted for hatred, for white supremacy. 

I had been invited — several times via text — to a rally this afternoon. I didn't plan to go, but after Biden's win was announced via mainstream media an hour before the rally, I decided to attend. I was rejuvenated, energized, excited. I had to celebrate with like-minded people. And so I went, and had the most incredible experience.

I've never seen so many people from so many walks of life come together for a single movement. This wasn't about women, or Blacks, or homeless people, or Natives...this was about ALL of us. Together. Signs demanding change to address climate change. To require paid sick leave. To create policies to acknowledge that Black lives matter. To allow women to control their own bodies. 

THIS was the embodiment of intersectionalist activism: When every cause becomes my own cause. We are all on the same page, speaking out for the most vulnerable among us, those without a voice, without the means to advocate for themselves. 

I saw Blacks and whites bumping elbows, friends greeting friends, people dancing in the streets. I can't think of another election that created this much jubilation among its supporters. A Native American tribe of dancers danced in front of the marchers, all speeches translated into sign language and Spanish.

A woman wearing a "pussy hat" from women's marches. 

I have been to dozens of protests and rallies and marches this year, and years prior. None felt like this one. The sense of community, that it was always welcome to speak to your neighbor, no matter their color or religion, the spontaneous dancing, the jubilation. 


Trump's supporters may see it differently, but they have no idea. They've been blinded by his rhetoric and glamour. He has spoken lies, and they chose not to hear the "mistruths." This is not just any old victory, this is as if the people of Germany had the ability to vote Hitler out and did so. Bells rang in Paris, people took to the streets in Belfast, Ireland, fireworks went off in England. This isn't just Democrats supporting this win, it's the world, relieved that Trump will leave office. The world feels a little safer now. 

Hate crimes increased exponentially since Trump took office. His rhetoric inflamed hatred, divisiveness, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. His policies only benefited white men with money. As Paul Wellstone said, "When we all do better, we all do better." Under Trump, no one did better,  unless you were white, male, and privileged, and most definitely a family member. 

With Trump as president, it felt like the people against the government. And while I know Biden will not be the savior we need, he won't be the Satan we had. Perhaps now we can move forward. Together. 

The "unapologetic Muslim women." (per their t-shirts)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Fall Reflections on my Dad

Dad and I in Minneapolis, 2015

This coming October 28th it will have been four years since my dad passed away. I hate that autumn is associated with the loss of two of the most important people in my life, my dad and my fiancĂ©. 

No one was more surprised when my dad died than he was. He said he wanted to outlive his own father, my Grandpa Vern, who lived to be 94. Dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 60 and battled it for 11 years before it finally took him.

Some of my most memorable times with him are from my adulthood. He, my sister Kristi and I became good friends as adults. His visits to Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan with us are some of the silliest, funniest memories I have of him.

In December 2013 my sister graduated from Valparaiso University for the second time, this time with her BSN degree. Dad drove up from Arkansas and I flew in from Minneapolis for the event. Kristi and Dad picked me up in Chicago and we toured the town. Lunch at a little deli, a tour of Willis Tower and goofiness all around. I love the photo Kristi took of Dad and I pretending to descend upon a miniature replica of the Chicago downtown area.

At the Willis Tower skydeck

Kristi's nursing school graduation, 2013

Look out Chicago, the Florias are in town! 

Dad could make any outing special, an ordinary day extraordinary. He saw the wonder in nature, the goodness in people and beauty in the every day world. Once I was visiting he and my stepmom Terry in Arkansas, and he was telling me about a spider he had watched spin a web over their kitchen window. Later that night, as we were getting ready for bed, I hear him call for me excitedly. "Jenny! Come here, the spider's back! Look at this." We turned off the kitchen light so we could see into the night. He and I stood at the window in the darkness and watched the spider, which was outside thankfully, begin its dance. Back and forth and back and forth she swung, creating a web that spanned the entire window. We probably watched the spectacle for half an hour or more. It was finally complete, and we saw her nestle in the center of the web, ready to pounce on any insect that dared enter her creation. She was quickly rewarded and we watched her go to work preparing her meal. By the next morning the web was gone, only to be spun once more the following evening. 

He and Terry often took road trips north to visit us and other family, and he made the drive sound like the most amazing trip ever. He spoke of the little cafes they stopped at, the roadside stand where they bought some apples, the kids he saw riding bikes down a sidewalk. He would make up a little story in his head about those people, what they were doing, the relationship between them, and always find something quaint or endearing to say. Later, Terry would confide in me that the café was more like a dive, the roadside stand not quite as picturesque as he made it sound, and the kids looked like they were up to no good. Not that Terry was being negative, but my dad always had rose-colored glasses coloring his world.

Antique shopping in Hopkins, 2015

Fall was one of his favorite seasons. He would wax poetic about the leaves turning vibrant colors, the industriousness of the squirrels preparing for winter, the chestnuts he and Terry harvested from their chestnut tree. He and Terry celebrated Halloween with all her family, whom Kristi and I call our "southern rellies," with everyone coming together with well-executed and quirky costumes. My sister made it to Arkansas for a few of those parties, they sounded epic.

An Arkansas Halloween party, 2015

Floria Reunion in St. Louis MO, May 2016's that time of year when I reflect on all those wonderful memories and remind myself to be grateful that my dad and I were friends. And I still miss him.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

It's Apple Picking Time!

When our girls were younger we used to go apple picking every fall. It was such a fun tradition, everyone excited for a hayride, maybe petting some farm animals, fresh apples and, best of all, homemade apple pie!

As the girls have entered their tweens and teen years, excitement over this adventure has waned. Hay rides? Too itchy. Petting zoo? Too many germs. Fresh apples? Too...healthy.

But this is Lindsey's senior year and if she joins us again next year she'll have to make a trip home from college to join us (at least that's the plan), so off we all went to Afton Apples in Hastings, a place we've visited many times before.

The place was crazily busy — I don't think we've ever seen it this busy before. We waited in a long line just to pick up a bag to pick apples. We walked out to the orchard and found the Haralson's, which make the absolutely best baked goods. 

Within a minute Marissa was fascinated by an apple with a rotten gash on it that had a ladybug inside of it. She took it upon herself to free the ladybug from the gooey interior and marveled at it on her hand for a while before it flew off.

Marissa freeing a ladybug from a rotten apple.

We picked for all of maybe 10 minutes and had two full bags of apples. There is something so satisfying about finding a lovely bunch of apples on a tree, giving one a little tug, and having it easily come away in your hand. 

Back to the store to pay for the apples and get some other goodies; a quart of fresh apple cider, some apple and pumpkin donuts, and fresh apple brats for lunch. Delicious.

By this time it was nearly 1:00 and the crowds were too much for the girls, so we took all of our goodies, including our lunch, and ate in the car. As we were leaving the line of cars arriving was longer than when we'd arrived just a few hours before. Glad we went earlier in the day.

Lindsey re-creating her "I don wanna be here" face.

While Marissa re-created her toddler smile of scrunching her entire face.

They're both taller than the picture board now.

Back home Lindsey declared herself "tired" of apple pie, and wanted to try some other recipes. So she made a batch of beautiful, flaky apple turnovers that were delicious. Later on she baked up a batch of apple cinnamon muffins that are the toast of our breakfasts right now. Both of these recipes used a TOTAL of 7 apples — only 1 3/4 bags left to go!

Today we dropped one of the bags off at my friend's house, their family makes applesauce every fall, so we'll be happy to contribute to their supply for that endeavor. 

Some day the apples will be gone, but the memories will be there.

2008 apple picking

2008 apple eating

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

25 Years!

It is my husband and my 25th anniversary today.

This seems quite incredible to me. I'm not that far out of high school, right? Our kids are just out of diapers, not about to graduate high school. These are laugh lines, not wrinkles, around my eyes.

My parents never got to see 25 years, they divorced before reaching that milestone. They both remarried within a year of each other, and as I like to say, my parents are happily married, just not to each other. I don't think I can say that anymore now that my dad is gone.

I look back at the people who attended our wedding. At the time I didn't have a single niece or nephew on my side — Wayne had eight. I remember feeling awkward the first time any of them called me "Aunt" Jenny. Our ringbearer, Travis, is in his 30's now and has 5 kids of his own. Our flower girl is living in New Mexico with the coolest dog ever, playing in a band and making music. 

Our flower girl, Emily Thomas

Our ringbearer, Travis Cambronne

I think of the guests who were there who are no longer with us. My father-in-law, Neil Horsman, my Grandpa Dolaskie, Carol and Chap Smathers, Phyllis and Pete Disher, Tom and Ann Dolaskie, and, of course, my dad who walked me down the aisle with a grin on his face. Over the years they've all left the mortal world; I like to picture them getting together in heaven reminiscing on the old days, laughter sprinkling down like dew drops.

One of the pages from our guestbook.

My dad walking me down the aisle. 

Do we have a secret to a long marriage? Not really. Except to say, it isn't perfect. No marriage is. They ALL take work and are not easy. We've learned over the years that there are traits that make a marriage work: 1. Patience 2. Listening skills 3. Humor.

We've both learned the value of time away from family and each other. Wayne finds peace in his long runs, and I've learned that when he can't go for a run, either due to family obligations or injury, his patience gets short, his temper goes up. I have a vested interest in making sure he can go for his runs. 

On the other hand, I re-charge by spending time with my girlfriends. We tell funny stories, support each other in our shared struggles and encourage each other in our endeavors. I have the most amazing friends and am thankful for their support every day. Wayne makes sure I get time with them away from the family because that's good for my mental health.

September 30, 1995

At one point in our marriage I was the breadwinner and Wayne was the main caretaker for our girls while I traveled. And then it reversed, with him accepting a promotion and my taking a new job that got me out of the airports and able to be home more. Now we've hit an incredible balance, with him just years from retirement and I working my business out of our home, able to balance parenting duties with professional duties. We are so fortunate. 

Our wedding party with our ushers

And that's where we are today. A bit older, a lot wiser, and a lot funnier. At least to us.

But one thing remains the same: Neither of us can really dance. Our kids can confirm this.

Happy anniversary, Big Honey.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Croissant Dough Named Charlotte

Picture Perfect Croissants
Picture Perfect Croissants. (I didn't make these.) 

I've become a fan of the British Baking Show, which I learned about from my sister-in-law Laurie and have been watching on and off for a few years. It's a lot of fun, putting amateur bakers to the test making new and challenging recipes.

My friend Deb and I were chatting recently and said how much we both would like to try to make some of the more challenging recipes they attempted. One of the most challenging ones was croissants. There is a lot of rolling, turning and folding, and tons of butter, followed by chilling, more folding and turning, etc. So we decided to try our hand at it.

Deb looked up a bunch of recipes and we ended up going with one that came out of a 1961 New York Times cookbook. We started on Thursday at her house, making the initial dough, rolling it out and adding in all the butter. Then it chilled overnight in her frig, and we picked it up again at my house the following night. 

Deb arrived at our home and announced that the folded, flat bit of dough had been dubbed Charlotte. Charlotte was about to get a working over now that she was at my house. Deb continued the process of rolling, turning and folding, which is supposed to incorporate the butter through all of the layers so that when it bakes it puffs up into all those delicious flaky layers.

My favorite part of the recipe is when it says "cut into triangles," which I have determined is the most passive-aggressive direction ever written in a recipe. Do you have any idea how to cut 18 triangles out of a square piece of dough?I do, but only because I've purchased Pillsbury croissant dough in the past and saw how it had been scored and rolled so carefully into that little tube. 

We managed to get 19 little tiny croissants out of the dough, which was supposed to make 18 croissants, so we considered that a success. We put it into the oven with the temp sent to "proof" and waited for them to rise. And waited. And waited. And they rose...a little bit. You could tell by the seams that they were indeed attempting to rise, but alas, they were not doubling in size.
Ready to start rising! Aren't they cute?! 

Do these look like they're rising? 

After a couple of hours we heated up the oven to 425 and popped them in at their current diminutive size. Oh well.

They came out like little bread knots. No flaky layers, no puffiness. Just a solid, dense chunk of bread. They were good if you were expecting bread knots.

Later on I read some other recipes for croissants, all of which called for perhaps a teaspoon or tablespoon of sugar. I realized that the sugar was the "food" for the yeast. Poor Charlotte, we starved her!

I have a new appreciation every time I casually pick up a croissant from a bakery. I'm going to try a different recipe and see if I can succeed at this. It was too much fun not to do it again.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Anti-Racist in Training

Sign at the George Floyd Memorial, August 2020

I’ll begin with a parable by David Foster Wallace, as told in a commencement address in 2005:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

This allegory, first spoken by David Foster Wallace at a commencement address in 2005, was referring to the important realities that exist all around us that are the hardest to see and talk about, that in the seemingly mundane work of “adulting,” we are choosing to make our lives important…or not important.

I would like to use the allegory to make a different statement:

All Americans are racists.

Someone first said this to me earlier this year as I attended the first of many rallies and protests in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd. I was taken aback and asked this person for an explanation. His short explanation? “We’re all swimming in the water.”

Our government was built on a basis of racism. When the founding fathers wrote “All men are created equal” they didn’t take “men” to mean all human beings, they truly meant all White men — women were not included in this statement, nor were Blacks or Native Americans. Women were not considered intelligent or unemotional enough to know what was best for them. The second were considered property, not capable of managing their own lives or living without a master. The third, Native Americans, were not included as belonging to the country because it was their country we would slowly annex to create our own over the next 100 years.

All subsequent systems were built out of this belief that White men were at the top of a racial and gender hierarchy. The banking system, justice system, healthcare system, the wrestling of state rights vs federal rights, all of it. It is all around us; so much so that as a White woman walking through this world, I never saw it.

“Oh yes,” you say, “But we’ve come so far, that’s ancient history now!”

Is it really?

In 2018, Wells Fargo was fined $3 billion for opening false accounts on behalf of its customers, taking out credit in their names falsely to “boost” reported earnings. While that was the action they were fined for, multiple cities across the United States have also sued Wells Fargo repeatedly for predatory lending practices, stating that Wells Fargo pushes BIPOC borrowers to take out riskier or more expensive loans than they should, costing many of them homeownership opportunities. Just this year the Trump administration stripped the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity of their enforcement actions, making them impotent. Moving forward, if someone believes a bank is not being fair to them on the basis of gender, race, religion or other status, there is no longer an office with any power that can help them. 

Today, the United States comprises 5% of the global population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Why is that? Do we really have that many criminals here in the “land of the free?” Do you know the difference between a White and a Black drug addict? A White drug addict goes to treatment — a Black drug addict goes to jail. When those White addicts end their treatment, they mostly go back about their lives, to their jobs, families and communities, while the Blacks who serve their sentence have lost some if not all of those things while they were away, and have lost the right to vote for their rest of their lives (in most states).

In 2018, when 65% of Florida voters emphatically voted “yes” to restore voting rights to convicted felons who had served their time, 33% of adult Black men seemingly had their voices restored to them. I say “seemingly” because even now, in 2020, the roll-out of this law has been stymied by a new wrinkle that now states that those felons must pay all fees and fines related to their convictions. The voice of the poor Black man is not yet being heard.  

In the United States, a Black baby is twice as likely to die by its first birthday as a White baby. Research published in 2018 determined that the reason for this gap isn’t the unhealthy behavior of Black mothers, which has been considered the underlying cause for 30 years. Instead, it points to the gap in access to healthcare for Black and White mothers, institutional racism and the increased stress that Black mothers suffer living in a racist society.

We are swimming in the water. And suddenly I see it all around me.

As Angela Davis says in Ava DuVernay’s stunning documentary, 13th, “It is not enough to be a non-racist. We must become actively anti-racist.”

I am working on becoming anti-racist. It is not enough to quietly walk through this world, accepting my guaranteed freedom while they are being denied to others in my own country.

I am starting where I believe I can make the most difference — here in my own city. I am taking my lead from the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities who have been telling us for years what they need to be safe, to feel the same security I feel as I move about this world. In their neighborhoods the police are a menace, harassing them and brutalizing them for decades, robbing many of their freedoms for low-level crimes that lawmakers wrote years ago for misleading purposes.

I no longer want to live in two Americas, one built for people who look like me and one built for those who don’t. I hope you’ll join me in this change.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Quarantine Yoga

YogaFit offered virtual yoga classes during the stay-at-home order.
Our health clubs and yoga centers have been closed since mid-March. Marissa and I were in a good groove of working out at the club two or three times every week. I often made an extra trip during the week while she was at school. And then...nothing.

Our local YogaFit studio did an amazing job of creating virtual yoga classes. Their instructors would be in the empty studio with a laptop and a microphone. Every day they emailed the next day's schedule with links to the video and the Spotify playlist if you wanted the music the instructor picked in the background. They asked everyone to pay for classes they took online, even though it was really on the honor system as to whether or not you attended. They were really amazing and gracious at making yoga accessible during this time.

I took a few classes during this quarantine time, and realized how much I had missed yoga in my life. The long stretches, the muscles that you didn't know you had being sore the day after the session, it was awesome.

One day I picked up another class in the morning while both the girls were still in bed. (This could have been a 10 a.m. class, just to get a sense of how late my teens are sleeping in this summer.) I was in the basement where the only carpet in the house is located so that I had a nice cushy surface under my yoga mat.

In the middle of my class I hear Marissa get up. She comes down to the basement with a load of laundry, waves at me and goes to the laundry room to start her wash. Shortly after, I hear Lindsey get up.

How can I tell the difference, you ask? I have two words for you: Elephant. Feet.

Lindsey can be heard from two floors away when she gallops down stairs. Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom!! I think she hits every other step and takes all of the momentum and puts it all into the heel of her foot. Boom boom boom boom down two flights of stairs.

She peeks at me in the family room, then goes into the laundry room to get her laundry out of the dryer. I can hear Marissa still putting her laundry in the washing machine, and then, suddenly...a scream.

I'm not exactly sure how Marissa did NOT hear Lindsey's elephant feet coming down the two flights of stairs, but considering how well she tunes out the outside world much of the time, it was not surprising..but still surprising.

I hear the two of them laugh at how Marissa got scared. And then they start bickering.

"How could you not hear me coming down the stairs?"

"You KNOW how easily I get scared, why didn't you say something?!"

"Well I did, but you didn't hear me say that either!"

"You KNOW I have my headphones on, you could've done something else."

"Like what, turn the lights on and off? Like that wouldn't have freaked you out..."

And back and forth and back and forth. In the meantime, my yoga instructor is telling me to inhale slowly while doing some tricky balance move. Finally I yell out:

"Can you guys NOT? I'm doing FUCKING YOGA!"

Which was answered by a couple of giggles and then the two girls went back up the stairs together, laughing about how they annoyed their mother.

I was left wondering if they did that just to annoy me. I somehow managed to re-focus on my class and finish it out. We all laughed about it afterwards.

And that's quarantine yoga for you.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Pilgrimage

I've now been down to 38th & Chicago many times now since May 25th, the last day of George Floyd's life.

It feels important to do. I don't know how to feel every time I go, which is why I go often.

The community has blocked off the intersection by a block in every direction — no police in sight, citizens can manage this themselves, thank you very much. Depending on which direction you enter it from, your car could be stopped by pieces of art, by concrete blocks, or by cars parked sideways across the intersection, music blasting from the stereo.

At each entrance you'll find volunteers at a tent, handing out masks and spraying hand sanitizer on each visitor. We are in the midst of a pandemic, after all.

Today, I visited with my husband and both girls and we first visited the "#SayTheirNames Cemetery," an art installation a block away, in a green space that was previously empty. This art was created by two Penn State students and is made of tombstones of every Black person who lost their lives at the hands of the police. It is devastatingly large and not complete. While there I emailed one of the artists (per their sign) and gave a couple of names to add to it, the most recent killing happening just this past Friday.

"#SayTheirNames" Cemetery, 37th & Park Ave, Mpls
From there, we walked the half-block to 38th & Chicago. You don't need the signs at each entrance reminding you that you're entering a sacred place, and to be respectful of brown and black people who may be in mourning. You don't need that reminder, you can feel it.

The street is covered with the names of Blacks who lost their lives at the hands of the police and have not received justice. The names stretch across faded yellow dotted lines that used to direct cars along the streets which are now only traveled by foot. An oblivious person was walking over the names and someone else asked him to move off of them and walk alongside. It was the respectful thing to do.

We came to the corner where George lost his life. The place on the street where he died has been painted, his body filled in with blue paint, wings unfolding from his shoulders as he ascends to heaven. The area where he died is marked off by red velvet rope and entirely lined with flowers upon flowers upon flowers, signs and letters to George strewn among the decaying flora.

Around the corner is the beautiful blue mural that was painted just a couple of days after his death. Marissa and I were visiting while the artists were painting it. I have visited here when the flowers were so thick on the sidewalk that visitors had to take to the street. Now, the decaying and dead flowers from three weeks ago have been removed and a new layer of fresh flowers lain down by visitors, though everyone respectfully keeps their distance and gazes upon it from afar.

This particular piece of art hurt my heart the most. These are George's final words. All of them.
Tents are set up throughout by various groups. I purchased t-shirts from black business owners who are raising money to re-build their barber shop and the salon next door which were both damaged in the ensuing riots. There was a tent set up in the parking lot of the Speedway to register people to vote, one of few ways that people in these neighborhoods can take back their power.

The previous day I was in this same area, working the "Recall Freeman" tent to collect signatures to recall Hennepin County DA Mike Freeman, who was waiting for "more evidence" before charging the officers with George Floyd's death. The only evidence he could have been waiting for was that exonerating the police officers, as the public had already seen the overwhelming evidence of their guilt.

The center of the intersection has a large sculpture of a black fist raised up to the sky, surrounded by flowers and art. Art upon art upon art upon art. The street was filled with the original graffiti after his death, of people writing "murder," and "f12," and "say his name" directly on the pavement. And then this was supplanted by statues, murals, other art that overtook the graffiti.
Stunning art of George Floyd made up the protest signs his death inspired.
Black grief is not quiet. It is loud. It is sometimes profane. It is undeniable. It is contagious.

Each time I visit, I see something new. I talk to people and nod and pay respect to people who, outside of this sacred space, I may not have felt comfortable approaching. I've had conversations with people all of creeds and colors in this space and we are all there together, with a singular mission: to honor George Floyd's life, and to ensure that his death was not in vain, that his will be the one that will change our society forever.