Books & Mugs: First Issue.

What I’m Currently Reading

“Rich People Problems” by Kevin Kwan. This is the final installment of the “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy. If you don’t like snide footnotes, I’m not sure we can be friends. I devoured the first two installments over the course of a few days. This one, I’m dragging through a bit, only because I read ahead, which I swear I never do, and now I’m a little lackluster about finishing. These books are full of snarky characters and absurd (at least to non-crazy-rich people) situations. I knew close to nothing about Singapore and very little about Hong Kong before picking this series up. Now, I still know very little, but I’m hungry for more Asian-centered stories. These books are refreshing in their lack of white people. I try to read a diverse range of authors and perspectives, but honestly, sometimes I’m lazy and it takes effort to find stories not defined by Western (namely: white) standards. Thanks to everyone who made this series a bestseller. I hope the buzzing popularity shows how much we crave/need these voices and these stories. I consider this a popcorn–maybe popcorn dusted with chili–book: addicting. Speaking of food, I’m always hungry after reading this one. Kwan has a knack for describing delicious things that I can’t find in small town Alaska. 

 

What I Should Be Reading

“Making Space for Indigenous Feminism” edited by Joyce Green. Because, come on, everyone should read this one. This is a compilation of articles written by Indigenous feminists and allies. I picked this up during Women’s History Month. Indigenous feminism is truly intersectional. These articles are accessible and straightforward. Here’s a taste:

“The relationship between Native and white women cannot be unidirectional. The Canadian or international women’s movements cannot define all the terms nor expect Indigenous women to assume dominant cultures as their own, even if we share common interests around gender oppression. Native women’s cultures challenge state and mainstream cultural systems, as does the history of colonialism. White women must do some consciousness-raising about the quality of life and nature of political and intellectual colonialism in our country” (LaRocque, 140). 

Wha-bam. This was written by a Canadian, but the call to action is just as imperative here in Alaska, and I’m pretty damn sure applies to the rest of the world. 

 

What I Want to Be Reading

“Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink” by Fred Minnick. I grabbed this one in a moment of nostalgia. It had intentions of becoming a Christmas present, but I kept it for myself. Going to university in Boulder, CO included a lot of friend’s home brew experiments. Mead, fruit wines, sake. Never actually beer. Because: Naropa. So, mead. I did a tour of one of the modest mead breweries (I think they’re still called a brewery even though there’s no beer) in Boulder. The mead was smooth and nuanced and crisp. Refreshing. Have I mentioned that I’ve been a) pregnant b) trying to get pregnant or c) nursing for the past four-ish years? I’m kinda missing an adult beverage evening. I even have lofty thoughts of eventually brewing myself some mead, because why buy it when you can spend more and wait a ridiculously long time to make it yourself? This covers brewing recipes and the history of mead. Learn some interesting facts to share with the friends you’ll eventually serve your delicious home brewed mead. And maybe consider inviting me over as one of those friends. 

Real Talk from a Working Mama.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal January 23, 2019

Some motherhood real talk:

Last Thursday was the first time Littlest One went to daycare and joined Biggest One. It was gut-wrenching, but not nearly as bad as the first time I dropped off Biggest One at daycare. That day, I sobbed for about half an hour and welled up again as soon as I ran into a friend and she innocuously asked, “How’s it going?”

Thursday wasn’t so traumatizing, because I’ve been super lucky to have a friend nannying Littlest One in our home, while I’ve been working part-time for the past few months.

Although now, it all feels rushed. After dropping them off, I felt bereft. And free.

Being a working parent is like peeling and cutting a pungent onion. There are lots of tears, it overwhelms the senses, and if we’re not careful, we may be at risk of losing some precious flesh. Talk about the many layers of complicated.

These arrangements are nothing new. I mean come on, I just watched the original “Mary Poppins” tonight. Being a working mom is nothing new. But damn, it’s hard.

I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love what we do. I also love these two little firecrackers who have my eyes and their daddy’s mischievous smile.

I spend nights calculating childcare hours and worrying if I’m doing this parenting thing right.

These are the moments when I feel most tired. Not the all night nursing sessions, or fending off my sliver of bed and rumpled sheets from a marauding toddler, or…

Read the full article here.

You Missed the Best Bit of Television Today.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal January 3, 2019

If you missed it, today, the best bit of television happened on C-SPAN.

This afternoon, the 116th Congress opened and the United States House of Representatives voted on the next Speaker of the House.

Unsurprisingly, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will again take the helm in Congress.

Watching the camera pan around the packed chamber may seem like the most boring bit of slow TV you could find—even Netflix wouldn’t pick it up. I mean, come on, it’s C-SPAN.

But that camera revealed more than just a lugubrious roll call vote.

There were the faces of the rising stars on the left, names you’ve probably heard plenty about. Maybe even follow on Instagram. Ocasio-Cortez. Tlaib. Davids. Omar. Haaland. Pressley. Escobar…

Read the full article here.

10 Things Not to do When Traveling with a Toddler.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal December 18, 2018

Not long ago, my husband, toddler, and I dropped everything to fly around the world for a family emergency.

First and foremost, toddlers are little bundles of entropy, with sweetly redeeming giggles and grins. And they can be little demons in squishy fluid-oozing bodies. They make for exciting traveling companions.

We previously considered—and ultimately decided against—the same leisurely trip to visit family, because: toddlers. The variability of toddler moods on a good day can be crazy tempestuous, not to mention while traveling. Since we were forced to make the 48 hour journey from Alaska to Ireland anyway, we learned a few enlightening lessons along the way.

My husband and I have done a lot of international traveling. He’s originally from Ireland and I’m from Alaska. We met in India seven years ago and before baby came, we covered a fair portion of the world and racked up the airline miles to prove it.

But parenting and traveling? It’s newish territory for us.

Mostly, everyone we met while crammed into tin cans in the sky were sweet and accommodating. Traveling internationally tests all of us, especially those of us who are parents.

I once sat next to a mother on a nine hour flight with an infant who cried for approximately eight hours and 45 mins of the journey. Another passenger kept coming up to our row of seats and offering to take the mother’s little one to give her a moment of respite and each time, the mother politely declined. Finally, after hours of this, the other passenger came up, grabbed the baby from the mother’s arms and walked away down the aisle. The baby stopped crying immediately and all the passengers around us let out a collective sigh. The mother put her face into her hands and…

Read the full article here.

Minnie Driver says it All in this Tweet about the Irish Abortion Referendum.

lizzie_dennis89/Instagram

Originally featured on Elephant Journal May 26, 2018

Yesterday, the Republic of Ireland held a popular vote on the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution.

The “8th” as many refer to it, is an amendment to the Irish constitution that passed in 1983 and effectively outlaws abortion on the island. Thousands of Irish women (and families) have been forced to travel to the United Kingdom every year for private and essential reproductive health care.

Because of the Eighth Amendment, Ireland did not allow for abortions in the cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities, and only nominally allowed for abortions (read: not consistently or practically) in the case of the health of the mother. See the tragic, irresponsible, and unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar as an example of the iron grip the Eighth Amendment held on a doctor’s ability to grant life-saving health care…

Read the full article here.

The Unexpected American who Stole the Show at the Royal Wedding.

BBC

Originally featured on Elephant Journal May 19, 2018

Editor’s Note: SPOILER alert. If you haven’t yet watched the royal wedding, be warned. Spoilers below.

I didn’t expect to be watching the royal wedding today.

I’m currently sitting in Belfast, Northern Ireland suffering a week’s worth of jet lag. My very Irish husband and sleep-deprived toddler happened to be napping, so I thought, Why not?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, today, American actress Meghan Markle married British Prince Harry at Windsor Castle in London.

Pomp and circumstance don’t normally catch my attention. I was on a remote beach in India when Prince William married Kate Middleton—happily oblivious to life outside of early-morning diving, warm flaky samosas, and sipping scalding chai under salty mangroves.

Read the full article here.

12 Books on Editing & One on Life that should be on every Writer’s Bookshelf.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal February 28, 2018

“You’re free to write the worst sh*t in America. That’s how you’ll get better. Writing is an athletic activity. The more you practice, the better you get. People don’t realize—when you see a football team on television, they’ve practiced for hours before they’re on T.V. You don’t go on the tennis court and expect to be champion. But with writing? ‘If I don’t write The Great American Novel, I quit.’ Writing needs a large field, and a lot of practice.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

I love books.

I love the dry pulpy smell, the crisp feathery pages, the colorful covers, and the promise of entire new universes. At any one time, I’m reading about six.

While I adore getting lost in a story, we writers tend to give short shrift to our technical books. They get dusty, musty, and outdated. Reading books on editing often sounds like homework. They’re oatmeal when we only want to eat chocolate chip pancakes.

But what makes a must-have technical tome for writers?

Read the full article here.

He’s not My Son, I’m His Momma.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal January 31, 2018

A few months ago, I dropped off my son at daycare for the first time.

He was excited by all the new toys and playmates, while I frantically tried to hold onto my hot tears until I stumbled out the door.

Nothing really prepares us for the shocking separation between a momma and newly independent child. It’s heartbreaking, exhilarating, and traumatic all rolled into one great big pile of sleepless nights, changing roles, and soggy tissues.

I also learned a painful lesson in ownership. My son isn’t mine.

Biologically yes. My body grew his sturdy frame and beautiful eyes. And I most definitely gave birth to him.

By creating prolonged physical space between us for the first time, we both learned (well, I relearned) that we are both functioning individuals on our own. Radical! Often this is shocking for new moms. We know it intellectually, but it’s incredibly easy to let our sense of self be defined by parenthood.

Our language feels so woefully inadequate to describe our deepest bonds—what we say aloud creates the relationships that we live.

Too often, we parents approach parenthood with ownership. My child, my daughter, my son, without ever analyzing the power dynamics, expectations, and relationships we create with our words.

I don’t feel pride in saying my son, I feel pride in being his Momma. This slight shift of perspective can fundamentally change how we approach parenthood and hopefully how our children grow into independent…

Read the full article here.

Trump is making it Hard for my Immigrant Family to live a Normal Life.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal November 30, 2017

Like many working people, my husband and I want to take a mortgage out on our house.

There is only one hiccup—my husband is an immigrant.

How many of us take the inner workings of normal daily life for granted? How often do we ignore the news, keep our noses to the grindstone, and watch too much reality television because what’s out there definitely doesn’t affect me here?

Until it does. I didn’t pay much attention to United States immigration policy until I fell in love with an immigrant. Then my whole world changed.

Falling in love while traveling abroad sounds romantic, but in reality it means years of sometimes heartbreaking long distance dating and the perils of immigration. Skype calls, thousands of dollars in plane tickets, digital anniversary cards, constant explanations of “yes my boyfriend is real, he just lives in another country,” and loneliness.

True, there are the romantic getaway destinations, the excitement of absorbing a new culture, and of course, love.

But love doesn’t get us far with immigration.

Read the full article here.

Feminists Don’t Do This.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal August 21, 2017

When I run into former colleagues, I dread the inevitable question, “So where are you working these days?”

I take a deep breath, lengthen my spine, and with defiance and a touch of embarrassment, I respond that I’m currently staying at home with our little one—and that I unabashedly love it.

Their eyes always widen and I imagine the internal judgment. The same judgement that I used to give, unsolicited, to those I knew who gave up their jobs when a little one came along.

To begin, let me apologize to all the women I judged for not being working moms. And the ones I judged for working too hard. Being a parent is a radical choice. We try to make decisions that benefit not only our children, but ourselves.

We’re all just trying to get along in this messy, imperfect life. 

People who know me well are unsurprised to hear how judgmental I can be. Until recently, my Myers-Briggs personality rated incredibly high on the judge-y scale. I grew up with a very clear sense of right and wrong, and little tolerance for what I perceived as wrong.

This translated into my personal expectation of feminism.

Of course I’ll be a working mom. Of course I’ll juggle all the things and be all the people. Of course. Of course. Of course.

Parenthood kicks ass—both in the “yay I totally dig being a parent” and the “my ass is being kicked” varieties.

Becoming a parent not only reaffirmed my commitment to reproductive justice, equality, and access for all, it forced me to re-evaluate my assumptions about what it means to be a feminist.

And the conclusion I came to?

Choice.

Feminism is choice. It’s the choice to be the best that we can be in the circumstances we find ourselves. It’s the choice to determine our own destiny. To be, to do, to create a life that is authentic and true. When we are able to make the decisions that are best for us…

Read the full article here.