Holidays, Kick-Ass Women, Life

Mother’s Day Reprise

I wrote this for my now shuttered Blue Lyon blog for Mother’s Day 2009.

It’s the Mother’s Day holiday and while I despise the commercialization of the day, it’s good to have a marker that allows us to stop and, for just one day at least, reflect on what our mothers mean to us. For some of us this is not a kind day, but not so for me.

I am a mother. My daughter is never out of mind or heart. I’m a daughter too, and my mother is never out of mind or heart. All of my grandmothers have passed away, and I still miss basking in their grandma love – the kind that let them be as free with me and my brothers as they wished they could have been with our parents. Being a grandma meant never having to say no.

There are three women I call Mom: The woman who bore and raised Sweetie (MIL), the woman who has been married to my father for the past fifty years (SM), and  and the woman who gave birth to me and raised me (MOM).

MOM (Sandra) – I have a wonderful, loving, and complicated mother. So if you’ve been wondering who I get it from, you need only go up one branch on the family tree.  She still carries the pain of the break-up with my father.  I wish it were not so, but it is what it is. I have no memory of my parents together, and I still wonder (really) how two completely different people found each other, married, and bore three children. Together. Tis a mystery. My mother was devoted to us, but in an old-world kind of way. She despised Dr. Spock, and believed a firm hand or stick to the hind end was the proper method of discipline.  The rules were her rules, because she ‘said so.’  “Do as I say, not as I do” was heard on occasion, as well.  Because she was a single mother for nearly all of my childhood, it really was just mom, my brother and me. Having been a single mom myself with only one child to look after, I still am amazed that she was able to do for us as she did.  I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood: so many flashes from my youth which all seem to jumble together.

The vaguaries of memory leave me grasping at moments: a trip to Disneyland when admission still meant some rides were off-limits if you couldn’t afford the ticket, going to the beach and losing my brother, going with mom to a baby shower and sitting in the kitchen on a tall stool drinking grape juice and then going to a park with her afterward, chicken pox, tonsils, making mudpies in the backyard, waking up one morning to find her sitting in the kitchen with a cast on her leg, flying to Hawaii, weekends at Hanauma Bay, the stairs (oh the stairs) from our garage to the front door to the first floor to our second floor bedroom in our house that overlooked Pauoa Valley, the house on Kamehameha Hwy, family visits from the mainland, music, music, music from the dinosaur stereo system, trips to the outer islands, summers at the Y, sharing household and yard chores with my brother, ballet lessons with Mr. Claus, my first pair of heels bought at the same shoe store on the Fort Street Mall I got my ballet togs ,  hurricanes blowing out power for days at a time, kitten surprises, birthdays, Christmases (and the four-color light that cast its glow on our “flocked” tree), wandering around the University of Hawaii with my brother while mom took night classes,  the Columbia Inn, intermediate school, high school, mono, my first heartbreak, college, moving away, moving back, moving away again for the last time, marriage, grandchild, and on and on and on. 

Through all of it, mom was there, loving us, shaping us, watching over us, expressing correction, opinion, or praise. Her names, depending on my age: Mama, Ma, Mom. She is my heart. And I love her.

SM (Dolly) – As a child I read fairy tales that warned me of “wicked step-mothers” who despised the children of their husbands’ former wives, but my step-mother never treated me as an other.  When I’ve been in her home, I’m just another one of the pack.  She has the patience of a saint and the organizational skills of a drill sargent. She taught me to play tennis, and trusted me (crazy woman) to learn to drive in her  beloved Mustang. Honestly, what was she thinking as I ground gears and gave her whiplash in the South High parking lot? She never let on. I’ve watched her make a loving home for my father, who is more than a handful, even now at the ripe age of 8o. 

Though she’s married to my dad, I’ve never connected her with my parents divorce. I’ve only known her as my father’s mate. And yet, for years I resisted calling her “mom” because somehow I felt letting her hear those words from me  would be a betrayal of my birth mother. But when my mother chose to sit out Sweetie and my wedding in 2002, it was my step-mom who was introduced to all my friends as my mom.  It seemed much easier than trying to explain the family ‘dynamics’ to everyone, and from then on she was “Mom” too.  And I love her.

MIL (Gayle) – I have the world’s best mother-in-law. No, really. From the first day that Sweetie brought me to her home, her arms have been open to embrace me and my (at the time) fourteen-year-old daughter and to fold us completely, and without reservation, into her life, her family and her heart. She asked only one thing of me:  to make her son happy. He’d seen his share of heartache, and she didn’t want him hurt again. I hope I’m living up to her request.  I’ve probably confused the hell out of her sometimes. I know I’ve hurt her feelings too. But her generous heart has forgiven me time and again, and for that I am grateful. She raised a wonderful son, and I’ve been lucky enough to reap the rewards.

Family holidays were always spent at her home, and she delighted in the decorating and the planning and showering us all with her special brand of love (read: gifts and food – lots and lots of delicious food “Are you sure you’ve had enough?”).  When she married in 2004 and moved to Hawaii, we all felt the loss, and none of the rest of us left behind seem to be able to pull it of with the same style.  When she comes back for a visit, it feels like our world just lights up. I’ve called her Mom since nearly the beginning and only refer to her by her first name when talking to my sister-in-law.

My three moms. I love them all.

Hillary Clinton, Kick-Ass Women, Politics

Two years ago today

I posted this on Facebook two years ago on April 2, 2016.  I had been asked to speak on Hillary Clinton’s behalf at our County Convention. I wouldn’t change a word of this.

So… some people asked me if they could see what I intended to say today at the Washoe County Democratic Convention, before I was booed and heckled and lost enough of my five minutes that I was asked to cut it short. Below are my full remarks:

When I was asked speak to you, I was at once happy and nervous. After all, I knew I’d be talking to a ‘mixed crowd.’ But I know that I have friends on both sides of the arena today.

Mostly I wanted to honor Hillary Rodham Clinton and her life’s work, and why I believe she should be the next President of the United States. And five minutes just isn’t enough time to do her justice.

I have a confession to make. I have not always been Hillary Clinton’s biggest fan.

It wasn’t until I actually began to push through the media narrative to examine her history, her life-long commitment to issues near and dear to my heart, her ability to work across the aisle to make things better for people, and the loyalty and friendships she’s made and kept over the years, that I began to look at her in a new light, and how, eventually, she moved from last place to first in my personal Presidential Preference Poll. I’ve been on board ever since.

And I’m not the only one she has won over. As Jon Favreau, President Obama’s speech writer (and 2007 Hillary Clinton nemesis) wrote recently:

“This same story has repeated itself throughout Clinton’s career: those who initially view her as distrustful and divisive from afar find her genuine and cooperative in person. It was the case with voters in New York, Republicans in the Senate, Obama people in the White House, and heads of state all over the world. There’s a reason being America’s chief diplomat was the specific job Obama asked Hillary to do—she has the perfect personality for it.”

There is no candidate running to be the President of the United States who is better prepared to take on the responsibilities of the job who has the depth of knowledge and breadth of experience to deal with the many challenges facing our country that Hillary Clinton has. No one.

I know that when she is in the White House I won’t have to worry about national and world affairs. I know that she has the ability and the intelligence to handle whatever comes her way.

For me, it all comes down to this: She cares. And she always has. But, honestly? The caring part is easy. The solutions part, the fighting to make it right part? That’s hard. That takes a plan. And let me tell you, the woman has a plan. She has lots of them. She has plans for the big challenges and the small ones.

She is a problem solver. She doesn’t wring her hands and point fingers. She gathers the best minds she can, and works to find common ground and solutions that will benefit as many people as possible. This has been her way for decades. As she said at the conclusion of her 1995 speech in Beijing:

“We must move beyond rhetoric. We must move beyond recognition of problems to working together… to have the common efforts to build that common ground we hope to see.”

I trust her to fight for us in the things that matter most for us. The kind of things that, indeed, keep us up at night.

I trust her to fight for women and children, because she always has, from her earliest days with the Children’s Defense Fund, through her years as First Lady of Arkansas, as First Lady of the United States, as United States Senator and finally, as Secretary of State. The advancement of women and children has always been her focus.

I trust her to fight for the right of women to make their own reproductive choices. As Senator, Hillary Clinton introduced 8 pieces of legislation with the clear purpose of expanding and protecting women’s access to reproductive health care — more than any other presidential candidate.

I trust her to fight for equal pay for equal work.

I trust her to fight to make college affordable for all.

I trust her to stand up to Wall Street.

I trust her to fight for universal health care and to build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix where it falls short. Health care has been her fight for decades and she’s not stopping now.

I trust her to take on substance abuse and to work end the stigma of mental illness.

I trust her to fight for veterans.

I trust her to fight for the Dreamers.

I trust her to fight to reform our criminal justice system.

I trust her to fight to end gun violence.

I trust her to fight inequality in all its forms.

I trust her because she understands that the problems we face are multi-faceted and complex. That more often than not there is not a one-size fits all solution to a problem. That intersectionality requires working on numerous fronts to address what looks to be a singular problem.

I trust her to fight for us, not because she says she will, but because she’s been doing it for decades.

I trust her to fight for us, because she IS a fighter. No matter how much is thrown at her, no matter how many times she’s knocked down, she stands back up and gets to work.

Which brings me to my final point. At her 2009 Senate confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said:

“Too often, we see the ills that plague us more clearly than the possibilities in front of us, but it is the real possibility of progress, of that better life free from fear and want and discord, that offers our most compelling message to the rest of the world.”

At the end of the day, Hillary gives me hope. She has a spirit of deep optimism that I often struggle to find. Not a blind faith Panglossian “everthing’s great” optimism, but a deep abiding faith in the American people and in the future of our country and the world.

I don’t know where she gets it. It is something deep in her core. She has a resilience and strength that gives me hope just enough ledge to keep my toes on.

And that’s why I’m With Her.

Thank you.

Feminism, Kick-Ass Women, Science, Sexism

What does having a period have to do with data?

In an observation that foreshadows 20th century feminist theory, Jacobi noted that men’s bodies were treated as if their reproductive health and sexual expression were, within wide parameters, neutral to the point of being “unsexed.” By contrast, women’s reproductive systems were treated as if in every case they were complicated, fragile, finicky, and liable to deteriorate at any moment. In other words, women were marked by their biology. Women had a biological sex that must be monitored and coddled. Men, by contrast, were practically without biological sex. Men were generically human, in need of no special consideration. Men simply…were.

In 1873, during Jacobi’s first year as a professor at the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, Harvard physician Edward H. Clarke published a book that set off a transatlantic debate about women’s abilities to handle advanced education. In Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for the Girls, Clarke argued that subjecting women to higher education—especially in programs where women would be educated alongside men—would place such an undue burden on women’s physiology that they would become gravely ill, even to the point of lifelong sterility.

Jacobi’s response to this argument was to make the study of menstruation one of her first major research projects as a professor. Jacobi’s  goal was clear and explicit: to disprove the idea that menstruation was a debilitating condition for women.

Not only was this research goal radical in its own right, but so too were the tools that Jacobi used to achieve it: quantitative data collection and statistical analysis.

Read on: The History of Data is the History of Labor