a black and white picture of Toni Morrison holding a piece of paper in one hand and a pencil in the other. her arms are crossed over her chest and she is staring directly at the camera.

in mourning


A group of women talk about raising children.
“They a pain.”
“Yeh, Wish I’d listened to mamma. She told me not to have them too soon.”
“Any time atall is too soon for me.’
“Oh, I don’t know. My Rudy minds his daddy. He just wild with me. Be glad when he growed and gone.’
Hannah smiled and said, “Shut your mouth. You love the ground he pee on.”
“Sure I do. But he still a pain. Can’t help loving your own child. No matter what they do.”
“Well, Hester grown now and I can’t say love is exactly what I feel.”
“Sure you do, you love her like I love Sula. I just don’t like her.’
In the distance, out of sight but close enough to hear, a daughter listens to her mother.

–I had no idea I was wounded. I had no idea that the wound that tore apart my body wasn’t supposed to be there. There was no internet back then. No impulse to self-diagnose, no desire to share stories with others like you.

I never talked about the wound, and coworkers that caught me crying in my car during breaks or strangers that found me huddled in a ball on the floor of the bar bathroom worked to not see it. Friends scratched around for answers, got a fistful of my blistering silence, then dropped it for good.

A mother’s love is precious. Pure. Godlike. The smooth white of clean sheets, the cool tenderness of soft hands on flushed cheeks. Eyes that crinkle with joy, eyes that never lose track of the child, the beloved. My beloved, says the mother, her voice, angel wings whisping through full lips, wrapping the child in protective love.

And then there was the woman in the house that I grew up in. The mother. My mother. Who feasted on my blood, sharp white fangs piercing my tender baby skin, ripping and tearing until embedded in the life giving vein. The mother who promised me the pain from her fangs, the light-headness from loss of blood, the ragged edges of the wound that never healed enough before she pierced it again, were good things. Normal.

I had no idea I was wounded. But I knew something was wrong. I knew she was killing me.

But it was her I wanted to save.

I was a good girl. Such a good girl.

She got out of bed and lit the lamp to look in the mirror. There was her face, plain brown eyes, three long braids and the nose her mother hated. She looked for a long time and suddenly a shiver ran through her.
“I’m, me,” she whispered. “Me.”
Nel didn’t know quite what she meant, but on the other hand, she knew exactly what she meant.
“I’m me. I’m not their daughter. I’m not Nel. I’m me. Me.”
Each time she said the word me there was a gathering in her like power, like joy, like fear. Back in bed with her discovery, she stared out the window at the dark leaves of the horse chestnut.
“Me,” she murmured. And then, sinking deeper into the quilts, “I want…I want to be…wonderful. Oh, Jesus, make me wonderful.”

–I escaped. I was alive.
I am me.


But I didn’t know I was traumatized. I didn’t know that picking at the Mother Wound, tearing off the growing scab, pushing the blood out of my body on my own. Falling into anemic sleep, dreaming of dying, were all signs of trauma. It just felt normal. And I missed being needed. I missed having a job. Being a good girl. If I wasn’t a good girl, what was I?

Who was I?
There was no internet back then. Only your small group of high school friends or your even smaller group of work friends. You didn’t meet people outside of your city, you didn’t google ‘mother, wound, help.’ There weren’t thousands of pages of returns of people struggling through a trauma you recognized.

There were only books. The Bluest Eye. Beloved. Sula. And in those books, there were the people you meet online now.

The daughter wounded.
I just don’t like her.

The mother that killed.
“Is? My baby? Burning?”

Toni Morrison knew that in this world, there are mothers that hate their children, even if they love them. She knew that there are mothers with love so big, it eats their children alive. But she also knew the voracious will to live in the daughter, feral, hungry. Wounded maybe, but there. Wounded maybe, but like water, always finding a way around the mother, a way to rebirth itself. A baby climbing stairs. A daughter with her own opinion. I am me.

Who was I? I didn’t know. But I am me. I escaped, I saved myself.
I am alive.

Toni Morrison saw that. And honored it.
Oh Jesus, make me wonderful!

Because all that freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be.

–I escaped. I was alive.
Now what?

Toni Morrison knew.
You lance the wound. You clean it. You rest. You eat. You dance in the woods. You laugh. You cry.

“Lay em down, Sethe. Sword and shield. Down. Down. Both of em down. Down by the riverside. Sword and shield. Don’t study war no more. Lay all that mess down. Sword and shield.”

And then you get back up, again. This is life.

Toni Morrison also knew:
Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

Life doesn’t just stop because you are free. When you are free, you have a whole new world of things to worry about, to consider, to create. Getting up is important. You can’t claim yourself if you are not up off the floor. But it’s the claiming yourself part that has to be done, no matter how hard. For your past, for your future. For your now.

You will hear Toni Morrison called all sorts of things in the coming weeks. A National Treasure. An American Hero. A Literary Genius. All of these labels are true. But she was also just a woman, as well. A black woman, born and raised in the midwest. Ohio.

And Toni Morrison refused to allow the escape to be the end of it. She struggled through the problems of the living. How do you live? How do you create something else to be, when the fullness of ivory fangs embedded deep in your alive tissue is what feels normal and right? When you think those ivory fangs are what you want? How do you live–actively?

Lay all that mess down. So you can set about creating something else to be.

Toni Morrison saw her son get sick, then die. She had deep painful regrets. She knew the wound’s aliveness will leave on a body. And she made the choice towards compassion. Love.

Mothers that are allowed to heal.

You your best thing, Sethe, you are.

Daughters becoming their own best thing.

I have my own opinion.

She gave the gift of a continuing story to black women. And in that way, the rest of us were blessed too.

What is my story? That I can ask this, allows me to be an active author in the writing of it. I can decide. I can make a mistake, back up, try another route. I thought I missed those fangs. I thought I loved them. That they defined me. Life let me see the truth. So I backed up, and tried again.

When I wrote my own story, when I let the Mother Wound scab over and fall off on its own, I stopped missing the feel of the fangs. The pleasure receptors in my tissue grew back, full and lush and deep dark velvety red. Joy and new possibilities grow from within me, even as every once in a while, as life will have it, I get knocked down. Toni Morrison gave me an active voice.

Toni Morrison saw suffering, and offered peace, compassion. She saw indescribable pain and gave language. She saw the clawing white fangs and said no. She saw the stories that were never written, listened, then wrote. She was a black woman that made that choice. She gave us our hearts and told us how to hold on to them. Because she knew that was the prize.

Toni Morrison was a woman the world required. I will miss her every day.

And the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her throat…it was a fine cry–loud and long–but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

Slaying the Dream

My daughter, the Warrior Princess, played her first game of volleyball when she was ten years old. Several of her friends also played, and so the long Saturday mornings in cold gymnasiums across the city playing friendly games of pick up volleyball were like parties for her. Every weekend she’d get to see her friends and have fun doing a little light exercising. They were never bothered by their parents-most of us knew next to nothing about volleyball and found more pleasure catching up on recent gossip and complaining about our children than in watching the games.

But as the kids grew older, my daughter, already the tallest in her class since kindergarten, shot up two feet in about a year. And it was about then when the first club volleyball coach approached her at one of the community games. I never knew there were volleyball coaches at those community games. I couldn’t imagine why anybody who wasn’t forced to be at those games would be there–far too often plays stopped because one girl was picking at her fingernails or because a ball, the only ball anybody had remembered to bring, was kicked under the stands or up into the netting for basketball hoops and nobody could figure out how to get it out.

But the coaches were there and and they saw the thick powerful legs of this Warrior Princess and the towering height and they salivated. They talked to us about how she’d never be able to keep up with other girls if she didn’t get into club volleyball right now, and even worse, they threw out their very first hint of a promise–with hard work and dedication, she could be good enough…their voices trailed off, leaving us to imagine the ending of their sentences.

We hardly dared to dream it. Both my partner and I were high school athletes and we’d both carried on playing our respective sports as adults. But neither of us were good enough to play in college. Not even at smaller colleges.

And we had always ridden the line between working class and poverty.  I couldn’t remember the last time we weren’t worried about when the car would break down or if we could make rent that month. Sending our kids to college was a dream. A distant dream that we didn’t dare even speak out loud.


The Larry Nassar sentencing consumes me.

Each new athlete that walked up to the microphone in the teeny grey courtroom twisted my stomach and tore at my throat. How could this have happened? How could any man have gotten away with hurting so many women and girls for so long? By the end of the sentencing, over 150 women and girls testified, and there were even more than didn’t get to testify because of time constraints. The sentencing couldn’t go on forever, after all.

But that’s the way things go with sexual abuse. There’s always more people.

The stories that the young women shared all felt familiar, like an old pair of pants–stiff and scratchy until they settle into your body and you forget you’re wearing them. One young person spoke of breaking her neck in four spots and a coach bullying her into continuing to practice. Another young person told of continuing to practice on a painful leg because of bullying by coaches, only to find out later her leg was broken. Several people shared stories of bulging discs and torn ligaments and pain so excruciating they could barely walk. One girl wound up in a wheelchair. Another with a hip injury that left her unable to lift her leg from the floor. She competed anyway. That same girl testified about deliberately hurting herself so she could escape the Karolyi camp (a nationally renowned Olympic level gymnastics training center run by Bela and Marta Karolyi). Marta Karolyi responded to the girl’s injuries by telling her that a different girl had fallen off a bunk bed and didn’t miss a day of practice.

Coach after coach sent these hurting bodies to Larry Nassar. The miracle doctor that could fix anything. Multiple survivors testified that he was the ‘good guy’ to the bullying bad guy coaches. Nasser snuck the girls forbidden candy and promised to get coaches to back off. He scheduled appointments after hours and very quickly–a blessing for hurting athletes that often had to wait months to get into even poorly rated therapists. He charged nothing when girls couldn’t afford it. He commented on their Facebook posts and liked their instagram pictures. He was nice. Parents trusted him, even ones trained not to trust. Multiple parents of survivors are police officers, and they trusted him. And so their girls did too.

Individual stories. Hurt bodies. A familiar ending.


Volleyball is not a high impact sport like football or basketball. Occasionally, one girl will crash into chairs or even another girl while trying to get a wayward ball, but that’s rare. Other times, girls get concussions from being hit by a spiked ball. As girls get older and more competent, the good ones can spike balls up to 100 miles an hour, and if you’re not paying attention, very often even if you are, you’re going to get hurt. But even concussions are rare in volleyball. As girls get better at spiking, girls also get better at bumping and ‘receiving’ the ball.

What makes girls better able to spike and receive balls is repetition. They repeat their drills so often, spiking the ball, bumping the ball, setting the ball, the skill weaves in the muscles, becoming a part of their DNA–the musculature learning to move before the brain can think.

For every game the Warrior Princess played, she spent hours and hours on the court, doing thousands of repetitions of various drills. Arm swings. Blocking. Passing. As a middle blocker, she spent most of the game at the net, either spiking balls for a point or blocking balls that other players spiked at her. One of the drills she did would start her at one end of the net, and then she’d jump up as high as she could, legs and arms fully extended, as if blocking a ball, all the way to the other side of the net. She’d do this back and forth across the net 5-10 times. And this was just a warm up drill.

Drills they did during practice would be more intense, sometimes spiking a ball (and almost all the girls spike with one arm), hundreds of times in one practice alone. And then there was the blocking drills. For that a coach stands on a big block and hit balls over the net, like an opponent might during a game. The Warrior Princess would block until she couldn’t breath, her face red and dripping sweat, her stomach heaving from the tension and stress of repetition. I’ve seen more than one girl throw up–the jokes about puke buckets were dark and borderline angry. The same girls getting lectured about not throwing up to be skinny were being encouraged and told working out so hard they threw up was ‘good for them.’

The Warrior Princess was usually hurt by mid season. There was almost never a single moment that caused her injury–no, for her the pattern was that one day after good and bad days, her body would decide to torque up just a little too tight for her to rotate or stretch out of and she’d be in physical therapy for a month. Repetition injuries. Sometimes she’d be able to recover quickly enough to make it back to the team before the end of the season, sometimes the pain was season ending.

But the pain never went away.


I picked my first bucket of blueberries at age ten. I don’t remember what made my parents pack all the kids in the car and drive us over to a local field. But it made sense to me then. We were a poor Mexican family, and working in the fields is what most of my Mexican friends did.

I learned quickly how physically demanding picking berries can be. After a few hours of work, I could hardly move my arms because of the intense pain radiating from the center of my neck out to my shoulders and down to my elbows. The bucket that I dropped my berries into yanked on my hips, twisting my back muscles into painful knots.  I drank enough soda or Koolaid to keep ‘sunstroke’ away–but often felt ready to vomit. I understand now that was due to dehydration. Back then, I made myself get used to the feeling, assuming that I was being ‘childish’ or ‘not tough enough.’ But I never got used to not eating for 12 or 13 hours a day. I would try to sneak a few berries when I thought nobody was looking, but after being reprimanded for ‘eating your paycheck’ I stopped doing even that.

Repetition injuries. The first time I went to a physical therapist, it was for a pinch in my neck that finally became too much to ignore or grit my teeth through until the advil kicked in. When they asked me what I thought caused it, I couldn’t answer them. This pain had torn at the back of my neck for so long it seemed normal, like it was a part of me. I was laying in bed that night, drifting in and out of sleep, my mind working underneath the waves of sleep, when the answer finally seeped into my consciousness. The hot days, the rope with a towel around it, the bucket of blueberries hanging off it, the sharp stab in my neck. The searing heat across my neck and shoulders as I reached out for blueberries. And the firm ‘suck it up’ from whatever adult I told. The deep breath, the focus, the singing under the breath. So that eventually I learned how to ignore it.

Even now, I always know when I’m stressed out–my neck muscles seize up and the muscles and their memories squeeze a few involuntary  wheezes of pain out of me.

I know hard physical work. And I know pain.

And I knew I would do whatever it took to protect my daughter from what I knew.


As athletes move up in the volleyball ranks, they get closer and closer to The Dream.

Back in the olden days, when I played pickup baseball games with neighbor kids, we had The Dream too, but it wasn’t like it is now. Back in those days, we’d pretend that we were a player from our favorite team. We’d listen to games while wearing our gloves and cheer whenever the announcer mentioned our player. Maybe if we were lucky, our parents would put us in local rec leagues to learn how to be just like Alan Trammel or Jack Morris. But that only happened if it didn’t interfere with vacation, and only if you agreed to ride your bike or take the bus to practice. More often, if we were good enough, during our gym class, our gym teacher might mention to us that tryouts were starting soon. And then sometime in late high school, we might get the actual visit–the college recruiter. But until then, it was all a fuzzy blurry Dream, one that only the best players ever were able to tune into a sharp focus. For the rest of us, being able to say ‘played in high school’ was an honor.

The Dream these days is a recruitment tool, and they start shaping it for you before you’ve even handed over the first check. Club/travel teams post their recruited athletes on websites and gym walls. They tout their ongoing one-on-one relationships with colleges teams and recruiters. They hold clinics for the general public explaining what it would take to get your kid recruited. They talk about how their sport is the most likely to get athletes full ride scholarships. Eventually they even offer ‘rate your daughter’ experiences where your daughter can go do drills and play a game in front of college coaches, who then ‘rate’ where your daughter would stand in comparison to other girls and what she can do to improve her chances at getting recruited.

Clubs never promise scholarships or that your daughter will be recruited. But they do swear that this is the only path they can travel if they do want to get recruited some day. And they’re right. Back in the olden days, the best athletes played throughout the year, but they did it by shifting between sports. Bo Jackson was a three sport athlete in high school. Lou Gehrig played football and baseball (and was actually recruited for football). Jackie Robinson was a four sport athlete in college. They were superior athletes, but didn’t become masters of their particular sport until they were adults–in Bo Jackson’s case until he was already playing in the MLB. And it wasn’t uncommon for the Old Dream folks to take some time to develop. Star athletes like Tom Brady, who is considered the greatest quarterback of all time, often talks about how he took two years as a professional to learn plays and get his feet under him.

These days, kids play one sport year round, thanks to club and travel teams and that Dream they sell. Kids specialize and become masters of their particular sports at high school and even middle school level.  And clubs are careful to point out that unless you’re playing year round, you’ll be so far behind by the time college recruiters come knocking, even good athletes will be passed by mediocre kids that have had the time to perfect their skills.

But even with all the passive threats and aggressive carrot dangling, clubs don’t promise you anything except that the Dream is one you can buy access to. The rest is up to your athlete.


Club/travel sports are an investment. Like a good money fund or a house. And so just as adults go to work to pay for the house, girls go to work to get the big payoff, The Dream.

And they start protecting their investment. Girls play thru all but the most immobilizing pain. Many times, they even play through that. One time at a club game, I asked a small group of parents if any of them had some aspirin for my throbbing headache, and after digging, no less than ten bottles of painkillers were offered to me, some over the counter, others prescription, all meant for the aches and pains their daughters dealt with from playing. After I expressed shock, purses were overturned and backpacks were emptied and a big pile of herbal salves, ice packs, knee wraps and braces, and KT tape mixed together on the floor. Nobody on the team played pain free. Most of them were using multiple methods to manage their pain. I wondered how these painkillers interacted with normal teen activity like sneaking alcohol from parents or smoking pot.

Girls played through back pain, knee pain, ankle twists and muscle tears. Parents pushed their girls when they knew their daughter’s tears were from exhaustion rather than manageable pain. We all sat judgement on parents that couldn’t tell the difference. We also sat judgement on parents that seemed to only care about being ‘the best.’ We didn’t care if our daughters were the best, we cared if they worked hard and were persistent. We believed that a ‘good balance’ of being tough and working hard would lead to The Dream. That felt right to us, like a good compromise.

When my Warrior Princess refused to play through pain, she and I fought. She wasn’t sweating under the 100 degree sun for 12 hours a day, she was doing something she loved. Something that could get her college scholarship! What kind of pampered child was I raising? If she warmed up properly, the pain should go away. Right?
She and I fought hard. I wondered how bad the pain could really be. She wondered how I could call her a liar. I am not calling you a liar, I’d retort, I’m just wondering how bad that pain really is, I saw you running just now and you didn’t even wince. She’d respond with one of those teenage eye rolls and maybe a door slam. We’d fight like this on and on for days. The more I’d push, the more she’d dig in. When I changed tactics and tried to sweet talk (I know you can do it, my sweet Warrior Princess!) or guilt trip (you’re letting your team down!), she’d respond with a sarcastic, ‘Like I can’t figure out what you’re doing, mother.”

I could never bring myself to force her to play anyway, like I’d seen other parents do, or even tell her to toughen up. But boy did we fight. Driving to games, my partner, her father, would burrow into a seat, headphones firmly stuffed into his ears, so he didn’t have to listen or take part of our battles. Her brother stopped coming to games unless I forced him to.

If my kid was a different kid, one who wanted to be a good girl maybe, she would’ve caved under the intensity of my blazing pressure. If I didn’t have the teeny veneer of conscience hold me back, I would’ve blazed until she broke.

But I call her Warrior Princess for a reason, it is a title she has truly earned. And she never lost a battle against her dragon mother, even if there were plenty of draws.


One of the stories that came out during the Nassar hearings was of the young woman who tried to tell her father that Nassar was hurting her. Her father not only didn’t believe her, but demanded she apologize to Nassar for accusing him of something so awful. She refused to.

And then the blazing whirlwind of fire began. Every time father and daughter got into fights, father would pressure the daughter. You need to apologize to Larry. You need to admit you’re lying. I’ll make your life a living hell if you don’t. Kyle Stephens stopped talking about it to her parents. But she replayed the molestation she survived in her head, over and over again on repeat. So that she could remind herself that she was telling the truth. She wasn’t a liar.

Eventually there was the show down–the daughter tried one more time to tell the father, the father became so enraged he put his hands on his daughter’s throat. And then something clicked, and he knew the truth. He knew. The daughter told the court about how his guilt eventually led to his suicide.

Father and daughter. Blazing pain. The Dream deferred.


The question never goes away. How could this happen? Pulled out every single time yet another ‘shocking’ case of sexual violence happens. How could this happen? It’s like the comfort blankie from our childhood, we cling to it, smelling it’s warm familiarity, sucking on it’s frayed corners. The answer to ‘how could this happen’ offers it’s own Dream. If we can figure out the right answer, the pain, the violence–it might not happen to our Warrior Princesses. Our babies.

As more testimony came out during the Nassar sentencing, the question became like a drumbeat for the heads of parents. How could they have let this happen? What kind of parent doesn’t know?

Abuse is rampant in all sports, but it was never called abuse, not when I was growing up. We called it, ‘being tough.’ Suck it up, stop being a pussy, toughen up. You see examples of this olden days abusive behavior in the classic movie, Bad News Bears. A drunken coach regularly yells at and belittles his players, who are all just barely on the cusp of puberty. A different win-at-all-costs coach slaps his son after the son makes a mistake. The movie sits judgement on both of these coaches, but doesn’t really reflect on what is going on around the coaches and players to make coaches so abusive. And the movie never called what the adults did, abuse. The kids eventually seem to even sorta be glad that their coach was a little ‘hard on them.’ It showed he cared.

These days, even the slim condemnation Bad News Bears sat parents that were ‘too hard’ on their kids seems quaint. Today, parents, coaches, even sports radio, bemoan a world where kids get ‘participation’ medals or ‘everybody is a winner’ certificates. They can’t stand how kids today are treated with kid gloves, never exposed to the hard facts of life that sometimes there are winners and sometimes there are losers. They all agree: kids need to toughen up and stop being pussies.

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes was released back in 1995. It spoke of the many ways that coaches were ‘toughening up’ their athletes, but this book called ‘toughening up’ abuse. And it questioned where the line was between ‘toughening up’ and ‘abuse.’ It wondered how good it could be for girls to be ‘toughened up.’ It wondered if the price for winning was just too high and too extreme, especially for children that hadn’t even reached puberty yet.

But athletes, even many gymnasts, who the book focused on, weren’t interested in answering the questions the book raised back then. I saw an interview with several gymnasts defending the brutal training practices–they knew what they signed up for. It’s what they wanted. They wanted to train hard and be the best. That’s how they got to do it.

But even if they defended their sport, they didn’t deny that they were treated like shit. It was just a question of whether or not The Dream was worth it. Most argued yes.

Next to nobody asked if it was appropriate for little girls to be achieving their dreams–most seemed to have forgotten that achieving dreams is for adults.


The US Gymnastics team dominated the 2016 Olympics. The US won the team competition by an unprecedented 10 points over their nearest team. Simone Biles destroyed the competition in all that she did except the balance beam. The entire team exuded power, effervescence, brilliance. Their interviews about their training regimen inspired admiring coos from broadcasters, the internet ran listicles telling us how to ‘work out’ just like Simone Biles or Aly Raismen.

And at the time, the list seemed admirable. 32 hours or more of workouts a week. Hours and hours of ab drills. No parents allowed in the gym or at the camp. No phone access at camps. No candy allowed. No water until the skill is perfect. All distractions gone, eliminated, so girls could train to be the best, so they could focus. Everybody admired the work ethic–that is how you win! adults said as they introduced their daughters to the sport.

I asked during the 2016 Olympics if any -body- should be as well trained as Simone Biles or Aly Raismen. Especially when so many of those bodies were so young. I worried about what that sort of training would do to girls who would never and could never be Simone Biles. I worried about what it would mean for gymnastics. It’s a sport where 20-year-old Gabby Douglas was considered down right grandmotherly. Many questioned if Douglas had any right being on the team in 2016 when she was so clearly ‘distracted’ by adult problems like university and (Possibly? Could it be?) dating. Is there anybody left, I wondered, who remembered what grown women’s bodies doing gymnastics looked like?

The very few people that responded to my questions, responded negatively. Why would you shit on the excellence of these girls? asked on commenter. I think they’re gorgeous, said a more gracious commenter. They know what they signed up for, said another.

They know what they signed up for.


I worked in the fields as a ten year old because workers regulations prevented McDonalds or General Motors from hiring me. And even when I finally was old enough to work at McDonalds, I was only allowed to work until a certain time of the day and a certain number of hours a week, especially when school was still in session. Farm workers are exempted from these worker protections so that kids working on their family farms don’t get penalized. It just so happens that the lack of worker protections mean that a significant number of kids as young as five and six are out in the fields picking before most people are out of bed in the morning.

My family knew what they were doing when they dragged us all out to the fields to work. Us kids even wound up feeling a sense of pride and self-respect when we were able to contribute to the family through our paychecks.

I knew what I was doing. I knew what I signed up for.

I was a woman before I questioned if it was ok for 10-year-olds to work 12 hour days for any reason.


The Warrior Princess never backed down in her refusal to play when she was hurt. And I just kept getting angrier and angrier with her. It was ok to push her. It was ok to bully her. It was ok to ‘expect more’ of her. Because I was giving my daughter a gift. A gift that I never got. The economic support to dream big. The support and love of her family. We knew she could do it.  We all believed in her. I believed in her.

I loved my daughter. My most precious thing.

Why couldn’t she see that?

Our battles increased in intensity and swamped our time away from the volleyball court. Now we weren’t just fighting on the way to the court, we fought over dinner and in between homework and on instant message during school. She spent more and more time in her bedroom with the door closed and the time we used to spend cooking together or talking about books we read together was non-existent.

One day after dropping her off at a practice, I pulled into a local park and broke down completely. Sobs ripped open my mouth, tears flooded my nose and mouth, making me choke. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. We couldn’t stop fighting. And I missed my girl. My daughter.

Luckily, my partner was with me then, holding me through the ugly sobs, helping me to breath through the choking tears. As I calmed down, he finally said–you can’t fill her up when it’s you that needs the filling.

I let his words come into me. They were gentle, spoken from love. He trusted me to hear him, and I trusted him enough to listen.

What was the hole I was trying to fill?


When I heard Kyle Stephens testify about her father, I didn’t feel angry or disgusted or even sick to my stomach as I had over so many other stories. I felt compassion for her father, and fear.

What hole was her father trying to fill? What was so empty in him, so hurt, he was willing to take down his daughter, hurt his best thing, to stop anybody from seeing? What was the Dream he was trying to buy?

What was the Dream I thought I was buying?


I apologized to my daughter. Not because I was a good person that finally figured it all out. But because there was just enough of the rational logical part of me that hadn’t been consumed by the emotional Dream beast that I was able to find first one then another then another brick down the road to doing something different.

I explained to my daughter that I wanted more for her than to be a former migrant worker with a bad neck. And so I had pushed her too hard and cared too much about the wrong things. She nodded and said she understood, but that this was her life. I nodded back at here and vowed to myself to respect her declaration.

I backed off, but our fights didn’t immediately stop. Instead of yelling or screaming, I many times contented myself with gritted teeth and adult version of eye rolls. If I couldn’t verbally say to her what I wanted to say, maybe my grinding teeth would. This, of course, set her off. I thought you were going to back off and leave me alone, she’d scream. And I would have to fight to choke back my own angry words so that I could at least angrily scream back at her at some point from a moral high ground.

But even as things weren’t always perfect, I didn’t stop trying. And neither did she. And so we started to find our way back to each other.

At dinner one night, we did appreciations. This is where we go around the table and share with the family what we appreciate about other family members. We’ve done it since the kids were teeny, and often the appreciations are silly or repeats of what they said for the last appreciations. But that night, I told the family I appreciated what the Warrior Princess of mine taught me about boundaries. That her refusal to back down against the massive dragon of her mother was inspiring. And taught me a life lesson I didn’t get from my parents or any adult growing up.

This kid of mine looked at me and smiled and said thank you. Not a grateful thank you–a  confident strong thank you. She knew she did good. And she would’ve known it whether I told her or not.

I see that same confidence blazing out of Kyle Stephens when she confronts Larry Nassar in court. And I am so glad to read that she and her father found their way back to each other before he died.


The Warrior Princess played one more season of volleyball and then got a catastrophic knee injury. She had to go through surgery and then months and months of physical therapy. If she played her cards the right way, she could’ve gone back for her senior year of volleyball. But where our lives used to be swamped by practices and games, there was now only endless physical therapy appointments. So we had a lot of time to talk. And she told me that as much as she didn’t want to be hurt, she was thankful her volleyball career was over. She actually hated volleyball. But she didn’t know it until doctors told her she might not play again in high school. And felt the relief flooding through her.

Her words reminded me of the Russian gymnast back in the 80s that was bullied into performing skills she wasn’t ready for and wound up paralyzed. She gave an interview saying that when she was laying on the floor, hurt, unable to move, the only thing she could feel was relief. Now she wouldn’t have to go to the Olympics.

Thankful for pain. Thank god. Now it’s over.

Individual stories. Hurt bodies. A familiar ending.


I can’t stop thinking about what the Nassar sex abuse case means for sports. I know what I hope it means. I hope it means that we give up on little girls working like grown adults in unsupervised spaces where they’re taught obedience and submission. I hope it means that we let kids be kids. And club sports are banned forever. I hope we go back to kids exploring sports they like in gym class and recruiting only happening during senior year of high school. I hope we willingly embrace grown women doing less fantastic but more sophisticated skills. I hope to see what grown women’s bodies look like doing gymnastics and figure skating and baseball and hockey. I want money in sports to be regulated so that training schedules are looked at as the labor they are rather than the ‘dedication’ they are forced to be.

And it has to be ok to ask: when is too young to ‘achieve your dream’? It has to be ok, because this is what club sports are selling. A dream possibly realized, by the kid, and maybe even by the parent too. Because what parent doesn’t have lost dreams? What parent doesn’t have a hole that needs some filling? And how many of us would do anything under the sun short of murder (and sometimes even that) to make sure our kids don’t feel the twisting empty hole we’ve had to learn to ignore?

It’s a natural part of the parent/child relationship for the child break away from the parent. It’s a normal part of a child’s growth for them to push back and say that’s not my dream. And there is nothing, nothing, in the world of (club, collegiate, professional or Olympic) sports that encourages young people to push back and declare their own space and their own boundaries. Regulating sports as labor would be one way to push back. If a kid can’t push back against coaches and parents and corporate sponsorship and college recruiters, maybe labor regulations can.

But in the end, what is point of sports if kids are hurting themselves to escape them? If kids are grateful to be hurt so they can be free?


As the Warrior Princess recovered from her knee injury, she joined the cross country team. She’s not any good, most of the kids on her team aren’t either. There’s no college recruiters showing up to meets, and most practices involve them running unobserved by their coach out at local parks or down long stretches of quiet road. She tells me about how sometimes her team will meet up at a nearby play structure and play on the swings together before they go back to the school. It reminds me of this Mexican kid I used to know with a sore neck and lost dreams that used to skip class to go hang out with her friends in back of the school and smoke cigarettes and ride skateboards. A rare treat before she had to go to work.

I don’t know if the world of cross country is reflected in my kid’s team. I don’t know if there are any club cross country teams or workshops or classes kids can take to get better or if all cross country teams are as laid back as the Warrior Princess’s team is. But maybe that’s the point. Because this is what it’s supposed to be like for kids. They’re supposed to have the time and space to fuck around while they figure things out. They’re supposed to have the space to push back and say no. So that when they’re on their own at college or at their first jobs or in their first relationships–they know how to do it.

Sports are an industrial complex now, and the foundation of this industrial complex is built on the silence and obedience of athlete/workers. On their lack of power. And this industrial complex manipulates the parents/child relationship so that parents are the enforcers of worker silence and obedience.

So we start there. We must be brave enough to start there.

Are we brave enough to help destroy the complex our kids are trying to escape? Are we adults brave enough to slay our own dragons, and not make our kids do it for us?

Unions Make Us Strong

The interesting thing as the MSU sex abuse scandals are developing, is how often so many different corners of the media world have tried to impose a ‘savior’ on the situation. Feminist minded people want Judge Aquilina’s sympathy for and fierce protection of victims to be the new standard we judge all judges by. The Atlantic went so far as to call her court room ‘transformative justice‘ and the meme of her tossing aside Larry Nassar’s letter has gone viral.

Michiganders are (not unironically) calling for Governor Rick Snyder to force MSU president and board to step down, fans are calling for the NCAA to ‘do something,’ and most (myself included) are wondering why the FBI hasn’t stepped in to do real investigating.

Nobody knows what to do with a scandal that is so all encompassing, that has so many different institutions in positions of culpability, that has gone on unchecked for so many decades. We want more judges like Judge Aquilinia, we want people to ‘listen’ to girls and women that speak up, we want victims to speak up–a few of us want boys and men to learn different ways of having sex. Almost everybody is calling for as many people as possible to be punished.

The one thing I keep getting stuck on, though, is how few calls we’re seeing for the empowerment of girls and women specifically as producers of labor. That is, next to nobody is treating the MSU case generally and the Larry Nassar case specifically, as a reason that justifies, in fact, demands, that non-professional athletes be unionized.

During the Nassar sentencing, over and over again, girls and women testified about the conditions of the gyms they spent upwards of 35 hours a week in. The physical and emotional abuse that coaches subjected them to. The contracts forcing them to submit to physical treatments or lose their place on the team. The trips without parents. The camps with no access to parents or guardians. The endless practices with no advocate in the gym, training or locker rooms. The endless practices girls with broken bones, torn muscles, unhealed bodies were pressured to participate in. The endless practices that girls as young as nine and ten years old were pressured to participate in.

What would we say about a child being forced to work at a fast food restaurant for 30+ hours a week with her back broken in four spots that was directly caused by the job? Would we be ok with that? Our child labor laws tell us no, we’re not.

So why is it ok if it’s being done in the name of a sport?

Sports are not just ‘sports’ anymore. Sports are an industry that from the time an athlete enters their first club, through until the time they end their ‘careers’ requires a massive investment in. Gone are the days that athletes experimented in gym class or joined a school team on a whim. Club sports have cornered the market on what used to be kids playing in the street or at the local YMCA. Many young people get so invested in the rigors of club sports, they even skip their high school season under the guise of how much of a ‘challenge’ club sports are.

Kids dream of Olympics and being recruited. Parents dream of free rides through colleges and maybe a house when Bobby makes the NFL team. They plunk out the thousands of dollars to enter their kids into the upper echelons of club sports, where they are given access to the chance to reach their dreams. You can’t achieve your dreams mucking around on a high school team coached by an unpaid math teacher.

The ‘chance to achieve your dream’ is a powerful narrative, one that is built into the fabric of US society. If you just work hard enough, you’ll get there. The sports industry especially embraces this narrative-Do you believe in miracles?? yells Al Michaels during the hockey game where a few scrappy American college kids took on the red force of communist hockey, and won. The ‘miracle’ is that hard work and dedication can really over come anything, lack of training resources, money, even the communists.

But lost in this narrative of ‘hard work’ and ‘achieving your dream’ is the reality that we glimpsed at the Nassar sentencing. Kids are paying thousands of dollars to labor in violent and abusive conditions to create a product that makes their clubs millions. Club sports are a $15 billion–yes *billion* dollar industry. On Olympic years, when kids get to see the Fierce Five undo the competition or Michael Phelps singing the national anthem for the 14th time, enrollment in club sports spikes.

When an individual does well, her club/home team is recognized, her club/team coach often gets as many interview requests as she does. And as we saw with Larry Nassar and MSU–that Olympic connection then becomes a powerful recruiting tool. As MSU gymnastic coach, Kathie Klages said in her recruitment letters–We have Larry Nassar!

But every single child, whether they make it to Olympic gold or not, are not just working for free–they’re paying to work. By the time those that go to the Olympics or they get recruited for top teams or they finally finally finally make it to the bigs, they’ve been paying to work for decades. The vast majority, who won’t even be recruited at a class D school, have been paying to work with no reward at all.

And yet, whether or not they make it big, the names of their clubs becomes permanently attached to their resumes. Any success they create, whether Olympic gold or just getting accepted to a good college, is another opportunity for the club to advertise and recruit. I’ve seen just as many clubs talking about ‘their girls’ being top notch students that wind up in elite colleges, as I’ve seen clubs advertising Olympic connections. Implicit in their recruiting efforts is the promise that a documented long term dedication to a single sport ‘looks good’ on an application and plays as much of a factor in getting girls into Harvard as their coaching plays in getting girls recruited by a Big Ten team. Whether or not that’s true, club/home teams using the success of the girls to recruit in more business means that it’s not just that these kids are paying to work, they’re paying to ultimately become a powerful marketing tool for their club/home teams.

Non-professional athletes have limited power–the ones with the most power are the ones on high revenue sports (like basketball or football) that know the worst thing a program desperate for the revenue his name could earn the college could hear is a ‘no.’ But even those athletes can only hope that they wind up making enough money in the pros that when their bodies begin breaking down from the years of overwork and abuse, they’re set.

All the other athletes, the athletes that are recruited by the Olympic dream that only five people every four years will be given a chance to compete for, continue to plunk out thousands and thousands of dollars for the chance to work too many hours in abusive conditions that depend on them being powerless, voiceless and obedient. The already limited power of a high revenue athlete is non-existent for those whose sport only becomes big every four years like gymnastics–or never for sports like rowing, softball, or field hockey. It means something that most low-revenue or ‘every four years’ sports are sports played by women/girls.

Which all makes me wonder; what would happen if all these athletes were allowed to organize and unionize?

If we’re to go by how quickly the state of Michigan created and signed into law Public Act 414, the law that makes it illegal for student athletes to unionize after athletes in a different state and non-Michigan school were allowed to unionize, we’d have to suspect that empowering non-professional athletes would cause a massive shift in power that universities, club sports, the NCAA, the Olympic organization and even sports media don’t want and would be unprepared to handle.

Of course there would be a tremendous loss of money for these major institutions if student athletes had the right to organize to be paid for their labor instead of to pay for it. But more importantly, what would happen if any of the student athletes at MSU had the chance to go to their union rep when coach Kathie Klages ignored their complaints? Or if either of the women’s gold medal winning Olympic teams had the power of their union behind them when they said, unless you get rid of Larry Nassar and allow each athlete to go to their own doctors, we’re not competing at the Olympics? Or if every little girl at Twistars gym had the power to mobilize all the gymnasts at the gym to get rid Larry Nassar? Or Kathie Klages? Or Jim Geddert?

How quickly might things have changed? Do these huge sports entities really want that level of change? Or do they depend on athletes being powerless?

I know that unions come with their own problems. And we have to assume that if all these other institutions could so fantastically and horrifically fail hundreds of athletes in this way, a union could too.

But right now, with so many people looking for all these individual entities to ‘save’ girl and women athletes, it’s shocking and appalling to me that next to nobody is acknowledging that girl and women athletes saved themselves. And that their power comes from their ability to mass mobilize. And that right now, the one entity we have in the US that can provide any sort of protection at all for mobilized populations, are unions.

What if the best thing we can do to ‘save’ our athletes, and especially athletes that are women and girls, isn’t get more sympathetic judges or get the FBI or the NCAA involved in investigations, but is rather instead to fight that fucked up bullshit piece of shit legislation in Michigan that makes it illegal for college athletes to unionize?

Would we be willing to support their efforts by refusing to buy tickets, products advertised during major sporting events, and refusing to allow our children to go to colleges that refuse to let their teams unionize?

Sports are a money making industry now. Acknowledging that we’re expecting children to pay to work in abusive conditions is not cynical or an attempt to eliminate the ‘purity’ of sports culture. It’s acknowledging that industries rarely, if ever treat their workers with respect or dignity unless they’re forced to.

Rachael Denhollander asked us all to answer the questions–how much is a little girl worth? How much is a woman worth?

Their lives are worth fighting for unionization. They’re lives are worth shutting everything down until all athletes have the right to mobilize, organize and unionize. And their lives are worth me doing without sports until the power shifts and one athlete’s voice saying the first time it happens that they want it to stop, holds as much power as 156 voices in a court room does.



Wonder Woman

I’ve never really liked Wonder Woman. I know a lot about her, I was a child of the 80s and watched the Linda Carter show and somehow managed to get a hold of multitudes of Wonder Woman comics that I’d read when there was nothing else to read. But even so. I was a queer girl that couldn’t stand the already existing ways that parents, friends, strangers found to impose femininity on me (lipstick! hair! dresses!). Wonder Woman was just another imposition that I had to fight off.  The Halloween costumes and play outfits and lunch boxes and dolls were all just another way that ‘they’ had found to tell me that my job was to be a ‘woman.’ Not whatever I was.

So unlike many others, I was not thrilled to find out that they were making a movie about Wonder Woman, and I certainly wasn’t writing angst filled essays demanding that Warner Bros not fucking fuck this up. I mostly didn’t care about any of it until the movie was released–and then it all began. The earnest declarations of ‘True Feminism’ and the tear filled essays about how the movie changed lives. When I read that Diana/Wonder Woman and love interest Steve, were the best comic couple ever, I knew I needed to see for myself what was going on. Maybe for all my cynicism and resistance after all these years, there was something worth knowing in this Goddess that has been following me around my whole life? I was curious, but expected nothing except hopefully a movie worthy of the $5 matinee ticket.

Which is exactly what I got. A solidly average movie that had it’s problems even as it moved me in ways I hadn’t expected. For the first time, I could see why people love Wonder Woman–but consequently, that’s why so much of the movie was so frustrating.

I didn’t cry during this movie. I wasn’t awe inspired by Wonder Woman’s ability to kick ass. I lived through the original airing of Xena. I’ve watched the entire Buffy and Fire Fly series and was mildly obsessed over Korra. I’m old enough that seeing powerful women who can kick ass is normal enough that I’ve had a critique of them for years (in short: ‘kick ass’ is not enough, we need complex and human too). I’m not sure why it was so moving to for so many to see amazons or Wonder Woman doing slow motion pause stunts, especially when slow motion pause stunts are such an old over played basically never used anymore action cliche. If athletic physical women are breaking boundaries, then how they are filmed should be as well.

I was also vastly underwhelmed by the race politics of Wonder Woman. People do keep pointing to the nod Wonder Woman gives to the Native character or to the few black amazons that were training on Wonder Woman’s hold island. But come on. We all know that’s not enough. We all know it. There are many of us that want it to be enough, that try to force it to be enough. But when it comes down to it, we all know. It’s not enough. I’m not going to waste my time explaining why. We all know the critique, we all know the analysis. It been around longer than my analysis of women being cast solely as ‘bad asses.’

And this laziness around casting, filming choices, and storytelling is at the crux of many of the problems I have with Wonder Woman. Despite what people and critics say about Wonder Woman being ‘cutting edge’ in it’s representation of women, it really was just the same old bland retread of already much better done shows, concepts and stories and this played out in little and big ways.

For example,  I found myself randomly wishing halfway through the movie that Agent Carter was back on the air.  It took till the end of the movie when (spoiler) Steve dies in the airplane, that I finally figured out how much of this movie plays on Captain America and his main squeeze, Peggy Carter (check out some of them here) The problem is that Agent Carter is far more interesting than Steve is,  and frankly, for all the hoopla about Steve and Wonder Woman’s relationship, I think Peggy Carter’s relationship with Steve Rogers is actually far more nuanced and interesting. The Peggy/Steve relationship doesn’t act stupid about the very real issues of era specific sexism in the way that Steve/Diana do. Steve apparently isn’t being sexist when he uses Diana and shuts her up and rides over her concerns–he’s being a dedicated war hero that Diana is supposed to look up to. Indeed, he is the human that teaches Wonder Woman how to love, feel, show compassion and dedication to a cause. Captain American and Peggy, on the other hand, both come to the war with their own reasons for being there and their relationship is built on a mutual respect and a bonding over each of them being the underdog that has to fight in ways others simply don’t.

Still, Chris Pine is attractive and I would’ve enjoyed it immensely if he had embraced more of his softer naked side and made himself more available to non-clothed relationship with Diana. But in the context of the Wonder Woman story line–I didn’t find their relationship equal or that interesting. True equality comes when men set aside their own needs to support a woman that can actually get the job done, and I never saw that in Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve. If he truly believed she would take care of the mess, he never would’ve sacrificed himself to begin with.

I did find many things I enjoyed about the movie–in particular Wonder Woman’s kindness. She is a likeable Goddess, one that is appalled by the brutality of starvation as much as she is by the violence of war. She is a Goddess that sees the suffering of women and children and gives it as much importance as she does the suffering of men. She takes seriously the responsibility given to her to protect those without power–not because she is a Goddess, but because she is compassionate and is willing to bear the burden of suffering with those who suffer.

Compassion is a beautiful thing to witness, and it’s in those scenes that I found myself unexpectedly filled with emotion. When Wonder Woman is on the Western Front with Steve, she is stopped by women that are caught in the middle of the battle between men, and it’s Wonder Woman that sees the woman’s suffering and wants to help. And when Wonder Woman refuses to kill Dr. Poison, because even in her anger, she can see and feel compassion for Dr. Poison, a few tears did flow.

The willingness to see the suffering of others is what we see so little of. It is what we’ve been told makes us weak, a pussy. Truth strength in the post-911 days of the US, is the murder a black man in front of his child and girlfriend. Beating a Muslim girl to death with a baseball bat. It is denying millions of people life saving health care. To see a superhero make the conscious choice not to kill even though she could and probably should, is exactly the moral decision making we need to see more on screen characters struggling with. In a post-911 era, we got enough Jack Bauer type characters  to last a life time. We don’t need anymore ‘complicated’ Punishers. We need characters like Wonder Woman, Spider Man, Captain America (or the Flash or Super Girl), characters that wrestle with the reality that evil exists and we have to do something about it, but that we also can’t run around killing everything and everybody either.

But that brings me to the final, biggest problem I have with Wonder Woman. We need characters that wrestle with modern moral questions. But when the characters that wrestle with these questions are almost universally white–it reinforces the white supremacist ideology that people of color and black people in particular, are not complicated or human enough to have moral reasoning or struggles, which as the effect of making non-white people not fully human. Because what is being human, but struggling through the morality of the human condition?

It also means that a key purpose of fiction, to imagine ways to solve seemingly unsolvable problems, never gets examined through the eyes of people that actually have found ways to solve unimaginably difficult problems, or at least make it a little better. Characters of color, like Miles Morales or Luke Cage, bring with them history that says ending violence isn’t a wild impractical dream, ala Hillary Clinton, but a necessary requirement for survival. There is a special irony in the fact that these questions never go away for communities of color, that every time the latest killing happens, the latest worker injustice, the latest deportation, we struggle through what it means to be human and require human rights–while white people often need superheros to even know these questions exist. If anybody could figure out what to do about Dr Poison and the threat she poses along side the reality that she’s a human being, it’s going to be a person of color.

In the end, Wonder Woman’s whiteness is just another example of a tired retread of the same story being told in the same way. I wouldn’t have really cared, really, if all the amazons were black. Because Wonder Woman is not really an amazon. She’s a Goddess. It’s not just that she’s powerful, it’s that she’s a sacred being, a holy figure. Somebody that people worship. And it goes without saying that in this world, in the USA, Santa Claus and Jesus Christ are both white. There are multitudes of ways that we emphasize the sacred holy position of white people. They are the ones that have been created in God’s holy image. The one’s that can save the world. The rest of us are simply pale imitations of the real thing. It is not ground breaking or innovative to have yet another white God, even if she is compassionate and kind.

Can Wonder Woman ever be black? The inclination we have as a culture towards ‘well, yes but…’ is where those of us who are not black need to be resting our moral struggles. And we need to finally get to the point where we can wholeheartedly say yes, of COURSE Wonder Woman can be black.

Wonder Woman is a good enough movie. It means a lot to a lot of people already, and it will mean a lot to a lot of really important people–young girls. It’s a movie I’m glad exists. But it’s a movie that could’ve done so much more and been so much better–both on a structural level and within the context of media making and comics and cultural narratives as a whole. Our world needs more than good enough right now. We need stories big enough to save the world. Wonder Woman could be that. She’s not that yet.









accepting fat

I am fat.

Which means that I care a lot about how fat people are treated and what it means to be fat. But I don’t talk about it very much because I get so irritated by the online fat acceptance narratives. You’ve probably heard of some of them, the biggest one being, that you can have ‘health at any size.’ I don’t have a problem with the concept behind so many discussions on fat acceptance. I agree that you can have health at any size, body shaming is disgusting and harmful, and ‘concern trolling’ fat people (I’m just worried about you!) is being a condescending asshole at worst and very problematic at best.

But how so many of these critiques actually play out in the real world among fat acceptance folks…they bother me. One critique in particular.

But let me back up. In the past few months, I became aware of two things. The first is that after living my whole life thinking I was lazy, and thus fat (and in so much pain because I was lazy and thus fat), it turns out I have an autoimmune illness. In other words, my body is attacking itself. And because I’ve gone undiagnosed for so long, my body has been attacking itself for decades, leaving me very ill. It is this illness that has made me ‘lazy’ or: exhausted from living in a constant state of flare up and my body falling apart.

The second thing I became aware of is about sugar and the effects that sugar can have on the body. I came across this article, and then I started checking out books and researching other authors–and it all just sort of came together for me.

Sugar pushes the body into a state of inflammation. My autoimmune illness is exacerbated by chronic inflammation. And then to make things even worse, highly processed foods are filled with sugar that increases inflammation. I’ve been poor most of my life–my diet reflected that.

Finding out about how sugar and highly processed food interact with autoimmune illness (makes it way worse), brought up a lot of feelings in me. I’ve spent so long punishing myself. Self-medicating through flare ups by abusing myself, calling myself lazy, worthless, disgusting. Nobody ever told me that ‘self-medicating’ could be violent. In the justice communities I run with ‘self-medicating’ is taking your health into your own hands, learning about herbs to deal with stress, exercising to deal with depression, etc. It never crossed my mind that me treating myself the way I did was abuse or that it was what I did to function daily. To force myself up when I just couldn’t go anymore. It never occurred to me that self-abuse could be a way to survive.

So I talked a bit about what I was learning on twitter. And I realize that twitter isn’t often the best place to talk about stuff–but I didn’t really feel up to taking on an essay yet. And the response was largely positive. But eventually as my tweets started making their way out of my own circle–a handful of responses began trickling in. The kind from the fat acceptance crowd that makes me so angry. The kind where your own life experiences and theorizing about your fat body are taken as an ‘attack’ on their fat bodies, where you saying ‘acceptance’ isn’t enough, must mean that you’re actually filled with internalized self hatred rather than filled with a fierce desire to be visible in world that would rather see you dead.

For so many of us, our fat cannot be separated from our race, our class, our gender or sexuality. I accept my body at any size and I want a world that will accept me at any size. But at the same time, I am fat because of my race, because of my class. Because of my chronic illness.

Chicana scholars, Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel have long talked about the phenomenon of Mexican people having healthy body weight and no diabetes or heart issues when they live in Mexico eating traditional Mexican diets. And then they move to the US and they start eating highly processed food, or food that passes as Mexican in the United States; Deep fried food that’s saturated with high fat sour cream, heavy cheese and lots of meat. That’s when all those healthy Mexicans become obese. When all the food related illness take hold and don’t let go. And that’s when all the 45 Fans get pissed. Fat Mexicans choosing to be fat take resources that belong to Americans. Fat Mexican anchor babies stealing what belongs to real Americans. Fat Mexican bodies are a threat to US national security.

You cannot separate the fatness of a Mexican body from the Mexicanness.  And you cannot accept the fatness without understanding that the fatness is an act of violence against Mexican bodies. Fatness speaks to an active violence perpetrated against Mexican bodies by an unhealthy violent food system intent intent on profit over health on every single level. It speaks to 500 years of colonization. It speaks to criminalization. Cheap sugar, starvation.

It speaks to something that has been done to our bodies, collectively. And if the fat acceptance movement can’t find a way to except these complicated truths about the bodies of so many fat people, then it’s not a theory worth even holding onto.

One of the most compelling things I learned about how sugar affects our bodies is what happens to obese mothers and their starving children. The kids who are starving or food insecure are obviously food insecure. They are what we expect food insecure people to look like. They are thin, listless, their eyes are sunk their skulls.

Obese mothers, on the other hand, have people look at them like with all the shame and nastiness that we are used to looking at fat people with. Overweight mothers who have starving children are understood as selfish, out of control, lazy, disgusting. But these mothers are starving as well. They’re eating highly processed cheap food that they can afford or that they get through food pantries. The sugar makes their body hoard fat, even while it saves absolutely nothing nutritious. And it leaves them ravenous once the placeholder in their bellies moves out.

They’re starving. But we’ve never understood fatness to be starving. And culturally we’d rather understand mothers as selfish slobs than with compassion. We depend on having mother’s to blame for all the social ills out there so we never have to fund fixing those social ills.

I read about skinny children/fat mothers and I thought of my Mexican childhood and how hungry I always was. I thought of my Mexican teens and how much I loved the flour tortillas made fresh daily by adults. I had no idea that flour tortillas (made from cheap highly processed white flour) replaced the more nutritious corn tortillas my grandparents ate, their grandparents ate. I thought about my life as a Mexican mother. Not eating so my children could eat, eating off the dollar menu because it was the only thing I’d eat that day and I needed to feel full. I continued the traditions of my family, my culture. I bought flour tortillas because they were the cheapest. I ate processed foods because they were affordable. Food made ‘traditional’ through poverty.

I’ve hated myself from the time I understood the supposed link between ‘individual choice’ and ‘fatness.’ But now I look back and I understand what was going on. I was literally starving. I couldn’t stop eating because my body never got what it needed. Filling up your stomach isn’t the same thing as nourishing your body. Me being fat is the way violence enacted against me played out. The violence of starvation.

I need so much more to understand this violence than a lens of acceptance. Acceptance is the color blind way of explaining something we don’t really want to or think we don’t need to talk about. But really, there’s only a few groups of people that honestly don’t need to talk about it. It just so happens that those groups are given the biggest platforms to speak.

I want to talk about it. I want to talk about why I was the fat starving mother, and I want to talk about why I was abusing myself so I could live.

I don’t need fat acceptance.

I need a radical love which allows me to re-claim my body from a capitalistic system intent on destroying it by any means necessary. I need a radical way of loving my body even when I don’t accept it.  I need a radical way of understanding what has happened to me, whether it’s the violence of poverty, criminalization or starvation.

Reclaiming my body will look a lot different than self acceptance. It may start with self acceptance it may even end with self acceptance. But self acceptance isn’t all of it. When something has been done to our bodies, we have the right to question it. And we have the right to love our bodies, but not accept the violence that’s been done to them. And I don’t accept that violence. I don’t.

I am reminded of a rallying call during the Detroit water crisis; it’s not your fault but it is your fight. This makes more sense to me, feels like the right way to begin understanding my body. It’s not my fault but it is my fight. My body belongs to me. And I will fight for it.

and then it gets worse

I’ve tried think of a way to say this, eloquently, dignified. But then I break into the crying and it won’t stop, not even when my mouth stretches wide open, no sound coming out but ugly squeaking, saliva dripping out like thin strands of mucus.

My partner lost his job. He lost his job exactly one month before I am set to lose mine. My contract wraps up, and with the political climate being what it is, there’s next to nothing to move on to.

It was going to be hard for us to navigate living on just one income. I have been lining up part time work and side jobs. And we were going to be ok. It’d be hard, but we’d be ok.

Then the news came. We live in Michigan, and the news comes all the time for all people.

I’ve got a kid who just had major reconstructive surgery and is in physical therapy. I am being treated for auto-immune illness. We don’t have insurance anymore.  We live in Michigan, this happens all the time.

The day after we found out, I looked on the website of my kid’s school to find out about the free lunch program. We are a family that was living pay check to pay check. No more paycheck means no more food. Food insecurity is a fact of life in Michigan. Entire school districts are on free lunch programs because this is Michigan. Pink slips are a fact of life.

That very same day that I looked for information on the free lunch program, news that Betsy DeVos wants to get rid of the free lunch program dinged all over my social media. The level of vindictiveness. The level pure vile evilness. What kind of God allows it?

Politicians in Michigan implemented a drug testing policy for welfare recipients. Because they don’t want food money going to parents, who apparently use the money meant for food for children to buy drugs. They don’t. But politicians spend a lot of time trying to convince us they do.

But at the same time, the most direct way to feed hungry children without parent interference is through the free lunch program.

And they want to end it.

They want our children to go hungry.

The ugly cry, the ugly tears. They won’t stop.

We’ll be ok. We always are, someway, somehow. We don’t need health insurance to live, like some people do. We have degrees, we have work history.

But when you go off on how ‘glad’ you are that 45 is in charge, how pleased you are that he’s going to ‘shake things up,’ when you ask me to ‘give him a fair chance,’ please know that I’m fighting too hard for my own chance to survive to worry about giving him a chance. Please understand the bile I spit could’ve landed on you.

We’ve spent months since the election speculating on how to treat 45’s supporters. Nobody has bothered to ask those who will die without insurance how they’re doing or what they’re going to do. Nobody has asked about how the kids with no insurance to cover their therapy will manage. Nobody has explained how parents will feed their children.

Michigan is going to be the way of life for everybody now. And we’re so busy worrying about those who want it like that, we forgot to ask about how those who are busy trying to survive are doing. We forgot ask our neighbor’s what they need. If they’re ok. Or maybe we just don’t give a fuck anymore.

There’s nothing eloquent or dignified to say about being terrified of hunger. Of not surviving. Of seeing you’re kids suffer.

So I cry. Hot thick wide mouth ugly cry.




Surviving the war years 1

So how do you keep going when it’s the war years? I’m tired of the only answers that question being connected to organizing, so I decided to write up something that centers ‘taking care of yourself’ that doesn’t dare to presume what you’ll be doing once you’ve taken care of yourself.

    • One of the worst things that happened post-election was that there was just no escaping 45. No matter where I was at or what I was doing, the conversation inevitably flipped to 45, and either fighting or angry bitch sessions started. Don’t even get me started on social media. It’s hard to escape 45 for a few minutes and get yourself centered again when he’s tweeting ever 32 minutes. So what I’ve done is block his name on every social media site that I can. Trust, I still find out about what he’s doing anyway, but not having to deal with it every single time I breath has been helpful. What I do to ‘catch up’ is check the website, What the Fuck Just Happened, Today. There are daily wrap ups of what happened that day and even helpful links as to contextualize what the fuck just happened. I feel more in control of my space (no more 45 invasion!) and I only have to be officially pissed off once a day.
    • I’ve been going on walks. Lots of them. This clears my head and helps me to remember the universe is bigger than the mess we’re facing right now. And because we’re the universe, we are bigger than the mess too. It doesn’t help me to understand or figure out what the hell we’re going to do–but it calms me down. There are other people who don’t know what the hell we’re going to do either. I’m not alone. None of us are.
    • I have bitch sessions. I’ve learned that I can’t spend all my time doing this because then I just get mad and upset because it all feels circular and it reminds me that none of us know what the hell we’re going to do. But having a good clean bitch session with a friend that knows the right point to end it and knows the laughter is as much a part of a bitch session as being angry is–it’s pure relief.
    • I’ve meditated. A lot. Of course the fear of ‘omg what the hell are we going to do?’ is partially a fear because we’re trying to control the future, which is impossible. Even spending five minutes doing conscious breathing helps to bring you out of that impossible future space and into the present. Where we have enough to be getting on with. No use being anxious about the future when we need all of our strength for the now. Breath. Feel your lungs expand. Pay attention to your eyes as they open and close. End with a prayer. It helps. It really does.
    • I collect beautiful words. As a lover of words that can slip into you and stay there for a while, nourishing you right when you need it most–the ugliness, the ignorance steeped in ugliness, has been hard to bear. So the beautiful words I do find, I’ve been collecting, writing on paper, then posting the paper on my walls. Some of my current favorites:
      • “I felt like a blackberry in a pail of milk.” ~Harriet Tubman
      • “Every time I comb my hair
        Thoughts of you get in my eyes” ~Prince
      • “Day and night, she threw herself against the rock. The scales that were scraped from her body flew up into the air and danced in the wind like blood-stained cherry petals.” ~Yoko Tawada, Where Europe Begins
      • “There are things about you that you’ll want to change
        But these are all the little pieces of you that I love.” ~Ben Hartley, Little Pieces Of You
    • I read books about herbs. I am an herbalist. I don’t talk about it a lot online, as herbs are a very hands on thing–you experience herbs in your body and senses and because I still am a young herbalist, it’s really hard for me translate this into blog posts so far. But even if I don’t quite have the skill to do so yet, many others do–Matthew Wood is one of the best for a general practical overview of a plant. Rebecca Altman at King’s Road Apothocary has a lovely newsletter that she puts out every week that are helpful/practical but also beautiful and lovely to sit down with a cup of tea and read.
    • I listen to this song on rotation. :p

There are other things, but for now, the above has been what I’ve been relying on. If you feel like sharing what you do to survive, I’d love to hear from you in comments!

the war years

I’ve felt pretty guilty since the inauguration.

I’ve watched the crowds of people cheering for #45, I’ve felt their pleasure in my bones. I’ve listened to their incomprehensible belief that 45 is the best thing that has ever happened to the US. My stomach has twisted with growing apprehension as hard red faces get tighter and meaner. I know what those faces mean. I know what’s coming.

And I admit, I’ve spent more time since the election and especially since the inauguration feeling scared, overwhelmed, defeated. Even though I’ve been to multiple protests/rallies, and even for the very first time ever, I had my family ask to come with me (rather than what usually happens: me packing everything up and saying, get in the car, we’re all going to the march now. Cue groans and eye rolls.). Even though marches have been bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to marches on Washington and anti-war protests and anti-Patriot Act and pro-immigration and pro-choice marches for well over two decades. Even though the place I spent much of my childhood, Conservative Religious Evangelical USA, had thousands of anti-Betsy DeVos protestors out in the main square.

Even though.

There are people ‘resisting’ that I never expected and never would’ve imagined could. And I know I’m supposed to feel joy. But it’s been hard to even see these faces of ‘resistance.’ All I see is the sweaty red heat of anger and the squirming tension. I know what’s coming.

I know I’m supposed to feel joy–but I’ve spent most of my post-election time just being depressed. And for lack of better word, nihilistic. There’s nothing we can do to stop what’s coming. There’s nothing we can do to fix this. We’re all screwed.

And so the guilt swirls around me, picking at my depression, grinding it up and spitting it out. While so many inspirational amazing and frankly overwhelming actions and solidarity and love has sprung up around me, I’ve been chewing the ‘yeah, but…’ my tongue has been trying to fling all over the love. I keep eyeballing my Actually Pants I keep in the corner of my room, ready to pull them on once I just can’t take the determined hopefulness anymore.

Actually, this is all bullshit, actually, we’re all fucked, actually there’s nothing we can do I don’t know why you’re bothering, actually these white women are back stabbing assholes, actually nobody really wants change they just hate 45, actually actually actually actually actually.

I want to spit all over everything before it even gets started. I want to burn to ashes the trust required to even hope that any of this ‘resistance’ is real.

Because just as I know the sinewy tautness of those hard red faces, I know the bland dismissal of the hundreds of thousands now marching in the streets. I know their ferocious level of allegiance to keeping everything just as it is. Liberal reformist, they said with pride.

My body was one of those bodies thrown to the heap by the red faced bulldogs, with the apologetic help of those marching now. Violently attacked as ‘criminal’ by the bulldogs, blandly dismissed as ‘not practical’ by the reformists.

I know who these people are who write about ‘resistance.’ I know what the whiteness of their eyeballs when they roll up into the back of their heads, I know the maddening ‘patience’ that they used to type out their email defense of doing everything exactly as it’s always been done. I know the pride they wore ‘practical’ and ‘common sense’ in the face of my ‘rabid’ warnings about immigration regulations and DHS goals and Detroit and Michigan and emergency managers.

I’ve felt guilty, even as I get up and march, even as I keep talking talking talking with confused friends protesting for the first time, even as I sign my post cards and call my Congress people.

Guilty because I don’t trust any of this. And I know what’s coming. And we’re all fucked.

I ran away from the place I grew up in. Was (re)birthed by a new city into a new worldview. I ran away because I couldn’t take the abuse anymore. I couldn’t handle it. The new city that claimed me gave me love. Freedom. It didn’t pray over me or try to change me or love me and hate my sin. Acceptance. I ran away, as so many of us have done, to freedom.

Then that city that I grew up in got bigger and took over my state.  And then the election happened and 45 took over, and I figured out that there’s no place left to run. That I’ve been standing on the plank, the noose tightly wrapped around my neck all this time. And now that people are finally marching and protesting and ‘resisting,’ I don’t trust their ‘resistance’ anymore than I trust that the red faces will ever stop savoring my death.

And I feel guilty because what I have to offer to this ‘movement’ is not what’s needed right now.

So I decided to just rest. To just rest in all these feelings and feel them. Because they’re so overwhelming I can’t see anything else. I can’t even see a way out.

I rest in these feelings and admit that I can’t handle seeing even the names on tweets of some of those liberal reformist marchers any more than I can handle seeing or even saying 45’s name. I blame them as much as I blame 45. I don’t trust what’s going on and I don’t know if I ever will.

And that’s ok.

The basic rule of thumb for organizers is that you start where people are. You don’t ask anybody to be anything but what they are, and you go from there. But far too often organizers don’t give themselves that same acceptance, that same grace from the universe. Start with where you’re at. We’re the ones that are supposed to be the ‘leaders,’ the ‘experts’ at what we do now. We’re supposed to know what to do, where the resources are, how to move forward.

We’re not supposed to be so bitterly hatefully angry that all we can do is glare and try to not punch all the liberals who are all of a sudden embracing punching as an organizing strategy. Do they know how much I’d love to have punched them in the faces all these years? Do they know the urge was almost uncontrollable in me during the ‘punching nazi’ debate?

I feel guilty for even typing that. But I’m not going to delete it. I am going to instead just relax. And accept that this is where I am right now.

I didn’t punch a liberal reformist today. It is a good day.

And that’s all I can ask of myself.

A common mantra right now is that this isn’t a skirmish we’re dealing with, it’s a war. And to be prepared for war, you have to be prepared for the long haul. Eventually I may be more able to push and shove and meld all these conflicting issues in my body and mind into a new shape, and I’ll be ready to negotiate the world with that new body. There’s time, hopefully. But even during wars, sometimes the world stops and you just can’t move forward until you recognize all that’s been lost, all that will never be the same again.

And right now, I’m there. The world has stopped. I can’t run away–there’s no place left to run. Things will never be the same again. Which means we’ve already seen the first casualty of this war.

And I need some time before I can move on.




One Day at a Time

For my second essay in the 52 essays in 2017 challenge, I had a different theme planned. I was going to review a PBS show that is about to start, Victoria. I had the chance to catch a free viewing a while ago and I was planning on looking all On Board with my life by reviewing it. But then another show came along and it has me so excited, I decided to pull the Victoria review until later and focus on this show instead.

So what is this exciting show that I love so much?

One Day at a Time.

Old people like me will know that this new Netflix show is a reboot of an old 70s/80s show. In the original, a single working class mom gets a divorce and winds up in a teeny apartment taking care of her two daughters while working to stay afloat. It started Bonnie Franklin and many of you may remember that one of her younger daughters was played by Valerie Bertinelli (who was hot and one of my first crushes ever).

The new show follows the same structure, a single working class mom with two kids is working to stay afloat after a painful separation (not yet finalized with divorce). But new show also adds in new elements, like the family it’s focusing on has a son (instead of the two daughters of the original) and the grandma lives with the family. The mother is a military vet- oh, and the family is also Cuban American.

While I am not usually a fan of sitcoms, I can get drawn into them, usually through my children. They start watching the show and I sort of pay attention while I’m doing other things and eventually I start watching and enjoying the show as much as they do. This has happened with mixed success-I loved Parks and Rec and consider it one of my all time favorite shows. But I find  How I Met Your Mother to obnoxious. And I despise (and have even banned) The Office (US version).

One Day at a Time reboot got me interested not through my kids but through nostalgia. I did find a lot in the original series that I really identified with, also being in a working class family, and yes, there was very much a Bertinelli factor, so I wanted to see what they’d do (or how’d they mess up) with a program of my youth. What does a working class family look like today compared to in the past?

Turns out that answer is complicated.

Because while it’s made clear in this series that being a single mom is economically difficult and even stifling (like when single mom, Penelope, played by Justina Machado, finds out that her employer is paying her less than a male co-worker that started after her and quits, the first thing on her mind is the consequences her family will face because she stood up for herself), the family’s economic struggles are also not what the show is predominately or even partially about.

No, this show is the of the old school classic sitcom era. Episodes exist less to to tell an individual story about an individual character (think: ‘focus episodes’ in the Walking Dead that feature storyline for one single character), and more to contemplate an issue together as an audience through the series characters. What should parents do when their children are caught viewing porn? What do we think about immigration once there’s an individual face on the issue? How do we really feel about those Che Guevara t-shirts?

As a Chicana (US born of Mexican descent), I was a little put off at first by the focus on a Cuban American family. Cuban Americans are notorious in the Latino community (however it is defined) for being more conservative than other Latinos. They get special rights of immigration that other Latinos don’t (if they set foot on US soil, they are fast tracked for legal status, usually achieving it within a year) and earlier generations of Cuban immigrants generally were very wealthy anti-Castro/communism. They got their special relationship with the US based on agreement with US policy, whereas many other Latino groups (like Chican@s/Mexicans) have specific disagreements with US policy and are so considered criminals.

But as another person watching the series with me pointed out, the choice to focus on Cuban Americans may have made sense simply because that way there could be a more obvious and natural ‘face’ on the conservative viewpoint (think: All In the Family). In other words, there’s a legitimate reason many Cubans are conservative, whereas Chicanos are almost defined by their leftist stances. To try to make a Chicano conservative wouldn’t work just wouldn’t work the way it does with Cuban/Cuban Americans that have actual conservative community.

So I decided to keep an open mind and recognize that for all my bias, I actually know very little about Cuba but have always wanted to know more. This provided a perfect opportunity for me to learn.

But for anybody who may be looking for a detailed explanation of Cuban American stances on the Cuban/US political relationship or Cuban history, you’re not going to get it through this show. And that’s a shame because there were several opportunities to get into a discussion. For example, when the family’s white landlord, Schneider (played by Todd Grinnell), visits while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, the whole family yells at him about what a murderer Guevara was and that he shouldn’t be wearing anything with Che on it at all. But then the subject is dropped. I got that Cuban/Cuban Americans have specific reasons for disliking Guevara, but outside of calling him a murderer there was no explanation as to why Cuban/Cuban Americans specifically dislike him, or why other Latinos found him compelling enough to make him their leader or even what Cuban/Cuban Americans think of other Latinos that even worship him. While of course I would’ve preferred a break in the show to watch a documentary (haha) or a reference to particular books as we saw in Luke Cage, at the very least, it would’ve been nice to see the Che Guevara t-shirt convo happening with another Latino. We didn’t get that, and it was a disappointment.

But even as there are no broad or deep analysis of Cuban/American policy or history in One Day at a Time, there are many many more ‘general Latino’ situations/critiques that are dealt with in hilarious, compelling and surprisingly touching  ways that make excellent T.V.

Take Elena’s (the older daughter, played by the effervescent Isabella Gomez) Quinceañera. This celebration of a girl’s ‘coming of age’ (which happens when she turns 15), is the storyline that threads thru the entire series, and is reportedly based on the experiences of show producer and writer, Gloria Calderon Kellett. The Quinceañera is an increasingly conflicted space in Latino communities and households, often pitting traditional elders against younger generations that are farther away from the full investment in the Catholic Church that their elders are. At the same time, many decry the monetization of what is essentially a religious ceremony and others wonder why only girls get this ceremony. Many are also creeped out by the prospect of calling 15 yr old girls ‘women,’ especially within cultures that often see those girls married off in their teens.

All of these subjects are elegantly and humorously covered in One Day at a Time. But perhaps most bravely, the show dared to imagine what a Quinceañera might look like or mean to a young girl who bristles under the stifling constraints of ‘womanhood’ defined by a Quinceañera. What does it mean to ‘become a woman’ when you don’t like dresses and are maybe a raging feminist? What does it mean to ‘become a woman’ (and so, according to the church, able to marry, bear children, etc) and you are a lesbian? Or maybe not? Because you’re still only 15 and just not sure where your life will take you or what you’re meant to be?

I’ll not spoil the way the Quinceañera story wraps up, but I will say that for all the Queer Love that Netflix’s Sense8 gets, I found One Day at a Time‘s storyline to be far more touching and lovely and even better storytelling in many ways.

The standout of One Day at a Time is Rita Moreno, cast as the family’s matriarch, Lydia. That I know of, she is the first older Latina on TV since George Lopez’s mom in his show. And she doesn’t disappoint. Abuelita Lydia is sexy, sexual, funny, conservative, and an immigrant. She is definite in her ideas (see: the ongoing lipstick joke) but at the same time, willing to find ways within her conservative beliefs to still love her family and be there for people who need her. She feels that immigrants should go thru the system and ‘be legal’ as she did. But she also experienced enough trauma in her own legal immigration experience that when Elena’s US born friend with an immigrant family needs help, she shows compassion. And Moreno’s storyline with Elena on the subject of makeup is one of the most touching storylines I’ve seen on any show in a long time.

If over the top humor is your thing, One Day at a Time doesn’t fail you. Penelope gets put in many of these situations, including one that sees her stuck in a doggie door. Machado plays the different situations well and always manages to stop just short of getting hysterical or out of control–but at the same time, I found these over the top situations to be the weak point of the show. It’s not that I have a problem with slapstick humor, it’s more that I don’t believe that there’s any likely situation in the world that would see any mother stuck in a doggie door. For slapstick over the top humor to work for me, it needs to be grounded in reality, like when Roseanne and Dan throw their furniture out on the front lawn. While it seems unlikely that something like that would happen, it is very funny to think about all the times in your life it could’ve happened. And of course, there’s always a few people here and there where it did happen. That’s what makes it funny. Situations like the doggie door or over the top characters like Schneider just don’t make sense to me. Why waste your time on a character or a situation that would never exist in real life? But having said that, I do recognize that some people like over the top humor exactly because it’d never happen in real life–so if that’s you, this series has that for you!

But even as I have mixed feelings about sitcom humor, One Day at a Time, for whatever weak points it may have, always comes back to the compassion and love of family. And it was during the times when Penelope and Lydia were fighting about taking the kids to church or Elena was worrying about how to come out that I found myself remembering the classic era of situation comedies when families (even my very messed up often violent family) would use the situations on particular shows to start conversations within their own families. What would you do if that was happening to you? What would I do in that situation? One Day at a Time invites us all to reflect from a position of compassion and love, even when somebody is doing something we don’t agree with.

The greatest honor to me was when my kids saw what Penelope did in the final scenes in the final show, and they turned me and said, ‘We know you’d do that too, Mami.’ Everybody knew that the situation and person that caused Penelope to have to do what she did was wrong, and the series doesn’t look away from that pain. But it focuses on the love. It focuses on the best in us, the stuff that has been there all along.

There’s a lot to be said about representation and finally seeing a Latino family sitcom. It allows us to imagine a new world, one that is defined by diversity of thinking and people–and that is important. But more so, shows like this also reflect to the world what is already here. And loving, political, kind Latino families are already here. We’ve been around for generations, laughing, crying, making mistakes, and surviving anyway just like everybody else.

A welcome reminder as we move into 2017.