My Silver Linings Playbook

Believing as I do that the words we use influence the way we experience the world, I have decided that rather than referring to this current situation as a “crisis” I will instead use the word “opportunity.”

I don’t mean to make light of what’s going on. My sunny outlook is entirely situational of course, and not in any way meant to downplay the very real and very serious impact of this pandemic: death, illness, sacrifice, extreme economic hardship, social isolation, anxiety, and more.

It’s just that for me and for many millions of others, doing our part to comply with stay-at-home orders means changing our expectations and our mindsets rather than enduring any actual hardship. Having to work from home, spend more time with my spouse and my cat, wear gloves and maintain social distancing, and watch a lot of Netflix isn’t exactly a crisis. It’s an opportunity.

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How Will the COVID Generation Be Remembered?

To paraphrase Shakespeare: Some are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some bungle greatness when it’s handed to them on a silver platter.

There’s no question: this is a scary time. In a worst-case scenario, millions of people across the globe could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s economy may be crushed, plunging us all into a dire situation. These are truly frightening thoughts. But it also presents us with an opportunity to step up into the moment and be great. To take personal responsibility for our actions and to look out for one another. To come together as a community at the local, regional, and global level. To make sacrifices. To show leadership. And to potentially save millions of lives.

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The Dread of Saying I’m a Stay-At-Home Mom

cookies cooling on a rack

Did you know that in some societies it’s considered impolite to ask someone what they do for a living: it’s looked on as a backdoor way of asking how much money they make or of sussing out their social status. Rude! But here in the US, “What do you do?” is a perfectly acceptable question, as harmless and as common as “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “Paper or plastic?”

“So, what do you do?” You probably get asked that question all the time.

And for most people the response is pretty straightforward. “I’m a teacher.” “I sell cars.” “I’m in retail.” “I own my own business.”

But I always dreaded the question. Especially when it came up in conversation with my husband’s colleagues or business associates, all of whom were accomplished professionals with equally-accomplished spouses. Because my response to their simple question was never well-received.

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How To Beat a Bully

Chinese Finger Trap

I get a knot in the pit of my stomach when I listen to the current occupant of the White House. The rambling incoherence is bad enough, but I really get dispirited from the taunting and the belittling and the name calling. And from the way his loyal followers and trusted advisers stand behind him and give him encouragement. It’s so ugly. So familiar. It evokes such visceral images of high school that I can practically feel the acne erupting.

If you mentally superimpose an image of a school cafeteria behind him when he speaks, Trump’s behavior becomes crystal clear: The school bully, emboldened by his minions standing behind him. They snigger when he mocks the kid with the disability. The pretty girlfriend at his side smiles her bloodless smile when he calls the smart girl names. They all laugh when he cracks a joke at someone else’s expense. They whoop and encourage him.

Around them, the other kids stand uncomfortably, looking down at their shoes, not wanting to say anything, because then the attacks will surely be turned on them. Better to stay quiet and safe. Out of the line of fire.

The bully isn’t the popular kid. No one actually likes him. But there will always be those kids who are broken enough inside that they’re willing to latch onto him. Sad, lonely, unhappy people who find a sense of belonging with other sad, lonely, unhappy people. They like the security that comes from being part of his crowd. And the bully draws his power from the ugliness that they feed back to him, like some perverse super-villain. Without them, his power would vanish.

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Much Ado About Learning

Shakespeare me

This year I’m participating in the Shakespeare 2020 Project, wherein members are challenged to read Shakespeare’s entire canon in one year. All 37 plays, 154 sonnets, plus poems, books and even a few things that he may not have actually written. So far, it’s going pretty well, but it’s early days yet.

Part of the fun of this experience (adventure?) (boondoggle?) is the distraction of discovering so many Shakespeare-related resources, recordings, productions, quotes, household products, t-shirts, and of course memes.

One quote in particular has stuck with me:

Compulsory Shakespeare gives a student as much love for literature as compulsory chapel gives them reverence for religion.

Isn’t that the truth.

In fact, when I mentioned to one of my friends that I would be spending (wasting?) (investing?) my entire year reading Shakespeare and that she might want to join me, she answered with an emphatic no! and went on to explain that she had been forced to study Shakespeare in high school and that it was such a bad experience — and it had made her feel like such a failure — that she has not and will never read anything he’d written ever again. Certainly, it’s fair to say, no love of literature was created there.

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The Women’s Movement: Success at What Cost?

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Walk through any neighborhood on a sunny afternoon and you feel like you’re walking through a ghost town. No children are riding bikes, playing ball, or climbing trees. No adults are chatting together over the hedge. Houses stand empty all day. Even in the evening, people are sequestered away inside.

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Kavanaugh Situation is the Teachable Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

Photo of 1985 DKE Fraternity

Are you one of the people who says kids today need to learn that their actions have consequences? That parents today need to stop bending over backwards to protect their children from the consequences of their behavior? Do you complain about the parent who calls their kid’s teacher to explain why Justin didn’t finish his book report, or tell stories about that mom who showed up at school with Emily’s warm coat that she accidentally left at home?

Or are you one of the people now saying that Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior shouldn’t matter: “It was a long time ago. It was high school. It’s not relevant.”

Because you don’t get to have it both ways.

Leave aside Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations about what happened the night of that party 30-odd years ago. That’s a different topic. But enough people who knew Kavanaugh at Georgetown Prep and at Yale have now come forward to say that he was a frequent heavy drinker and a partier. He was a member of DKE, a fraternity at Yale that was notorious for heavy drinking and misogynistic behavior. Former roommates, friends, and acquaintances have described him as belligerent and mean when drunk, have said that he was “frequently unusually drunk,” and have described other behavior that anyone who is familiar with the heavy drinking that goes on at high schools and college campuses easily recognizes.

And yes, it was a long time ago, but that behavior has consequences. Still. Now.

Responsible parents struggle to teach their teenagers to be careful: to use discretion and sense and to think before they act. Modern parents have also had to add the caution about being responsible about what their kids post and tweet. Be careful. Because your behavior could come back and haunt you.

The big threat is always that a potential employer might learn about your indiscretions and decide that you aren’t the kind of person they want working for them. Yes, employers can, do and should look back at your behavior and decide what it says about your character. Even when the employer is the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

This moment right here is the moment that parents need to point to to remind our kids that their actions have repercussions. If we excuse this behavior because it happened a long time ago we’re no better than the helicopter and lawnmower parents that we criticize. We need to let the chips fall where they may.

And that’s true no matter how you feel about the political ramifications of the nomination, regardless of whether you support the current administration or not.

This is where the rubber meats the road, folks. This is where everyone who ever criticized an overly-involved parent or said that Millennials or Gen Y or kids today need to learn that life is hard should now be saying “Sorry, Brett. You’re not hired.”