Five-Minute Friday: Lift

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

This week, my father would have turned 67, so he has been on my mind more than usual lately. With this prompt, I immediately thought back to a card he sent me, one that I easily recalled in the wake of his death. I no longer remember the occasion that prompted him to send it to me, but I wrote the text of the cover in a notebook I keep that contains clippings my father sent me over the years – Reflections of the Day from The Boston Globe, strange newspaper articles (“Princeton mulls ban on nude run” reads one headline).

The message from the card is this:

I did not have an easy road to travel, but every time I reached the point where trouble was so deep that I thought I could go no farther, someone came along to help me through the deepest drifts. I didn’t always know who these people were, but I always knew who sent them. – Jeanne Morris

I love living in Cincinnati. Moving here last year was one of my life’s better decisions, but living here also means I have less chances of encountering the people my dad has sent over the years to lift me up when I needed it.

My dad was a dentist, and as such, he had an extensive network of colleagues and patients. In the seven years since he’s been dead, I have had random people come up to me to tell me they do not know me, but they recognize me from the pictures in my dad’s office and need me to know what a wonderful guy/dentist/doting father he was. Such encounters always caught me off guard since they occurred in the places I least expected it – at my former school’s library during a new parent reception, in the produce aisle of the grocery store – but I always appreciated them for the gift they were. I didn’t know these people, but I knew who sent them.

This week of my dad’s birthday, I might need a little lift. I will be on the lookout.

Five-Minute Friday: Happy

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

As my summer winds down and I prepare to go back to the scheduled life of school, I thought this was a good week to get back into the 5-Minute Fridays, too. How fortuitous that the word is “happy” given that I have just had such a happy time off.

This week, I returned from a 7-day diversity leader training with an intense schedule. From 7:30 am until 9, 10, 11 pm, I participated in sessions with 55 other educators from across the country (and beyond). While I was happy to be there, that is not why I am including it in this post.

One of the videos we watched when discussing gender was this amazing poetry slam, “Pretty,” in which the poet includes a line that says the poem is “about women who will prowl thirty stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy.” (Warning: if you watch the clip, there is one use of the F-word.)

The slam is powerful, but upon listening to it, I felt relief that I am not one of those women. I DO know how to find fulfillment and wear joy.

Here is what makes me happy, in no particular order:

  • My family, especially when we are all in the same place
  • Knitting
  • Running
  • Kayaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Being quiet, enjoying the stillness
  • Coffee
  • Working to leave the world better than I found it
  • Ice cream
  • Time off to enjoy all of the above

At this new job that isn’t so new anymore, administrators have the month of July off. This perk was one of many that ultimately drove me to accept the position, and I have to say, I underestimated the power of having such a large chunk of time off to recharge, regroup, and restore my soul.

Will I return to work next week happy? Indeed.


Why I Took My Kids to a Hillary Clinton Rally (Twice) or Being the Person with Whom I’d Want to be Friends

As a college student in Los Angeles, I interned at a magazine and had the opportunity to interview Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn for their movie The Out-of-Towners. I declined because the interview conflicted with my British Literature course. I told my dad about this decision afterward, thinking he would be proud of me for aligning my priorities.

He was not.

In fact, I remember the conversation going like this:

“You had the option to meet Steve Martin and you chose British Literature?”


“A year from now, what do you think you will remember more, interviewing Steve Martin or whatever you did in class that day?”

“I would remember Steve Martin more than that particular class, yes,” I admitted. “BUT, I will also remember that I did not skip a single class throughout college.”

“Kirstin, who would you rather be friends with, someone who skipped Brit Lit to meet Steve Martin, or someone who had perfect attendance in college?”

Point taken.

That was 17 years ago.

Last week, I had that conversation in my head when I learned that Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were coming to Cincinnati for a rally today. I told Brendan and Avery about it when I got home, and Avery immediately assumed we would be going. I explained that it was a Monday morning, I had to work, she had cross country practice and a voice lesson that would conflict, and, to get in line at Cincinnati Museum Center prior to doors opening at 8:30, we’d have to leave the house super early. No summer mode.

But…who would I rather be friends with, someone who came to work late because she took her family to a political rally of her beloved hometown state’s senator and perhaps the first female president, or someone who showed up to work on time and told her daughter it would be easier just to watch the speeches online later?

The former, of course, which worked out well because Avery had already told her cross country coach she would not be at practice on Monday, foregoing her perfect attendance at summer conditioning to support Hillary.

I have been to only one other political rally in my lifetime, aimagend that was in New Hampshire with my family and mother-in-law in 2008, also in support of Hillary. I wanted my children’s earliest political memory to be supporting a woman’s bid for the White House so that this idea did not seem so ludicrous. I want them to grow up believing that they have an obligation to be political participants. I want them to hear about a local political rally and actually entertain the idea of going.

If you actively dislike Hillary, just aren’t a Clinton fan, and/or always vote Republican, I am glad you’re still reading, and I hope we can at least agree on the non-political premise that exposure – to ideas, people, experiences – opens up possibilities. By this statement, I mean it is difficult to imagine what hasn’t been, and therefore easier to continue the status quo.

McCainObamaTo give you a political anecdote to illustrate this premise, later in 2008, after Obama and McCain sealed their party’s nominations, Time magazine had both men on the cover. Avery, just 6 years old, pointed to Obama and said, “He can’t be president.”

When I asked why, she said matter-of-factly, “He doesn’t look like the other faces,” applying her Sesame Street logic of “which of these things is not like the other / which one of these things is not the same” to the rows of white men on her U.S. Presidents placemat.

Whatever you may think of Obama, I hope we can at least agree that he interrupted the pattern on that placemat, and my kids’ generation won’t discount the possibility of a nonwhite president just because that person does not look like the others.

Except, of course, if that person – white or not – is a she. That face still doesn’t fit.

To be clear, I am not voting for Hillary because she is a woman, though I am glad she is.

I am not voting for Hillary because she isn’t Donald Trump, though I am glad she isn’t.

I am not even voting for Hillary because she is a Democrat. I am a registered Independent because I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative, which even I will admit is a combination that doesn’t always play out well in practice.

So, again, to be clear, we did not go to the Hillary rally just because she is a female Democrat oIMG_20160627_080413pposing Donald Trump, though I do consider those descriptors all positives. We went to the Hillary rally to see politics in action and surround ourselves with active political participants…because exposure opens up possibilities.

In 17 years, I hope my kids remember the college student in line in front of us, attending with her grandparents. I hope they recall the Jewish mom standing next to us wearing a Hillary shirt in Hebrew, four kids under 10 sitting at her feet. I hope they think about the trio of elderly women in front of us, for whom standing in that crowd, in that heat, must have been difficult, but they deemed it important. I hope they recollect the men in crowd – the father with his teenage son who must have gotten there before 7 am to get a front row spot, the tall gentleman behind us who kept encouraging Clinton to name Warren as her VP. I hope they reminisce about Brendan’s comment that booing at Trump’s name is childish.

But mostly I hope they reflect on this experience and call to mind two obser20160627_091836vations:

  1. The tone, combined with the diverse crowd of young, old, Muslim, Jewish, White, Black, gay, and straight, truly demonstrated the campaign’s slogan of being Stronger Together.
  2. Women can build each other up and make those around them feel hopeful, as the two female political heavyweights spent their time on stage doing.

For sure, these are the people with whom I’d want to be friends.

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