Emily Dickinson is timeless. So many of her words are still relevant today, and I find that her poems often speak to me as though they were written today. Here are a few Dickinson poems that every American woman should read. Right now.
The past several weeks, it feels like everything has been spinning at me from every direction - I've felt totally out of control, and I'm a person who likes to have control. As I've tried a whole variety of things to calm myself down, one thing really helped. Disney. Really! More than yoga or binge eating junkfood, Disney has been my happy place the past few days.
by Liz Richards (writer)
These silly, sappy cartoons from childhood really have been like old forgotten friends this week.
Maybe it's an emotional release, to laugh and cry at the frivolous little cartoons.
Maybe it's nostalgia, singling along to songs that shaped me.
Maybe it's just nice to get caught up in old familiar storylines.
But this has been a crucial part of my self care this week, so there must be something to this Disney therapy! Even if it's not Disney, you should do something silly and familiar and fun this week. It'll help, I promise.
Here are a handful of my favorite Disney moments:
1) This classic Steamboat Willie sketch that makes me giggle every time!
2) This will always be my jam:
It's also worth revisiting "Colors of the Wind" - still incredibly beautiful and heartbreakingly relevant right now.
3) "Be Our Guest" because obviously.
4) Any part of The Little Mermaid because Ariel is best.
5) The "Hi Ho Song" from Snow White because Grumpy has my heart.
I don't know about you, but it was really hard to pick my favorite Disney moments. I could watch them forever! And they help.
No matter how old I get, I can always learn from these characters, my first imaginary friends. And they're always there to make me laugh, pick me up when I'm down, and get me right back on my feet with just a little song.
Find your happy, find your silly. Be unapologetically nostalgic and childish in times like these, if only for the span of a cartoon.
I think, if we have a little imagination and relearn the things that Disney taught us, we might be okay after all. Maybe there's something there.
After the Women's March in DC, I was more energized than I'd ever been before. I was optimistic and ready to go. Then my roommate and I got back to our tiny NYC apartment Sunday and she found a bedbug in her room, "alternative facts" became a trending meme on the internet, and #45 began a daily assault on American civil liberties that doesn't show signs of letting up.
There are a lot of stressors out there, and there's a lot of work to do. If you're like me, you've been feeling overwhelmed. Here are five things that helped:
by Liz Richards (writer)
1) Finishing a good book, namelyAmericanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie has emerged over the last few years as one of the premiere feminist writers of our time, and for good reason. Americanah was such a needed and enjoyable read for me at this moment because it embraces immigration as a specific, human experience. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in these conversations about immigration and human rights that they seem like sweeping, abstract topics. This novel grounded me in the personal, the very nuanced details of a very human story in the context of bigger political and racial talking points, and that kind of human moment - that could only be captured in a well-written novel - helped bring it home.
2) The app Countable, which is quickly establishing itself as the millennial answer to citizen engagement in politics. While I don't suggest anyone get their news from an app, I've found it to be a reliable and welcome resource this week. The app links you with your senators and district representative and gives you their contact info - you can email them directly from the app, but please note of course that calling reps is always better (because that way you're harder to ignore). It also turns political dialogue into an interactive and easily digestible game. Countable highlights the day's top issues, asks for feedback in the form of a "yay" or "nay" vote, and runs articles about the top congressional issues of the day/week. Easy to chew, not by any means exhaustive, but a nonetheless useful resource.
3) Starting a new binge-able book, My Life on the Roadby Gloria Steinem. Steinem's relatively new (2015) memoir highlights less of typical memoir experiences, and more of her countless interactions with others on campuses, in taxis, airplanes, and conventions across a lifetime of traveling and starting conversations. I've found it incredibly valuable this week to this picture of America put out before me - a picture where people with interests that both compliment and conflict with the author's want to work together to achieve what is best for the country as a whole and keep a dialogue open.
4) Attending a community organizing meeting in my neighborhood. I've popped by this meeting, primarily just to listen, at least every two or three weeks since the election. This particular group focuses on peaceful protest and civil disobedience and their ultimate objectives include criminal justice reform and eliminating police brutality against people of color and people with disabilities. Most of these people don't look like me, don't share my background, and are more radicalized than I am. Listening to what they have to say teaches me that there is an entire demographic that I have never been exposed to and don't know much about, because my experience was designed to exclude them. I felt like skipping this week's meeting because I was so down, but at the last minute felt compelled to attend. Even if some of the things that were said didn't totally resonate with my experience, they opened me up just a little bit to a new way of looking at things. New perspectives and more listening are not only essential right now for the sake of minorities and preserving civil rights, but opening our own minds and hearts a little bit at a time.
5) Binge watching Black-ish on Hulu. I've seen episodes here or there, but never sat down and watched this show before. Lawrence Fishburne appeared on The Daily Show Thursday night to talk about his role as Mandela on the BET mini-series "Madiba" and his other role as the patriarch on the popular ABC sitcom. Fishburne and Trevor Noah has a conversation about what makes the show successful. It's a funny, light-hearted sitcom that is of course saturated in mainstream American perspectives, but it does something pretty new. It opens the floor for conversations about race in America, cultural identity, class mobility, womanhood, and notions of "maleness" in American families. It's a show that I don't would have been successful even ten years sooner, and that's progress. It's important right now to see that.
These things helped. They fix anything, they didn't change the reality I lived in, but they were a necessary part of my self-care this week. Reading, watching, listening, engaging - not to antagonizers but in an open dialogue - is how we grow. These methods are how we heal, they're how we know we're not alone in what we're thinking and feeling, they're how we understand what others are thinking and feeling, and that community and togetherness is so very necessary right now. We don't rise alone, we can't. We have to nurture one another. We rise, together.
7) The Women Thrive Alliance, which sparked sister marches in various countries including Nigeria, Tanzania, Haiti, Zimbabwe.
8) This sign that pretty much sums it up:
9) This personal anecdote: Shout out to our Uber driver, who let five of us pile illegally into his much-too-small-for-all-of-us and much-too-clean-for-muddy-sweaty-grungy-marchers Kia Sorrento. Before picking us up at the end of a long day, he drove his wife to the march, took an elderly couple who had traveled all the way from Colorado all the way into the city, then picked us up and drove us a half hour out of his way home and spent the whole trip thanking us for what we were doing. You're the real MVP. You're why we marched.
10) The 10,000 marchers who gathered at the birthplace of women's rights, Seneca Falls, NY.
There are so many more amazing moments from the marches around the globe. These are just a few that stuck out and that might keep you moving when things get tough.
And if you're ever stumped for what to do next or looking for something extra, check out the Women's March website for their 10 Actions/100 Days.
The latest round of political mudslinging has to do with referring to the other side and "in a bubble" and all it really does is solidify our own "bubbles" and biases.
by Liz Richards (writer)
What does it mean to exactly, to “live in a bubble?”
It’s not a new term exactly, but it was thrown around in full force after the election in November, and I’ve been hearing it again this week.
I’ve heard that people who live in cities on the coasts live in bubbles, that we’re out of touch with “real America” and that’s why we lost the vote and why we’re so surprised.
I’ve heard that people living in rural counties live in bubbles, that that’s the only reason they could support someone formally endorsed by the KKK, that because they’ve never had to build relationships with people with color, trans people, gay people, and Muslim people, that they are not representative of the “real America.”
What’s the answer? We all live in bubbles to a certain extent. We carry our own prejudices and it’s impossible for us to live outside our own experiences. But we have to spend more time listening, really listening.
It’s as though we’ve gotten so used to outputting information, to giving feedback, to throwing our own voices into the mix that we’ve forgotten that half of what communication is is taking in another side, hearing what other people have to say.
Every Friday, my office does a catered lunch for all our staff. We gather in the kitchen, someone puts something on the kitchen TV, and we have a nice little break. My boss is a nice guy, not at all political. He was a smart kid who had unexpected success early on, accumulated a lot of wealth very quickly, and went from a staff of less then 10 to over 100 in less than two years.
This past Friday, he insisted that we put the inauguration on. I told him that I was uncomfortable, that a lot of people in the office were uncomfortable, and he cracked a couple of jokes and put it on anyway.
He owns the company, so it’s his prerogative to put what he wants on the TV. But as I looked around, I realized that I was not the only one feeling sick. Coworkers were visibly uncomfortable, two of our writers ate with their heads down and everyone got in and out of the kitchen as quickly as they could. It did the complete opposite of what our office lunches are supposed to do.
My boss told me that whether I liked it or not, it was still happening, and that I shouldn’t “bury my head in the sand.” I can’t get over that comment. Before the election, I might have had my head buried in the sand, but for the last two months, I’ve been reading as much as I can about human rights, by people of color, by and about women. I’ve volunteered more in the last two months than in the first 26 years of my life. I’ve attended people’s action groups where the views don’t align with my own so that I can better understand what America looks like. And the fact that this nice guy couldn’t look around the room and see that he was imposing his world on other people, that he hired me to maintain a fun and inclusive office culture but couldn’t look around the kitchen and see that his employees were in pain, stuns me. He couldn’t pop his bubble, but all he could focus on was mine.
So what’s the answer? In his mind, I was being ignorant and trying to overlook the facts of the election and inauguration of Donald Trump. My boss is a businessman, and he’s in the business of digital media. He equates “tuning in” with knowing, believes that seeing an event “live” is the way that we corroborate our place in history. In my mind, he was being ignorant of the view of half the company, making our writers and creative team unnecessarily anxious, and in a small way eroding the culture of openness and inclusivity that he hired me to maintain.
Let’s not operate on the notion that bubbles are regional, or that conservatives and liberals do everything that they do to ignore or demonize the other side. All informed concerns are legitimate, all of us have biases, but we’ve let those biases get too loud, do the talking for us.
Before acting, let’s look around the room and gauge the effects of our actions. Before we get angry at someone, let’s try to assess their motivations. Let’s unplug, stop “liking,” and close our mouths once in a while. Let’s pop our own bubbles.
An affirmation for the holidays, for gathering strength for the new year, and for loving one another and ourselves.
by Liz Richards
Holidays are for the ones we love. Luckily, that will never change.
Our loved ones aren't perfect, and neither are we.
This past year has been a trying one, and too often divisive.
The new year ahead will be filled with plenty of its own tribulations. There's plenty of fighting ahead. Fighting to understand, fighting for what's right, fighting for one another, fighting for the people fighting against us. The new year is for moving, the new year is for action.
But this week is for pausing, for surrounding ourselves with as much love as we can and and being more present than we ever have been.
This week is for rebirth, rejuvenation. There's a long road ahead, so let's take this week and catch our breath, refresh.
Every belly laugh is a victory.
Every shared meal is a success.
Every kind gesture, among relatives, among strangers,and toward ourselves is an affirmation that love always wins.
Pour some eggnog. Bite into a freshly baked cookie.
Laugh and love even if it hurts. Especially then.
There's strength in homemade French toast. There's all of the support we need in family holiday traditions.
We have everything we need to make the new year as bright as it can be from all of the memories we build around us.
Reading certain poems is just magic. Hearing them is even better. By Liz Richards
I don't know what it is about this poem, but I could read it over and over. I have the pocket-sized edition of Howl and Other Poems. Flipping its small, slightly sticky pages is always satisfying. Whether I need a pick-me-up when I'm feeling sad or grab it just because, Howl is always there for me.
It's comforting, the way that only a favorite poem and a cup of hot tea can be. Blankets and favorite mugs, all snuggled up with my favorite words. The rhythm of the verses has the perfect motion to set my mind at ease.
But the thing about Howl that's really great is that it's a totally different experience depending on whether you read it or if you listen to it. Spoken poetry is an art, when done well it's a totally different from looking at the page.
And hearing Allen Ginsberg read his signature poem just gets me every time. His inflection, the power and passion in his voice, I don't know what it is. It always gets me. It's my happy place.
We've lost so many legends this year, so many incredible cultural forces who have touched our lives on a personal level and made us who we are. Some have hurt more than others, and I think we all have at least one that's really knocked us down. 2016 seems determined to play for keeps, even at the end.
The year has been bookended by the loss of two spacemen who I know have shaped me, but also all of us. David Bowie was imagination incarnate. He represented all our our possibilities, a limitlessness that allowed us to our individual potential, in a world where space and spiders and sensuality where all on the table.
John Glenn operated in a much more tangible world, but he too showed us exactly what we are capable of attaining.The first American to orbit the world, a lifelong senator and one-time presidential contender, the oldest human ever in outer space (at 77 years old!) and a man who had a current pilot's license into his 90s, John Glenn was everything that we know we can be.
There's no doubt that John Glenn fits the standard American narrative, in fact he is the American narrative. A young Ohio boy turned World War II hero who went on to be an astronaut and then a politician. He was as apple pie as they come. But he had guts and ambition that not many can match, that's what makes an astronaut. But more than that, he seemed to genuinely want to help people, to make the world a better place, and he didn't take his achievements for granted. That's what really makes an astronaut, that's what made John Glenn so special.
He's given the last sixty years of Americans something to aspire to, something to emulate. I don't know much about John Glenn the person, his personal life or how he interacted with the people closest to him. But I know what he stood for. I know that he was the original Buzz Lightyear, a new age cowboy, one of the ultimate American heroes. Because he was brave, but still humble, and spent his life fighting for others even after he achieved greatness, I know that I'm capable of the same.
We need a whole new generation to step up and be brave, but still humble. And we need to fight for others more than fiercely than ever. Our achievements are important, but now only to the extent that we lift each other up. Where David Bowie showed us our individual potential, showed us just what we could do on our own with imagination and self-expression, John Glenn showed us what we can do for each other. A large part of me is devastated to see them both go, in a year where the blows keep coming.
But I am grateful for their influence, proud that they are my heroes. John Glenn was a real fireball, boy, that's for sure. He gave us both something to dream about and something to aspire to. He led by example, set the bar higher than it's ever been set before. He shot for outer space, so that we all might land among the stars.
As we drove I sat in the back seat of the car, since my mother sat up front in the passenger seat. Throw my open window the breeze blew fast and warm against my vibrating skin. Hair flew all about in the warm summer wind and I was content. Pasture after pasture blew by – cows and horses grazing, milling about without any speed, no determination, nowhere they had to be. Green fields flew by, one after another, sometimes with a farmer sat upon a tall, big red plow with an orange triangle on the back. Sometimes the pastures were empty of life, save the neatly lined rows of fresh food growing from the earth – cabbages, onions, corn. The sweet smell of manure wafted in through the windows of the car. My mother and I yelled “Pew!” but there was a sweet quality to the smell, a tender green kind of smell that told us here was life, here was cycle of sustenance. Long drives through farmers’ fields show us that our food is prepared with love, that we are connected to our food and the soil that yields it. Farmlands are a different kind of home, more simple, more tangible, and certainly more real. We turned onto Gonna Crash hill and performed the necessary ritual, squealing with glee and then slowing the car, my dad making the left hand turn and unstopping the gate. We pulled in slowly in case there were any deer. We were the first ones there. Out of the car we piled, we three. My dad set up came and I wandered off to my tree, where I could still hear voices, so I knew when to turn around and come back in to greet the rest of our family.
The clearing in the woods filled with cars and Bob was beside himself with joy. He was a little bit drunk of course, dancing without music in this gray tarry cloth shorts, but since this was a celebration nobody seemed to mind. In fact, before long, Greg and Doug had caught right up to him. Everyone was happy that day. I played with all of my cousins for the first time. Diana and Gil got along and Clif even cracked some jokes. The men were drunk and happy. Aunt Jackie was luminous in her yoga pants and bandana. We turned over every rock looking for crayfish. Aunt Jackie’s son, Colin, ever a troublemaker got pinched while he was poking one with a stick.
A short story about about family camping trips and special places.
by Liz Richards (writer)
We laughed and played and explored all week long. There were pockets in the wood and creek that I had never known about, special secret places that I discovered with my cousins. The sun was bright and hot that week, the creek felt like bathwater, so we all piled into the deep zone for bath time with our bathing suits on, splashing one another and dunking each other and skipping stones. I never could get the spin just right. Every stone I skipped had more of a plop, hitting the surface with a heavy blow and sinking down to the bottom instantaneously. But I gave it my all.
There was no judgment that week, no anger. My dad was so happy to be surrounded by his entire family. Really, we all were. The land transformed us into a family. There was a magic in Meadowbrook that helped us to completely suspend our reservations, our fears, our real lives and everything that we were supposed to be in the outside world. Maybe it was escapism, just the simple gift of being apart from society in our own little tightly knit community of genes, all in one place for the first time. But I really don’t think that it was quite that simple. It wasn’t as though we were pretending that our lives outside did not exist, or that we were hiding from any of our insecurities or the stigmas of what were supposed to be.
We were stronger when we were climbing trees. Each of us had a stronger sense of direction when we got lost in the woods and had to find our way back to camp. Looking back, the creek water was not the cleanest, but swimming and bathing in the creek, we came out purified, cleaner than we had ever been. There was magic in Meadowbrook. We all felt it. No matter who we were or what our lives brought us out there in the world, within those thirteen acres we were better, and we were totally free to be ourselves.
Tomorrow is election day - finally! Most of us, even those of us who generally are election junkies, are just relieved to see that it's finally here. But it's not enough to wait out the day. This is it. For nearly two years we've been listening to what the candidates have to say, and tomorrow is our day to speak. The choices we make tomorrow will determine how we approach the next two or four years, but they'll also set the tone for the kind of world we want to live in.
by Liz Richards (writer)
The best thing that we can do tomorrow is vote, but we have to know what we're voting for. I think at this point, the big ticket is probably pretty clear and most of us are decidedly on one side or the other. But the president isn't the only one on the ballot tomorrow, and the choices we make in local government will carry just as much weight.
It's difficult to know who to vote for. We have to really look and educate ourselves when it comes to who's running locally. Yes, that is our civic duty, and yes, we all should be grateful for the privilege of educating ourselves, but let's be honest. It's a pain in the butt to do all that digging, and a lot of us don't even know where to look. Wouldn't it be great if we all just got an email with an outline of who everyone was and what they stood for?
And then there's the added conflict that voting wisely doesn't always mean voting for who you want to win. Robin Laverne Wilson, New York State Green Party nominee, might be my actual girl crush. I love the idea of voting for the underdog, for the fierce lady who stands for the environmental and social justice issues that are close to my heart, someone genuinely grassroots who is running not to bank a career on politics but to make an actual change. I don't like Democratic nominee Chuck Shumer,who might be the actual antithesis to that.
But Democrats this year have a very real chance to regain Congress. Let's be real. A Democratic majority (potentially with Bernie Sanders at the helm) together with a Clinton-led administration and a ninth Supreme Court judge of her choice is the most efficient way to push through environmental and social justice issues. So when it comes to senators, I may have to bite the bullet and vote for the guy I don't like, so that I can have the administration we need.
The information we need to vote isn't typically packed neatly in one place. Except this week, when Facebook comes to the rescue! If you have any questions at all about who's running, or simply want to see all of the options in one place, Facebook has you covered. For the past week or so, they've had a great link to each of the candidates, their website, and posts they've made on social media.
This is such a cool tool. Whether you're totally undecided, fully committed, or somewhere in between - whether you're not sure who/what's on the ballot or you've never been more ready - it's so great to have all of the candidates and a summary of their platforms in one place.
There's so much banter and background noise around this Election Day that it's hard to find resources to be fully educated. Here is an awesome overview right at our fingertips.