Zeke blasting off from the high dive, which is actually a high platform.

We had the whole 660 acres of Camp Friendship almost to ourselves for three days. This would’ve been Zoe’s sixth summer at Camp Friendship, and it would’ve been our second summer of family camp there. Of course camp was canceled because of Covid-19, but we still had the opportunity to spend a few beautiful, sweaty, blissfully screen-free days in the hills of Central Virginia.

A family-owned summer staple since 1966, Camp Friendship counts on hundreds of campers each week of summer to stay in business. Without these campers, does camp even exist? Well, yes, if you bring your camping spirit. This summer Camp Friendship is renting out its cabins and inviting guests to enjoy the amenities of camp as long as they bring their own gear. The exceptions: you do not need to bring your own horse or kayak. Trail rides on some of the camp’s 68 gorgeous horses are available (for an additional fee), as are lessons from the camp’s resident tennis pro. The four of us went for a fun hour-long trail ride, led by Susanne (who runs the equestrian center there) and Caroline, who has worked with horses her entire life. Our patient horses were Frank (for Randy), Haley (for me), Secret (for Zoe), and Wilma (who was the perfect size for Zeke). Randy and Zeke took a tennis lesson (also an additional fee) with Alina, who runs the tennis program. I realized that the equestrian and tennis programs do provide an important stream of income for the camp year-round, as locals come to ride and play whether or not camp is in session.

My horse, Haley

Many of our hours at camp were spent in the lake, either swimming or kayaking. They open the lake for boating in the morning and swimming in the afternoon. You can also fish there as well. We actually borrowed fishing gear for the trip but the kids never got around to using it. I was reminded that I actually like kayaking, and that Zeke can actually do it on his own–although he did get kind of stuck in some bushes at the edge of the lake at one point, but Randy extracted him. Camp Director Ashleigh (originally from South Africa) and another camp staffer Amy (originally from England) were on lifeguard duty the whole time we were there, so we enjoyed chatting with them a lot. They (along with literally everyone at Camp Friendship) are super friendly and welcoming. Kayaks, canoes, paddles, life jackets, and inner tubes are all provided at the lake. They are sanitized between uses.

We brought a soccer ball and frisbee with us as well, but it was a wee bit hot and humid and we didn’t end up using them. (Note, the cabins are not air-conditioned. Bring fans. The showers, however, are glorious. I took several cold ones to refresh myself.) In between our activities we played a lot of cards (Speed is the official card game of Camp Friendship and Zoe loves to beat us at it) and board games (Randy and Zeke played infinite hands of Marvel Fluxx, and we all played Kings in the Corner and Apples to Apples), read our books, and napped. The only activity we hoped to do that we couldn’t was a hayride because it was thunder storming both evenings at sunset, when the hayrides are scheduled. We even bought a bag of apples and a bag of carrots to feed the horses who you encounter on the hayride, but we ended up leaving them at the equestrian center as a parting gift. After the rain cleared, we did get to make our s’mores over the fire pit outside our cabin. We were having some trouble getting the fire going, so we walked down to where the only other family in the village was staying (definitely socially distant, several hundred yards away) and asked for their advice, since we could see their roaring fire from our cabin. They clued us in to the technique of squirting hand sanitizer on paper towels and using that as accelerant. It worked! Yet another use of hand sanitizer!

Because of Covid, the camp is not providing food for cabin rentals, but they offered several suggestions of local restaurants and stores, some of which deliver to camp. As much as I didn’t want to go off camp property (it’s so liberating to walk around with no keys or wallet or phone!) I enjoyed exploring a little of the area around camp. In the town of Palmyra we picked up dinner from Wahoo BBQ, which was delicious. We also spotted a rainbow on our way and admired stunning groves of enormous trees along the road. In the other direction, in Troy, we got dinner from Crescent Inn, which served up fantastic fried flounder for me, with a side of sweet and crumbly cornbread. And in case you forget anything important, or need extra snacks (we brought MANY snacks), there is a grocery store and a CVS in Palmyra and a Walmart Super Center in Gordonsville, which is a mile or two up from Troy. So you have options. The camp store is also open a couple hours each day so you can stock up on ice for your cooler or buy some local products or pick up some Camp Friendship t-shirts as souvenirs. You can also bring your own food to cook over the fire, but that is an advanced level that I have not yet achieved. There are plenty of picnic tables around all the villages. Zoe wanted us to stay in junior girls (also known as Cedar Grove) because that’s where she has stayed as a camper for five years, and also because there is a covered pavilion, where we ate our meals and played games. Oh, there’s also a ping pong table there! And we played ping pong!

Cabin 12, our home away from home

Camp staff told us they will be continuing to do cabin rentals through December this year, and that they still have plenty of room! While we were there, only two or three other groups overlapped with us, and we had plenty of room to spread out.

I am not a camping sort of person, although I kind of wish I were and I have a lot of friends who are, but I do like being outside and away from regularly scheduled life (and the internet*). I love this option of being able to get away without having to set up and stay in a tent. The cabins are simple but comfortable. Camp Friendship is just a couple hours from DC, and about 30 minutes from Charlottesville so you can stop and pick up some bagels from Bodo’s on your way there or home.

So if you’re looking to get out of the house where you’ve spent more time in the past six months than is ideal, I recommend a few days at Camp Friendship. They will be delighted to see you.

*Note that there is wifi in a couple locations at Camp Friendship, if you really need it. I did stop outside the hotspots a couple times to get directions to the restaurants where we got takeout.

Can’t sleep. Finished the book I was reading. Did the NYT crossword. Checked Facebook and Instagram and found no breaking news. Earlier tonight when I was lying in bed reading, Randy went into the closet and came out with a button down shirt and khakis on hangers and hung them on our linen press. This was the first time he’s done that since March. I had forgotten that his office is reopening in phases and his group is eligible to go in this week. He was actually allowed to go in on Tuesday but he was coughing a little so the app that his company instructed employees to use to monitor their health advised him to call a doctor and wait until he was free of any symptoms for three days. The cough had disappeared by Tuesday night and the doctor said if no other symptoms developed (they didn’t), he was fine.

We discussed his plan to go into the office a few weeks ago when his company announced the system and precautions they were implementing. Randy and I agreed it might be worthwhile for him to go in and check things out and if he felt it was unsafe in any way he could just come home. Theoretically this would enable me to work in our home office again and reduce the number of zoom meetings and google hangouts I have to do from our bed or in the family room or dining room with kids asking questions or the Xbox making noise. It’s been way too hot to work in the backyard tent. And perhaps being in the office would enable Randy to have his own quiet time away from the kids and the noise of me having my meetings in the next room and just break up the monotony of never leaving the house except to check the mail. And the mail is usually junk anyway.

But now I am worried about him going into the office with people I don’t know. People outside our bubble. In a building whose ventilation system may it may not be good. This afternoon and evening I participated in three consecutive online meetings. During the first one, related to one of my clients, someone announced that she had heard from someone who worked at the Pentagon that the whole country was going to shut down for two weeks except for hospitals. While I doubt this was anything but wishful thinking that our government was suddenly going to take the coronavirus seriously and do something to save lives, the idea kind of freaked me out, if only because I imagined it would spark some sort of insurrection by the people who believe wearing masks infringes on their individual liberty.

The second video call was a school board meeting during which members of the public were invited to voice their opinions about the proposed learning models for the fall. Last month the school system announced that the options would be 100% distance learning and a hybrid of distance learning and two days a week of in-person school. Parents were asked to choose a model for their children by July 20. Then Tuesday they announced that everyone would do 100% distance learning until at least October or November and then some magic formula would be used to transition to the original plan. Everyone is freaking out about all this. I get it. No one knows what will happen. People want their kids and families to be safe. People want their kids’ and their lives to go back to “normal.” But there is no normal anymore. Teachers are pleading for a plan that doesn’t require them to choose between their health and their jobs. At the meeting tonight, the vast majority of testimonies were in favor of distance learning or another community-created plan. Many of the callers were teachers. Only a few people were in favor of full-time in-person school, which is what the Trump administration would prefer, despite the continued surge in cases nationwide and mounting evidence that Covid-19 does affect kids. I was relieved, at least, that the callers were all respectful and reasoned in their statements. This was in sharp contrast to the Facebook comments during Tuesday’s briefing from the superintendent where most parents came across as self-centered and entitled, not to mention rude and disrespectful. I sure wouldn’t want the job of school administrator right now. Under the best of circumstances it is impossible to please everyone, but now when everyone is traumatized and panicked, there’s a whole new level of demands.

Friends have been asking me what I think and what we’ve chosen for our kids and I repeat my mantra that I’m trying not to get too invested in the discussion because the only things that seem clear to me are that we have no control over the global health situation right now and that whatever happens with the schools may change a million times between now and September 8. I know how lucky we are that I have a flexible job and can take care of my kids as needed. I recognize that privilege. I also wish people would calm down. There are a lot of type A parents in Arlington who need to realize their kids will not fall behind when everyone in the universe is in this same position. I wish more parents were willing to think creatively about how we can make education different or better or innovative in some way instead of trying to make it normal or squeeze it into this box that had just been upended.

The third zoom meeting was, happily, a trivia night hosted by our martial arts studio, just as a fun way to keep the community connected. We were winning after the first half but sank to fifth place by the end thanks to some tricky questions about the periodic table and the meaning of Simba’s name. (Lion) Also we didn’t trust our instincts about plasma or Aaron Burr. But we had fun. EvolveAll’s general manager, Brian, played great music (from my youth, so zoe complained it was all old) while we conferred on answers to the questions, and we laughed. It’s a relief to laugh. So many of these days are so tense. The bad news is relentless. And even a few days back from our vacation it feels like we’ve been stuck inside forever.

The other night zoe and I drove to CVS after midnight to buy bug bites remedies because she couldn’t sleep from the itching—a souvenir of our recent trip. Based on the advice of friends via Facebook, I bought Benadryl cream, calamine lotion, and another tube of something promising to alleviate pain from a variety of bites. I like to cover the bases. We wandered the aisles while we were there just in case there were other things we needed, taking advantage of the completely empty store. Cheap thrills.

It’s been four months now. I’ve stopped counting the days. I stopped blogging every day because I lost momentum. I remember back in March when I thought we’d still be able to go away for spring break, and back in April when we felt sure things would be back to normal by summer. Now the only thing I’m sure of is that we have to get used to this, even though no one wants to and it is still hard. Every other ad on my Facebook feed is for a different style or design of face mask. That’s the cool new thing to buy now.

Last night when swallowing a pill, something went awry and I spent an hour struggling to dispel the intense pain in my chest. I was crying and spitting and trying to burp. It was ridiculous and horrible. Twice before I have gone to urgent care with chest pain only to hear that it was probably indigestion. My heart, thankfully, is fine. And I’ve had the occasional panic attack as well. I think last night the tablet irritating my esophagus might also have triggered the panic, as the anxiety is always there under the surface, just waiting for an excuse to bubble up.

I should try again to sleep. I could write 1,000 more words about the other minutiae from my day but I won’t. This day has already lasted 40 hours at least. Tomorrow is Friday, but what does Friday even mean anymore? I should try again to sleep.

Perhaps the ideal place to take a vacation during a pandemic is a town whose population is 636. While it made me slightly uneasy that the nearest convenience store–Big John’s, also a gas station and place to play Virginia lottery machines–was a 10-minute drive away, spending a week far removed from the densely populated county where we live was a relief.

Water View, Virginia is located in Middlesex County, where approximately 11,000 people enjoy the luxury of 211 square miles. Compare that with Arlington County, where approximately 237,000 people are packed into 26 square miles. The day after we arrived at our Airbnb rental, Zoe and I drove to Walmart to pick up grocery items we had forgotten to bring. The trip to Walmart–the nearest grocery store–took 30 minutes. Where I live in Arlington there are more than a dozen grocery stores within five miles, not to mention drugstores and 7-11s. I will note, however, that every single person in that Walmart was wearing a mask.

What we did see on our trip instead of throngs of people were lots of cornfields. And corn. And fields with other crops that I can’t identify because I am a city girl. And small white clapboard churches. And big, beautiful houses juxtaposed with trailer homes and abandoned school buses and the splintered husks of houses and stores that have seen better days.

The house where we were fortunate to stay for a week overlooked the Rappahannock River. The house is at the end of a long paved road with dirt roads branching off in different directions. Dogs wandered around the neighborhood. One friendly beagle, who locals told us was named Mabel although her tags just identified her owner, visited us nearly every day. Randy nicknamed her the Mayor of Middlesex. Mabel came up onto the front porch and we brought her water. She tried to come in the house but we nudged her back outside. Zeke and his cousin were excited whenever she came around and went running outside to pet her and run around with her until she decided to wander off somewhere.

On the morning when Zoe woke me up at 5 to walk down to the dock to watch the sun rise, which I am still amazed she did given her proclivity for sleeping in, we heard several roosters crowing to announce the dawn and several dogs–perhaps Mabel included–barking and howling in response. Watching the sun rise over the river was glorious. And when we turned around to go back to the house, a double rainbow was visible even though we hadn’t seen a drop of rain. At night, we could see more stars than seemed possible when you’re used to living in light pollution. Simply looking out at the expanse of grass, the trees, the water, and the sky every day was such an unexpected balm.

The kids spent most of their time happily splashing in the pool. They invented names for their original dives and slid down the waterslide. The boys made up elaborate games in and out of the pool involving Harry Potter and dragons and superpowers. They read comic books that I bought for them on that trip to Walmart, and drew pictures and ate snacks. My brother-in-law cooked delicious dinners every night and spent hours picking crabs he had bought from a fisherman just down the road from our house so we could eat them fresh. We relished the opportunity to play with my baby nephew, finding new ways to make him smile and laugh and watching him explore the world and discover new skills every day. We played games after the little kids were in bed, at least whoever among us hadn’t fallen asleep while putting the little kids to bed. We made tie-dye shirts and bandanas, which was messy and fun. My brother-in-law took the boys fishing and they were unexpectedly patient and they each caught a fish! We dealt with bug bites and a bee sting and some sunscreen that melted into our eyes but we were ok. We ate popsicles and drank wine. It was good to be away from here.

We saw more crashes, more cars immobile on the side of the road, some with drivers investigating a problem and some abandoned, during our 500 miles yesterday than I’ve ever seen on one trip. Every wreck seemed like an omen. At once a reminder to be careful driving this car that isn’t mine and a mixed metaphor for our civilization right now–either broken into pieces or stuck.

I was driving my kids back home from South Carolina after visiting someone who I love very much whose heart is failing. We left my parents there to spend more time. Some cousins and their kids were there too, in two houses, and several dogs. Zeke bonded with one of the black labs in particular. Zoe rekindled the friendship she had with one of her second cousins when they were little. We dismantled ancient scrapbooks and photo albums filled with pictures of our relatives and the occasional stranger. We read news clippings and heard stories about who these people were and what they did and how they lived. We wondered why people put so many terrible photographs in albums and gave thanks for digital cameras and vastly improved quality of prints. We reminded ourselves to label the photos with names, because someday our descendants will be looking at our photo books and their contents won’t be as obvious then as they are to us now.

So much of the conversation revolved around food. What would you like to eat? What do we need from the store? Can I make you a plate of something? Thank you for preparing this delicious meal. Are there snacks? What can I have that’s sweet? If you’re not going to finish that, I’ll have it. Refrigerators crammed with whatever you might want, and if whatever you might want isn’t in there, we’ll run to the store and get some.

CNN provided 24-hour Coronavirus coverage. We interrupted it to introduce my cousin to Queer Eye, with the episode about Mama Tammye. We drove back and forth on 2nd Loop Road between air-conditioned houses, between branches of the family, between lives going in different directions.

A couple years ago we received a secondhand copy of the board game Guess Who? It’s kind of like a visual version of 20 questions, where you try to be the first person to guess who your opponent’s person is by asking questions about facets of their appearance.

We’ve played it many times, although every time it comes out if the box I get irritated that so many of the characters are white men. Zeke agrees with me, and we’ve tossed around the idea of replacing the cartoon faces with images of people with a wider variety of characteristics. Tonight we finally did it.

We started yesterday by brainstorming a list of people to include. Zeke decided we should use famous people instead of people we know. That way it would be easy for us to find pictures of them online and other people besides us playing the game would know who the people are. Because of the current and crucial resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, activism, and awareness, and because this is Pride month, we decided to focus on Black and queer people, but we wanted to include lots of others too. I also wanted to make sure Zeke knew who the people were. So anyone I suggested who he couldn’t immediately identify, I shared the back story or showed him videos. I was slightly surprised that one of his nominations was George Floyd. I asked him, just to make sure, if he knew who George Floyd was. He told me that George Floyd was a man who was killed because a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. He understood that this murder was one of the reasons we’ve been making Black Lives Matters signs and reading anti-racist books.

Here are the new faces in our Guess Who? Remix.

Bobby Berk (we love Queer Eye)

Beyoncé (Queen Bey)

Simone Biles (best gymnast on earth right now)

Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)

John Boyega (Star Wars)

Karamo Brown (Queer Eye)

George Floyd

Tan France (Queer Eye)

Frida Kahlo (Zeke loves art and learning about artists and he recently studied Frida Kahlo and Yayoi Kusama)

Yayoi Kusama

Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)

Barack Obama (our favorite president)

Michelle Obama (our favorite first lady and so much more)

Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye)

Megan Rapinoe (we love US women’s soccer, and Rapinoe is amazing personally and professionally)

Taylor Swift (Zeke is almost as much of a Swiftie as his sister is)

Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars)

Jonathan Van Ness (Queer Eye)

Emma Watson (Harry Potter plus activism)

Jacqueline Woodson (author we all love and recently saw on The Brown Bookshelf’s Kid Lit Rally 4 Black Lives)

Letitia Wright (Black Panther)

Gene Luen Yang (author we recently discovered while watching The Brown Bookshelf’s Kid Lit Rally 4 Black Lives and Zeke devoured the first volume of The Secret Coders and I’m reading American Born Chinese)

Malala Yousafzai (role model for all of us)

Zendaya (Spiderman and Greatest Showman and so much more)

Zeke and I split up the list and found photos online of each person and cropped them to focus on the face. Just so you know, he is equally capable of doing this as I am. He only occasionally asked for help spelling people’s names. Autocomplete is a gift for a seven-year-old on Google. Then I dropped all the photos in a template on PicMonkey and added each person’s name. I had to print the collage out a few times to find the right size to go onto the cards in the game. We used the laminator my mom recently gave us to laminate the photos. Then I cut out three sets of the photos. Zeke glued one of the sets onto the cards from the blue game board. I glued the photos on the red cards and the yellow cards from which you draw your card for each round. I trimmed all the photos and maneuvered the red and blue ones back into the little slots on the game boards.

And there you have it. I realized near the end that we are missing one yellow card. So unfortunately Bobby Berk is floating around in the box without a card attached. I am hopeful that someone who has an old unused Guess Who? game in their basement can hook me up.


After I put Zeke to bed tonight, Zoe wanted to play our Guess Who? Remix. The first round we played the traditional way, just asking questions about obvious physical characteristics. Then I suggested we make it more challenging, and ask questions whose answers were not apparent. Turns out, this is harder and much more interesting. Questions like, “Does your person get up in front of crowds?” Or “Has your person written a book?” Or “Was your person born in America?” Sometimes we still ended up asking “Is your person female?” Or “Is your person gay?” Or “Is your person Black?” but we tried hard to go deeper. And we had to look up some information online to make sure we were answering accurately. I imagine tomorrow when I play with Zeke he will have a few more gaps in his in-depth knowledge of all the people, but he is curious and I think we will learn together.

Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn, and Juno sporting a chicken hat.

Tonight Randy, Zeke, and I watched Dar Williams perform one of the free, live-streamed living room concerts that have become a highlight of the past three months of quasi-quarantine for our family. When you watch one of these concerts on Facebook Live–the platform through which most of them are delivered–you can also read a steady stream of gratitude, requests, and memories, from other folks who are watching from all over the world. The comments can be a little distracting, but they also serve as a small reminder of the sense of community you feel when you see an artist perform live.

Dar said her set list tonight was put together by her manager Patty, who was celebrating her birthday. So I don’t know if it was Patty or Dar or both of them who were in a particularly contemplative mood when they decided on the songs. With one exception, what Dar played were among her most somber songs. I get it. We’re living in a serious moment. But it was a little surprising because the other live-from-home concerts we’ve seen have been a bit more buoyant and reminiscent of a regular live show in terms of the variety of music. Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn‘s Friday night Banjo House Lockdown tends to be particularly joyful and lighthearted as their sons–seven-year-old Juno and two-year-old Theo are often participants. Last week Juno jumped in front of the camera and began to dance, wearing a chicken hat, during one of the songs. Some of the Indigo Girls‘ shows from home were performances of entire albums. Similarly, Brandi Carlile is doing a series with her band where they perform each of her albums (tune in June 14 @ 9pm for Firewatcher’s Daughter).

During one of their livestreams, the Indigo Girls raised more than $200,000 for Honor the Earth, a nonprofit dedicated to Indigenous environmental issues. Brandi raised $100,000 for racial justice organizations in her first concert. She and her band have always been activists, and have their own foundation that supports people and communities. And Béla and Abigail have invited viewers to donate to a few different causes during their shows. So I was surprised when during Dar’s show tonight, a banner came across the screen that said something like, “Enjoying the show? Tips are appreciated,” and included a PayPal link. Dar also mentioned that a portion of the proceeds from the show would be given to vote.org. Dar is a good activist too. But it made me think that she must be struggling. She’s certainly a successful singer-songwriter, but not a household name. I don’t know much about what it takes for musicians to earn their livings. I definitely support them with ticket sales, buying merchandise, and buying and downloading albums, but my dollars aren’t going to pay anyone’s mortgage.

Going to hear live music has always been one of Randy’s and my favorite things to do, and we’ve missed the experience since the pandemic canceled everything. I’ve read how singing is a particularly effective way to spread Covid-19, so I have no idea what has to happen before we will be able to go to concerts again. But we have loved the intimate feeling of seeing musicians we love perform from their houses–seeing their dogs walk by and their kids dart through and just hearing what they have to say, knowing that they’re experiencing some of the same things we are. And hearing more of Dar’s sad and serious songs and knowing that she appreciates tips made me think the uncertainty of this time may be hitting her hard too.

I had a new hygienist–LaVon–at the dentist yesterday, who I will request from now on. I was in the chair for a long time because blah blah blah you don’t really want to know, but LaVon managed to make me feel at ease–as much as it’s possible to feel at ease in the dentist chair with someone poking around in your mouth–and not make me feel like problems with my gums are the result of a character flaw.

So last night after I brushed my teeth with the special high-powered toothpaste she gave me, using the new technique–more focused and gentle–she taught me, I ordered a new Sonicare toothbrush from Costco (LaVon said it’s much cheaper there) and a Waterpik water flosser from Target. I have been told to do these things before, but I haven’t. Who knows why? It’s expensive? It’s stressful to worry about your teeth? Buying oral hygiene equipment reinforces feelings of shame and guilt about decades-old failures to follow dentists’ and orthodontists’ intersections? Maybe all of the above and other factors I haven’t even explored. But at this particular moment, suddenly investing in a new toothbrush and a waterpik and soaking my night guard in denture cleaner seem appealing. Why? Because everything else in the world right now is uncertain and unknown and sometimes unreal.

What scientists and medical professionals know and think we know and don’t know about the Coronavirus and how to treat it and respond to it changes every day. I am learning about racism and anti-racism every day and realizing that many more people than I imagined don’t think racism exists. I am learning what defund the police means and how our communities could be so much better, but aren’t. Our educational system is a mess and I’m trying to imagine what will have to happen to renew my confidence in our schools. Not to mention our democracy is broken and many of our leaders seem to be corrupt, unstable, and lacking common decency and even the bare minimum of morality.

So putting more care into my oral hygiene seems easy by comparison. There are no philosophical debates or political ramifications. Just, hopefully, healthier gums.

This shelf includes some books we already had that I pulled from other bookshelves in the house and some of the new books I bought on recommendations of friends and booksellers.

At bedtime these days I am reading a book with Zeke called The Last Kids on Earth. The one we’re reading is the first in a series of six (so far) which has also been made into a show on Netflix. Normally I don’t go in for books about hordes of disgusting zombies and gigantic, stinky, oozy monsters, but 1) the writing is quite good and pretty funny and 2) every single night when I read with him I think, “at least we don’t have zombies and monsters in real life (yet)!”

The Last Kids on Earth was recommended by several parents in my recent quest to find new chapter books for Zeke since the library has been closed for several months and he’s read most of the books we our house. I ended up buying a lot of books, which should surprise no one. My approach to solving all problems is by reading.

This explains why I have also been dividing my book buying among independent book stores where I already shop (One More Page, Politics and Prose, and Solid State Books) and two Black-owned bookstores (Mahogany Books and Loyalty Bookstores) and Thrift Books, a used book website. I have been trying to buy less of everything from Amazon because of Jeff Bezos’ terrible labor practices. I would like to stop supporting Amazon entirely, but I’m not there yet. It’s really convenient. But I’m trying.

More of Zeke’s books. Some of these he’s read already. I had to move the Mo Willems and Dr. Seuss books into the hallway to make room.

The books I’ve bought from all these stores (online of course) include chapter books for Zeke, YA books for Zoe (and me), and a small library of books (for all ages) by Black authors and activists including fiction, history, memoir, and guidance on how to be an anti-racist. And of course I bought t-shirts from all the bookstores too, to feed my t-shirt habit. Don’t judge.

Some of the books I bought were recommended by or written by some of our favorite authors–Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jason Reynolds–who spoke during an online Black Lives Matter rally last Thursday night sponsored by the Brown Bookshelf. I think at this point I have perused every recommended reading list circulating on the internet. Our family is nothing if not broadly read. We have always read books that provide both mirrors (characters like us) and windows (characters who are different than us) but now seems like a good time to open more windows.


I have been hesitant to write lately because I am struggling with the idea that my voice is not what needs to be heard right now. On the one hand, there are other voices that should be elevated. On social media, I am working to do just that. On the other hand, I don’t think am being asked to silence myself. Am I? I don’t claim to be an expert on racism or on Black people’s experiences. I can only speak from my own experience as a white person and an ally. And I think it can be useful for me to speak up as an ally. But how much is the right amount to speak? And where and when?

Throughout many recent conversations with friends–most of whom are moms–a recurring theme is what is the right thing to do? What do we ask of our kids this summer? What is safe? What is worth the risk? When do we protest? When do we hold space? What will we do in the fall? How do we balance the needs for learning, safety, community, and justice? None of us have figured out the answers yet.

Zeke lettered two Black Lives Matter signs, but in the end he decided not to join us for the peaceful protest organized by our church. Zoe and I stood with almost 1,000 other people holding signs calling for justice and support for our Black siblings. People honked and waved and held their fists high as they drove by.

I am balancing the enormous looming threat of a police state, the murder of innocent people, the continued willful ignorance of people who insist on saying, “all lives matter” when no one was suggesting that theirs didn’t, with the mundane concerns of each passing moment.

Like the fact that I let Zeke bail on his knitting class this afternoon because he was getting frustrated and couldn’t catch up. I tried to step in an help but I couldn’t figure out how to cast the yarn on either, which is the whole reason he was taking a class instead of me teaching him how to knit.

And the fact that a few hours before he had passed his martial arts test to earn his next belt but only after so much freaking out and crying and refusing to do the test because he was scared he wouldn’t pass. His level of anxiety was way higher than I’ve seen it before, I am guessing because martial arts via zoom is hard to handle sometimes and because he feels the pressure to excel like his big sister the black belt. And perhaps because we’ve been talking about police brutality and innocent people being hurt and killed and he’s trying, like all of us, to process.

Of course knitting and a martial arts test seem trivial compared to what’s happening in the world right now and indeed what’s happening just a few miles east of where we live, where Trump just authorized police to use tear gas and rubber bullets to suddenly disperse a peacefully assembled crowd in broad daylight so he could hold up a bible in front of a church and decry “lawlessness.”

All kinds of ordinary and excruciating suffering is still happening. Outside of Covid-19 and institutional racism and white supremacy there are still people I love (and many I will never know) who are mourning, who are sick, who are lonely, who are depressed, who are struggling. And there are still ordinary joys—smiling babies and new puppies and kids riding bikes and people sharing what they have and holding each other up. And there are the tasks that always need to be done. Even in a revolution and a plague you have to make dinner and wash the dishes. It’s a lot. Holding all these things in your heart and your mind and your gut is a lot. For anyone.

This isn’t about me. We are living through a stressful, uncertain, and scary time. But I understand that for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color siblings, much of their experience living in this country is stressful, uncertain, and scary. I know that, as a white woman, I will never truly appreciate what that’s like. But I am committed to listening to, respecting, and amplifying other people’s truths. I am committed to learning about other people’s perspectives and experiences. I am committed to talking with other white people about why it matters to stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and that it is my obligation to become–and keep becoming–anti-racist and work to dismantle white supremacy culture and institutional racism. No one said this would be easy. Just like living as a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color isn’t easy. I will do the best I can to stand with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and to work for equity and justice, even when it’s hard.


I know there’s a lot you can read or watch about what’s happening right now in the world as the result of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other innocent people who were killed because of the color of their skin and our white supremacist society. I wanted to lift up a couple items that might help you understand if you’re having trouble.

Trevor Noah’s video: https://youtu.be/v4amCfVbA_c

Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-05-30/dont-understand-the-protests-what-youre-seeing-is-people-pushed-to-the-edge

Rachel Cargle’s Ted Talk: https://youtu.be/VgufOtRq488

Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

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