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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.

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