Archives for posts with tag: Compassion

An article about an eight year-old girl not being feminine enough is making the rounds of the internet this morning. Give the masses a little time to get outraged and we’ll see if it actually “goes viral”. Here’s a link to Huffington Post’s coverage if you haven’t seen it.

My first thought wasn’t, “how dare they”. Rather, I thought, “hey, that little tomboy looks me at that age”. She might have been my sister or cousin or tomboy best friend. The resemblance is uncanny:


Left: Me circa 1992. Right: Sunnie rockin’ a sweet Steeler t-shirt today.

As an eight year old I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin – a little chubby, a little nerdy – but I was not yet burdened by the paralyzing self-consciousness of adolescence. Dressing however I wanted eased that awkwardness. A haircut from the boy’s section of the stylist’s handbook. A favorite pair of stonewashed overalls rocked least once a week – despite a distinct lack of farm work. Spandex shorts and Mickey Mouse t-shirts worn with abandon. I was one comfortable kid.

To add to the similarities between Sunnie and I, all of this happened at a parochial school.

Even those uptight Catholic school administrators back in the day knew a tomboy was just a tomboy. They didn’t read into it. I wish this southern Christian school could do the same. Don’t make this girl’s haircut and clothing choices something more than they are. It’s hard enough being a kid. Navigating social landmines of the playground, learning to multiply, studying geography, deciding if you really like the Steelers or you just like that t-shirt. This kid doesn’t need a group of adults telling her that she is doing it all wrong.

Let’s try having a little goddamn compassion.

This little girl could grow up to be a doctor, a lawyer, a businesswoman, a soldier, a fashion designer, a professional poker player. She could be gay or straight or trans. We don’t know. I doubt she knows. Maybe in twenty years this little girl will look like a larger version of her current self – a short haired, sports lovin’ lady. Maybe she’ll be a goddamn swimsuit model. Maybe she’ll be both.

Right now, she is just a kid.

My tomboy phase never really ended but finding comfort there allowed me to become who I am today. I am most comfortable in jeans and a hoodie with my hair pulled back. This utilitarian style just make sense to me. On the other hand, I’ve also grown to enjoy getting gussied up:


Playing dress up isn’t just for kids.

In this day we can take what we want from each gender’s stereotype and make it our own. A dress today. Jeans tomorrow. Awesomeness forever. Even if some people are still catching up to this idea it sounds like Sunnie’s grandparents are already telling her this.

Hopefully their (our?) positivity can outweigh the school’s bigotry. Hopefully.


With students away on spring break the campus where I work is blissfully still. Halls quiet. Bathrooms clean. No line at the coffee shop. No need to dodge the ear-budded crowd who can’t look up from their phones and iPods even for a moment.

This also meant Woodstock the therapy chicken had some free time:


Yes, we have a therapy chicken. Woodstock is a part of the University’s “Pet Away Worry and Stress” (PAWS) program. She and a room full of patient dogs (who are mostly plotting ways to eat the aforementioned chicken) hangout here on campus for a few hours every Wednesday afternoon. The concept of this program melts my heart. Student who rarely look up at the world around them need this connection, a sweet, calm chicken and some lovelorn pups. A moment to step outside themselves.

The wife and I dutifully listened as Woodstock’s lookalike handler explained all things therapy chicken:


I’m listening in that picture, really, but I’m also wondering if the twinsies look is intentional. Did the lady choose the chicken because they have the same hair color? Did the chicken choose the lady? Is her hair permed to match Woodstock’s glorious fluff? Maybe it’s all natural. Maybe their pairing is fate. I pet Woodstock like I’m told, gently and down her back. We don’t know each other well enough for a head-rub. Then we’re on our way.

Not a bad way to end the work day.

Comedian, Laurie Kilmartin, is currently live-tweeting her father’s death. As vulgar as it might sound in concept, in practice it seems pretty amazing:


I can relate to this kind of gallows humor – a dark kind of humor that touches at a place of discomfort and recognition all at once. It’s uncomfortable because it’s familiar. Viscerally true. Humor doesn’t cover the grief. Humor allows one to sneak up on a difficult emotion before it has a chance to hide again.

I’m not on Twitter but projects like this make me think I should be. See more of Laurie Kilmartin’s wonderful madness here. But be warned:


Upon learning of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I felt a deep sadness. The kind of sadness that pulled like a weight through my chest. More emotion than I have a right to feel. Yet, I am not alone. Blogs and news sites and social media are awash with fans expressing their collective shock and grief.


Watching this outpouring I’ve come to understand something about why we grieve for celebrities, people who are strangers to most of us. We have a shared relationship with these people. My relationship to Hoffman was likely the same as yours. His acting moved us. Doubt rocked our conscience. Capote made us wonder if the real Truman Capote had been brought back to life. We have all lost that inspiration.

This grief is more accessible than a private tragedy.

I’ve long wanted to write about my own family’s struggle with grief. Two years ago we lost my step-father and aunt (ALS and breast cancer, respectively). Even now, I struggle to find the words. They were in their 50s, too young. Too fast. They were good people, amazing people. What am I supposed to say? How can I explain what they meant to me?

My relationship to and love for each of them was complicated. One I still struggle to understand and explain. Partially, I’ve learned, I keep this to myself because a hierarchy exists, even if that hierarchy is unspoken. My grief is different from that of my mother, brother, and uncle. Our grief is different from that of the extended family. Their grief is different than each circle beyond. In theory, grief diffuses.

With a celebrity we can grieve on an even plane. We can talk about grief without fear that we are feeling more or less than we should. We latch on to these celebrity deaths because we’ve been waiting to talk about death and grief and loss and life and longing.

So let’s talk. Grief should be shared.

Sarah Silverman is a genius. Her writing has always been thoughtful, with hidden gems of insight and humor that force you to pay attention. However, previous work has often given priority to shock value over the compassion. This new special has taken a delightful turn.


Here are some quotes from the show that I can’t resist sharing (I don’t care if it’s lazy blogging, these lines are brilliant, you’ll see):

-“We live in the greatest country in the world. A country where we have freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Only we don’t at all and nobody says anything because we’re used to it.”

-Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t but because it would have never occurred to them they couldn’t. You’re planning that seed in their heads. It’s like saying, “hey when you get in the shower I’m not going to read your diary.” “Are you going to read my diary?” “What are you crazy? I just said I’m not going to ready your diary, get in the shower.”

If you don’t have HBO, find a friend who does. Steal their HBO GO. Sneak into your neighbor’s apartment when they’re gone and watch their cable. Find a way. Watch this special. I’m pretty sure it will make you a better person.

There is a bar near our house, a burger joint really – I’ll leave out the name to protect the innocent. The bar is a classic dive. Cheap beer. Deliciously greasy burgers. Red vinyl booths. A single gruff but genial waitress working her ass off. We went to our sweet dive for dinner a few nights ago.

Walking in, I noticed something sitting on the ledge just beside the door: A 24-hour sober chip.

My heart sunk. A 24-hour chip sitting outside of a dive bar. I didn’t even know they made 24 hour chips. That must be for someone who really needs encouragement. Someone who is still working on the whole one-day-at-a-time part of things. Shit.

We went inside and grabbed a booth.

Not long after we ordered a family of seven came through the door. Kids with ipods, parents in pea coats: not the typical clientele of our sweet dive. The man of the family surveyed the room and saw a man of about sixty sitting alone in a booth. The family man asked the other man if he would mind moving to the bar. The man obliged.

The man picked up his paper and his beer and moved to the bar. This move lost him a clear view of the football game and a seat with a back. He didn’t seem to mind but the family didn’t seem grateful either. I felt an irritation with the family, probably greater than I am allowed. These little brats were coming into our neighborhood, our bar, disrupting this man’s nice evening. While that may not have been their intention it was clear they didn’t see the repercussions of their actions.

Worry not, dear reader. Someone (not the family) bought that kind man a beer for his troubles.

We’ve been talking about building a fire pit since we bought our house six months ago. Work and time and a wedding and sunny patios with cold beer got in the way. Then the leaves started to turn. Squirrels started burying walnuts in our flower pots. Our sensitive poodle got extra snuggly. Fall arrived.

It’s time for a fire.

The internets told us building our own simply fire pit wouldn’t be too hard – just fifty bucks and an hour or so. Today I learned the internet is always right. Always. We documented our adventure to prove it:

Step 1: Rip up the soil.


Step 2: Level the bricks and let the wife relocate a little worm because she is a wealth of compassion:


Step 3: Allow a toy poodle to inspect.


Step 4: Bask in the glory that is the finished product. Bask.


This is going to be a lovely fall.

Our little poodle was sick for the first time last week – trust me you don’t want to know the details. I took half a day off work to get these expensive pictures taken of her:


All clear. Even in black and white she’s adorable.

Whatever she ate off the sidewalk isn’t lodged inside her somewhere. She doesn’t have a tumor growing around her tiny little stomach. Whatever she has seems to be something akin to the dog stomach flu and she is recovering.

Still, I’m glad we went to the vet. That day, however, I was a bit conflicted. Should I really leave work for my dog? Am I that dog-mom? Then I was angry about being conflicted. For the time being, this little poodle is my baby. Hell yes I should leave work. What if she is bleeding internally? What if she ate something poisonous? What if she is about to explode!? She isn’t exactly a wolf in the wilderness, capable of caring for herself – despite what she may think.

I am grateful for a work schedule that makes taking a half day possible. I am grateful for a boss and coworkers who understand what it means to shift your life around a dog’s health. I didn’t expect to be this kind of pet owner but I can’t imagine being any other kind.

In my new job I spend most of my day sitting beside the same eight people. They are decent folks. They don’t smell. They don’t mind that I swear a little too often. We even have enough in common to keep the small talk from escalating into heated political debates (which seems like an extra plus this time of year).

Yet, as I near the one month mark, my patience has begun to run thin:

Nothing big. Just a laugh that lasts a little too long or a comment about my shoes that I can’t quite read or the speed they walk or their dumb faces. No, no, no. This can’t get out of control. I can’t be tired yet. So I breathe and smile and try to put it all in perspective. We’re lucky to have this job. All of us. It pays pretty well and 95% of the time it is only forty hours a week. That’s not bad. Plenty of time for TV and books and people I like outside those forty hours. I breathe and they laugh at my jokes and we’re ok.

Then again, maybe I’m just mad because this is what I packed for lunch today:

I’ll pack something better, something not so beige tomorrow. That ought to help.

Louie came to Minneapolis and 3,000 of us paid $45 to be in the same room with him.

Someday I will remember to bring my camera along. Sorry.

Holy shit do I love him. I laughed and smiled enough that my face hurt. That’s a damn fine hurt, let me tell you. His humor makes me feel good about the world and the humans that fill it. Even though we are assholes sometimes we can be good too. If a guy like Louie can see it, why can’t everyone?

Wait, maybe Louie is just a life coach disguised as a comedian.

I’m ok with that.

With the new job, it’s good to go out like this – something out of the ordinary and out of our neighborhood. The bar up the street won’t always cut it. Nor will the coffee shop or the park. Even a good fall TV lineup needs some variety. Now that I’ve settled into a real routine, I can see the value in getting out. Even when I’m tired or anti-social, two hours with Louie makes the difference.

Revolutionary, right?

%d bloggers like this: