Tag Archives: family

Home for the holiday is a little different this year

For Role/Reboot this week, I wrote about a little bit of a lot of things. A little bit of Christmas blues, a little bit of holiday traditions, a little bit of family drama. Last Christmas my brother and I had our first “grown up” argument about whether or not he’d be home for Christmas. I “won” the battle, but only on the condition that I wrap my head around the idea that our traditions will eventually evolve and I’m going to have to be okay with that.

This year, the chips have fallen as he predicted, and I can’t call in favors, beg/plead, cry and weasel my way into winning again. So… he won’t be home for Christmas. Now what? Given that this is the reality, and I feel as strongly as I do, it seemed worth exploring why I have SO MUCH attachment to this particular set of traditions. It has something to do with divorce, I think, and the desire of kids of divorce to preserve the most stable of traditions they have.



Related Post: Why I’m glad my parents chose joint custody.

Related Post: Massachusetts reconsiders its custody bias.

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Filed under Family, Republished!

The “Idiot Dad” Trope

It’s not new, the Idiot Dad TV trope. Remember Tim Allen in Home Improvement? Lately, I feel like we’re making leaps and bounds forward on the portrayal of fatherhood on screen (see Google ads and Up All Night), and simultaneously reverting to the most insulting, egregious examples (see Scott Baio in See Dad Run).

Check out my new piece for Role/Reboot on Baio, the shortcomings of focus groups, Huggies, and why you “can’t be what you can’t see.”

scott baio

Related Post: There’s no wrong way to make a family.

Related Post: How to accidentally raise a feminist daughter.


Filed under Advertising, Family, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Republished!

5 Steps

Step 1: Eat (Note the red tray in the middle, that’s “strawberry pretzel salad”)

Step 2: Eat pie (Note that this is 1/3 of the pie assortment)

Step 3: Digest. Get comfortable.

Step 4: Tell family stories and dig out old photos to match. That’s my grandfather in the top right, circa 1941.

Step 5: Bonfire

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Family Matters

My piece for Role/Reboot today was inspired by a bunch of things. You’ll see references to Toni Morrison (thanks Alex!), kudos aimed at a documentary called Uña y Carne, and some spectacularly dumb Mitt Romney quotes about family:

Related Post: There’s also no wrong way to have a body.

Related Post: A small world story.

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Filed under Family, Media, Republished!

Room to Room

Fire safety sticker

On Monday, I said goodbye to my childhood home. It will be several more weeks before my family vacates the house, but due to my insistence on living a thousand miles away, my farewells came early.

While the piles of trophies, books, photos, postcards, letters, movie ticket stubs (I’m a hoarder, after all), lay untouched and unsorted, I wandered around the house. Room to room, my eyes went past the furniture and accessories; those things will travel.

It was the paint color I wanted to remember, the moulding in the corner, the loose knobs on the doors. Those details are the ones we can’t cart away and recreate.

Height marks on the closet door

How many steps are there to my bedroom? What do the neighbors houses look like from each window? Where exactly does the sun fall on the carpet? Isn’t that where the cat used to stretch out for a nap?

After I finished my tour of the untransferable details, I looked for the ones that, though small enough to slip into boxes, wouldn’t be making the trip.


A row of seashells on the bathroom ledge. Height marks ticked into the whitewashed closet door. Three Zits cartoons haphazardly taped to my brothers’ wall; his name is Jeremy, too, and his clothes also smell. In his room, peeling and nearly transparent twenty years later, is the sticker that alerts the fire department to the presence of a child.

Obama love

In the kitchen, where the home phone used to live, there are more pictures of the Obama family than ours. “Well, they send me photos!” explains my mother.

Outside, overgrown with tiger lilies, there’s a small marker for the family cat. I tried to capture the precise angle of the adirondacks in the yard, wanting to remember exactly how they sat. The buoys hanging on the garage door, the birdhouse I painted ten years ago, the tiled steps my mom made that lead to the wood pile.

I took pictures from every angle I could think to take pictures. When I can’t remember exactly in what order the glass jars sat on the ledge, or the placement of the fire department sticker, or the deep teal of the bathroom, I’ll have something to bolster my memory.

Related Post: I get my hoarding from my father.

Related Post: My town + Amy Poehler


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MA Reconsiders Custody Bias

I have tangled with the Men’s Rights movement before, usually in the comments section of my Good Men Project articles. The most frustrating thing about that crew, besides their vitriolic hate speech towards feminists and the occasional personal insult, is that sometimes they are right.

There are gender biases that cut in all directions, and I don’t think it’s fair for feminists to argue that women always get the brunt of it. Most of the time? Yes (especially in these last trying months). But are there are occasions where men get screwed based on sex-based prejudice? Yes. Should we rectify those as well? Absolutely.

Massachusetts is putting together a task force to reconsider its child custody laws. From the Boston Globe:

“Advocates for custody reform aren’t going away; they are among the loudest and most persistent constituencies to lobby state government today. Their passion bespeaks a genuine need to examine the workings of family courts, and to determine whether some complaints about bias have merit. And while some shared-parenting advocates won’t be satisfied with anything less than joint custody in all cases, others have suggested smaller changes in law and practice that are worthy of discussion. These include tweaks in the language used in domestic relations cases – such as replacing the term “visitation’’ with “parenting time’’ – and changes in the restraining-order process that would encourage more healthy contact between parents and children.”

As the child of a less-than-amicable divorce but a successful joint-custody arrangement, I have strong feelings on the subject. I think the presumptive default should be joint custody, and then you work from there. I don’t think that one situation fits all families (and thus I would not be in favor of a mandated arrangement), but I do believe we need to begin with the assumption that both parents have equal access to and engagement with their children.

Part of my feminism is ceding the assumption that women are “naturally” better parents. Our culture favors caregiving for women and breadwinning for men in a myriad of de facto and de jure ways. We need to fix the legal double standards (i.e .provide parental leave across the board), and we need work to scrub the prejudice from judicial discretion as well. Beginning from a place of equality seems like a good start.

Do women request full custody more often then men? Yes. Will you still likely end up with more custody arrangements that favor the mother, probably yes. But, you will also end up with fewer disenfranchised fathers, and fewer “every other weekend” models, and fewer kids that view their dads as glorified babysitters instead of engaged parents.  Using gender as the launching point for a conversation about custody is unfair to dads, reinforces stereotypes about men and parenting, and deprives kids of seeing their fathers as primary caregivers.

Related Post: Dads in advertising.

Related Post: Dads, daughters and body image.


Filed under Family, Gender


Big thanks to the provider of this boa, which has left a pink and fluffy trail around Chicago

On Saturday, I celebrated what my roommate described as my platinum birthday. 24 on 2/4. These are the people for whom I am as grateful as any 24-year-old can be:

  • My mom. On 2/4/88, I was just a passenger, she did all the work.
  • My dad, who watched as my mom’s organs were lifted out of her one after another to clear a path for me, the emergency C-section. “You know that scene at the end of Braveheart? Yeah…. it was like that.”
  • My brother, who suggested we finish our Words with Friends game after midnight, because “no one should be a loser on their birthday.”
  • You awesome, amazing, brilliant, beautiful, coolest fucking friends in the world who a) shopped for edible glitter, b) baked a surprise cake, c) sent various Scrabble themed gifts, d) filled my fridge with booze, and e) brought your single, straight, male friends just in case I wanted to get laid. You guys rock so hard.

Cheesy birthday post? Check. Deal with it, as I was instructed to repeat all evening, “I’m the birthday girl!”

Related Post: The most self-aggrandizing post yet.

Related Post: Got a card from my grandma. She’s 83 and she remembers!

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Tigers and Grandparents

My godfather sends me stacks of post cards that he collects from gallery openings and art fairs. In college, they covered the wall above my extra-long twin, but now they sit in piles on my bookcase and bedside table. At the moment, this one is on top of the pile:

I just finished The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obreht’s tale of the Balkan wars told through grandfatherly fables and rustic superstition. It’s mostly about death, but also about the fuzzy lines between memory and myth, fact and fiction. Plus, there are a lot of tigers.

Besides the phrase “paroxysmal supplication,” which I felt compelled to say out loud, there was this line, “My backpack was on my knees, my grandfather’s belongings folded up inside. I wondered what they would look like without him: his watch, his wallet, his hat reduced by his absence to objects you could find at a flea market, in somebody’s attic.”

On Thursday, I saw a play called I Am Saying This Right Now, about how objects and sounds trigger and warp our memories. Audio tracks of conversations, music, and ambient noise were interspersed with monologues and short scenes about how narrow our recollection of past events really can be, and how our attempts to document can actually limit the breadth and depth of personal experience. I left the show thinking a lot about my grandparents, only one of whom is still alive.

In the interview with Obreht at the back of the book, she says, “When you’re growing up, the lives of your parents aren’t that fascinating, but there is this fascination with grandparents. Because of that great amount of time that has passed between their youth and yours, and the fact that they lived entire lives before you even got there, you can’t really deny their identity as individuals prior to your existence the way perhaps you can with your parents.”

Do you have have a day when the universe throws you half a dozen signals at once, all pointing to the fact that you should probably think about this theme or that question? I think I’m being told that I should probably call my grandmother.

Related Post: The art of the sentence, with Mary Karr.

Related Post: Bill Bryson on Pangaea.


Filed under Art, Books, Chicago, Family

Who Needs Santa?

Merry merry and all of that. I have returned from a snowless, but otherwise joyful, Christmas in Massachusetts. All traditions were observed with the proper decorum. These included, but were not limited to:

1. Cranberry Coffee Cake and Mimosas

2. N Sync for the Holidays

No joke… we listen to this every year and it is the shit. Plus, this video has both the worst frosted tips and the worst green-screening of all time.

3. The Two Family Christmas Relocation Program – All you joint custody kids know what I’m talking about.

4. Gingerbread Houses (Milk cartons covered with graham crackers, frosting and butt load of candy. There is no gingerbread involved).

Mine is the one with the car in the garage

There was even some half-assed Hannukah to be had. In my family, that involves arguing over which direction you light the candles, a butchered recitation of the Hannukah prayer led by the Hebrew expert of the family (me, HAH), and the reading of our sacred text, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. I do most of the reading up until the King of Goblins arrives, and then my dad jumps in because he really enjoys shouting. In Hershel, the King of the Goblins’ dialogue is written in all-caps, so you know he means business.

I’ve had some interesting conversations lately about which, if any, of the Santa myths I plan to perpetuate with my hypothetical children. It’s a question I’d never considered, despite being inordinately prone to considering how I will and won’t raise my hypothetical kids.

The jolly fat man stuff doesn’t strike me as an important holiday tradition to pass along, especially when I’ve got all this other outstanding stuff that’s actually unique to my family. Come on, N’Sync for the Holidays? Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins? Who needs Santa?

Related Post: I attempted to do most of my shopping at local businesses.

Related Post: More hypothetical musing on things that won’t happen for a real long time….


Filed under Books, Family

Happy Friday. You’re Welcome.

And just so there is no confusion… this is obviously, most definitely NOT my family. There will be no grandbabies for quite some time. Promise.

Related Post: New York legalizes gay marriage and I quietly celebrate in the back room of my Republican family’s house.

Related Post: If people didn’t sometimes think he was gay, Adam Levine would be doing it wrong.

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