A Revolution of Kindness

A few days prior to the election, a friend added me to a secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation. As the name implies, the page is filled with messages of love and support for our favorite pantsuit-wearing presidential candidate. When I was added, the group was already around 900,000 members strong. All different ages, all diverse voices, all with their own stories, from all over the world. I spent the days leading up to the election reading posts on the page from inspiring men and women. They wrote about their lives and their votes and their wishes and dreams for our nation.

By election day, the Pantsuit Nation Facebook page had swelled to more than 3.5 million members, many of whom had donned pantsuits on their way to cast their ballot. Images of men and women and mothers and grandmothers and sons and fathers and daughters – all doing something so historic – filled the page. It was unbelievably exciting and promising. That day was filled with so much hope.

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Backyard sunset on November 9. Accurate representation of a country on fire.

In the days after the election, my attention alternated between streaming CNN, reading the racist comments of strangers on Facebook, and navigating the terror of Twitter feeds predicting end times. I could not look away from any of it. My shock and grief rendered me incapable of turning any of it off.

Eventually, I was compelled to leave the house. I needed to procure food for my family and I was also expected at work. I mean, I knew that life had to go on but it felt like it shouldn’t go on. Like we should just all freeze in place, life paused, taking in the gravity of the situation. I was just so emotionally raw. It was like my disappointment had manifested itself physically. I was sensitive to the touch and facing the world – the world that elected him – made my heart hurt.

It also made me suspicious. I headed to pick up some essentials at Target and found myself wandering and wondering at the same time. Did that person vote for him? Did that one? Where are the people that didn’t vote for him? The people that didn’t want any of this? They’re here, too, right?

I headed to the checkout with a cart filled with some supplies for my family and not an insignificant amount of wine for myself. As I, comically, loaded bottle after bottle on to the conveyor belt, the woman in front of me turned and we made eye contact. As I plopped the last bottle down, I looked at her and said, “It’s been a rough few days.”

“It really has,” she said, her eyes welling with tears.

We chatted for a couple of minutes and when she had paid for her things and grabbed her bags, she turned to me and said, “I hope you have a really good rest of your day.” I wished her the same.

It was instantly comforting. The gentleness. The shared sorrow.

It was the “revolution of kindness,” my friend, Jill, had prescribed the day after the election.

On my way out of the store, I had to make a quick return and when I stepped up to the counter, I noticed the employee helping me was wearing a safety pin on her shirt, a symbol of solidarity and refuge that had emerged in the first few days post-election. While I was standing there, another employee walked up and asked if there were any more of “those safety pins” and if she could have one. As the team lead at returns handed one to the employee, she asked if anyone else in line would like one and I mentioned that it was the first thing I had noticed on her shirt. She quickly explained that it wasn’t something “official” that Target was doing but just something she had wanted to do. I voiced my appreciation as she handed me a pin.

It was instantly comforting. The safety. The shared resolve.

Then, as I was standing in line at a restaurant, waiting to order lunch before work, two ladies walked up behind me and started chatting about the election. When their talk turned to “giving him a chance” and “he hasn’t done anything wrong yet,” I knew which camp they fell into.

“They’re all just so weepy and sad,” one of them lamented.

“Sore losers,” the other one chimed in, as if this were simply some sort of Monopoly game and we were upset that the board had been flipped.

In a move that surprised everyone, including me, I turned and said, “I’m not a sore loser. I just have grave concerns over the direction this country is headed since the MOST repugnant man has just been elected president.” Then, I stepped up to the register and ordered my salad to go.

It was instantly upsetting. The rhetoric. The bitterness.

Is this how it’s going to be now? Sadness, suspicion, division, loneliness, outright anger? Is every day going to feel like the comments section has come to life? What can I do?

And, then I thought about that Facebook group. A page filled with more than three million people that are all feeling the same loss and anger and division I’m feeling.

Those women and men started almost immediately to plan, to organize, to prepare to take action. Within hours, someone had purchased a domain so the group could better share information. When the call for website creation assistance went out, I watched on my laptop screen as, one by one, in the comments, volunteers lined up to work.

“I can build it.”
“I’m a software designer. I can help.”
“I can code it.”
“I’m an editor but can still help.”
“I’m a writer and would love to help.”
“I don’t know how to help but I want to help.”

Hundreds and hundreds of people offering to donate their time and effort. Both women and men but so many women. Smart, angry, resolute, unwavering women offering solutions and safety and solidarity and determination. So much determination.

That’s what we can do. We can fight. In a hundred different ways, we can fight. We can rally against what we know isn’t right. There are so many of us. We’re the army.

A Feminist At Forty

It takes awhile. It’s not clear at first, just how the world works.

You are a bright student. You get good grades. High school is fun and interesting and complicated and emotional and full of premature freedom and lost love. High school is full of risk. You learn there are expectations for girls and it’s hard to balance who you are with how you are expected to act. You learn in high school that being your true self is sometimes not the self you should be.

You hear, “Be a good girl.”
You think, “There are rules to being a girl.”

You head to college. You are young. The world is BIG. You are finding your way in it. There is so much to learn and to see and to do. You have a favorite course, taught by a favorite professor. It’s endlessly fascinating. He is endlessly fascinating. He is much older. You could talk about topics for hours and you do. He patiently answers questions after class and during office hours and listens to your big ideas and you have found this safe space to be you and to be smart and to be heard and the conversation never veers off course. Until it does.

You hear, “Meet me for dinner. Just you.”
You think, “He wasn’t really listening after all.”

You land your first real grown-up job. You’re living on your own. You’re traveling on your own. You are staying in very nice hotels and designing dynamic PowerPoint presentations. You are on your way. You’re in Los Angeles for a conference or a meeting or some other sort of important Work Thing and you’re wearing your grown-up business suit and lacy underthings that make you feel great and confident because you’re a woman and you are magical and sometimes we get our confidence from lovely lacy underthings. Your meeting, your conference is over and you drive yourself back to the airport because that’s what you do now, you independent woman. You’re grabbing your bags from your rental car and while bending down to pick up a dropped something or other, you hear someone call out to you. They are whistling. They can see part of your lacy underthings.

You hear, “HEY THERE – I SEE YOU SEXY.”
You think, “Cover up, cover up. I should have made sure to cover up.”

You land your second real job, this time in a big city and the office is full of older men that you can tell have spent a lifetime only working with other older men. There you stand, with your business casual cardigans and your dress slacks and your womanhood. You wish those older men wouldn’t look at you like that. You wish they wouldn’t look at your chest before your face. You still have those big ideas but no one wants your big ideas. They are not recognized. They are not helpful. They are too dynamic. “Don’t be too smart,” your husband explains and you don’t take offense because you know he ADORES your smarts and you also know that he is right.

You hear, “Try less.”
You think, “Why even try.”

Now you have two baby boys and you leave that job and stay at home with those baby boys because it is the right move for your family. It’s the right move for YOU. And, you need a minivan because they’re awesome, not because that’s what moms who stay home with baby boys drive. So, you go to that dealership near the house to buy a minivan and you walk in with your two boys in their double stroller and you are looking, looking at minivans and no one approaches you. Minutes pass and the men are all standing just looking, looking at you. They don’t move. They don’t say anything. Do they know that you could buy a car right this minute, on this very spot? That your husband hasn’t written a check in seven years? That your husband doesn’t even have to be here? You refrain from yelling, “I AM THE DECIDER,” before storming out.

You hear, absolute silence.
You think, “I am invisible.”

You buy a different minivan instead and you raise those boys. Your boys are good boys and they see their father doing dishes and cleaning bathrooms and repairing ripped stuffed animals with needle and thread. They see their mother balancing the checkbook and mowing the lawn and fixing broken lights and working a little here and there and writing. Forever writing. You think to yourself, “we’re doing right by these boys.” They will grow up to change diapers and feed babies and braid hair and dress dolls and have tea parties. They’re getting the big picture because they’re seeing a strong woman being strong and an amazing father being an amazing equal.

The injustice of past wrongs, the sharp edges of past grievances fade away, are worn away, smoothed like a river rock under water. But, it is always there. Something that just is.

Then, at just shy of thirty-six years of age, you have a baby girl. She is a surprise in so many, many, ways. First, she turns one, then two, three and four and finally, she is five. She is your mini-me. In birth month. In birth order. In dry wit. In the freckles that stream across her face. And, she is so smart and so bossy and so confident. She is the absolute light of her family. “The icing on the cake,” your husband declares.

The thought of anyone – ANYONE – dampening that light, extinguishing that light just destroys you. The idea that one day this beautiful, amazing daughter of yours will be made to feel less than or too smart or shamed or ignored or silenced simply because she is a she is almost too much to bear. Imagining her having to hide her intellect or her body or her spirit to conform to someone else’s expectations is devastating. Your heart hurts for her.

It should be different for her.

It should be better for her.

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I will vote for the female candidate for President of the United States because she is the most qualified applicant for the position for which she is applying. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. There is a job opening and I am selecting the person that is most qualified to do that job. That is the nexus of feminism: equality.

I will take my two sons and my daughter with me when I vote for the female candidate for President of the United States because I want them ALL to see that a woman can be elected to the highest office in this land. That a woman will be elected to the highest office in this land.

That a woman can be anything really. Anything she wants.

Palate Cleanser

All I can think about lately is the election. And, since a tremendous amount of nervous, nauseated fretting won’t affect the outcome, all I’m going to write about today is food. I would suggest this piece is refreshingly free of controversy and discord but since I posit the best place to get a New York-style bagel in the region, I’m not guaranteeing there won’t be passionate disagreements on all sides.


My sister arrived in town a couple of weeks ago. She visits once or twice a year and we make a long weekend out of lounging, with the occasional burst of energy that affords a local winery visit or trip to town for browsing antiques.

The shared genetics between us are strong and this is best exemplified in our passionate love for super tasty food. Janet and I both adore a great meal. So, when she visits, one of our primary goals is to seek out delicious eats. We’re not food snobs by any means. More akin to Joey Tribbiani in the Thanksgiving trifle scene from Friends. We just really like good food, wherever it is found.

I especially appreciate food that I don’t have to: plan for, shop for, prepare with my own hands, listen to people complain about or clean up. And, since Bob and I have three young children and therefore never seem to leave the confines of our own home for a meal (Chick-fil-A doesn’t count), this time, I loaded Janet’s visit with reservations at a host of restaurants. It was a record-setting out-to-eat pace for a four-day visit but we managed it all like the champion eaters we are.

If you are local or semi-local or not-local-at-all but also adore good food and would like to visit, here’s where you should eat:

Stop #1 – Royalicious Bagel Bakery, Charles Town, WV

We literally drove straight from the airport to Royalicious. This nondescript bakery is located in the – ahem – Wal-Mart shopping plaza in Charles Town, West Virginia. You will be suspicious. I get it. I was, too. But I wasn’t suspicious enough to decline the lox, which was delicious. Royalicious serves a New York-style boiled bagel that is amazing. This place received high marks from Janet, too. It’s a no frills joint but that’s part of the adventure.

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Stop #2 – West End Wine Bar & Pub, Purcellville, VA

Since Janet arrived for a visit on her birthday, we headed to West End for a big celebratory dinner. This newer restaurant is located right in town and I’m delighted we have some additional options for finer dining closer to the house. I snapped a picture of one of the starter plates we ordered to share. It’s some sort of a mozzarella-sauce-sprouts concoction that is all farm-to-table and local and organic and happy and what-not but all you need to know is that it was gooooooood. The starters were definitely the stars here although the service was excellent, too.

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Stop #3 – Roots 657, Leesburg, VA

I ended up having to work for a few hours the Friday evening of Janet’s visit so we grabbed a late lunch at Roots 657, a new cafe that just opened a few weeks ago right down the street from the winery where I’m employed. There aren’t a lot of easy places to grab a bite in the Route 15 corridor north of Leesburg so this explains why the parking lot has been packed since Roots opened. The other explanation could be that the food is amazing. Basically, you should go eat here immediately. Just drop what you’re doing and go order this ham and cheese mess in the picture below. It was delicious. All of it. So, so good. Also, super filling as Janet and I were not even the least bit hungry some seven hours later.

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Stop #4 – Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, North Garden, VA

On Saturday, Janet and I ventured down to Charlottesville, Virginia. I needed a little trip away after a very busy few weeks at work and Janet joked that she needed a getaway from her getaway. Pippin Hill is a favorite place of mine and I was eager to show Janet the winery. A couple of friends were meeting us there for lunch and, in hindsight, I’m really glad I made reservations (which I initially thought was over-planning on my part). Pippin Hill has become extremely popular and they frequently close admittance on Saturdays when they reach capacity. So, a reservation to dine is a necessity. Our friends eventually made it past the gate and were able to join us but Janet and I had already worked our way through TWO wine tastings by then so when presented with a cheese and charcuterie board, well, there wasn’t anything left to photograph. In summary: delicious, great service, amazing view. The End.

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Stop #5 – Yearbook Taco Bar, Charlottesville, VA

On Saturday night, we ventured to the downtown mall in Charlottesville. I had never explored the area but had heard it was an experience. It was homecoming weekend for the University of Virginia so characters abounded but we eventually made our way to Yearbook Taco based on the recommendation of a Facebook friend. It was delicious and the shrimp tacos were light and perfect following an afternoon of indulgence at Pippin Hill. The best part was the used book store next door where I found an antique tome on Ulysses S. Grant for Charlie. Sadly, it appears Yearbook Taco is closing at the end of this year so you’ll have to hurry for the shrimp tacos.

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Stop #6 – Bodo’s Bagels, Charlottesville, VA

Look. Here’s the deal. The bagel sandwich I devoured Sunday morning at Bodo’s Bagels on the UVA campus was quite possibly the best bagel sandwich I have ever had in my entire life. That’s not hyperbole. Like Royalicious, Bodo’s also makes a New York-style boiled bagel and it was far superior to any others. The line was out the door and we stood in it, amongst all of the bodies and shrapnel from the Homecoming parties the evening prior, waiting patiently to try something that I had read somewhere was supposed to be really good. And, it was so good. So worth the wait. So worth smelling all of the hungover college students surrounding us. A++, would eat again. Also, currently wondering if they same-day ship.

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Janet and I arrived back home Sunday afternoon and settled for a home-cooked meal later that evening.

Here’s where I admit that at this point in the weekend, we were pretty much done with eating out. We were full. Maximum capacity reached. Time for a bowl of Cheerios. In fact, when errands kept us out of the house the next day, we could both barely muster up enthusiasm for lunch at Chipotle.

Good thing we were airport-bound.