Grieving, Loss and Revisionist History

When a friend loses someone I often say that I hope the memories that they shared with their loved one will be a source of comfort, but it can be more complicated than that.  My grandma passed away last night. She was a tough woman. She rescued squirrels when they were hurt and nursed them to health, but also hit my father when he was a kid and once remarked to me that I looked fat. This was after I had spent years struggling with bulimia and was trying to get healthy.

She was never very warm.  She seemed to be able to show affection to animals, but not the people around her.   I remember she thought discipline meant telling us she had a bear in her basement and that if we were not good, then we would have to go to the basement. But she also took us to the State Fair each year.  We would ride all day and eat cotton candy and she would let us pick out a prize.  For the longest time, I still had these fantastic, tacky dolphin earrings from a trip to the Fair in junior high.

She came to every grandparent day at school and was at the concerts and graduations when I was a kid and yet I can’t pretend that her being gone will impact my life that much.  Her views made it tough to have much of a relationship as an adult. When I came out to her she responded with Bible verses and the hope that I would change.  I did not invite her to our wedding and as the years went by I saw her less and less. We sent pictures, but did not get together often.  She only met my kids a couple of times.

She was not there for me later in life and if I am honest, I was not there for her.  I made a choice to disengage from someone who was largely a toxic person to be around. I did not want their great-grandmother be the one that exposed my kids to the racism they will encounter in life as biracial women.   I did not make room for someone who could only begrudgingly accept me and my family.  I never really said “goodbye” and I am not sure how to feel about that now that she is dead.

She was a hard person, but she raised a kind and loving man.  Every night when I was growing up and to this day when we visit, my father finds each of us, hugs us and tells us he loves us before he goes to bed.  He always done that.  He will still put his arm around me on the couch as we watch a movie or let me rest my head on his shoulder.  It is as if he is working extra hard to show us the kindness and affection that he never received as a child.

The fact is that so much of who my dad has become is in spite of his upbringing and yet I know that this loss hurts him.  He mourns and he grieves, so for him I will look past her indiscretions.  For him I will forgive and I will be there to say goodbye to a woman who struggled to find or bring happiness in life.  I will hope she finds peace in whatever afterlife exists.

I won’t shave off her rough edges as some form of revisionist history where everyone who is gone is suddenly a saint, but I can embrace that there were good times and that perhaps she did the best she could.  I will be thankful for the person she raised who has given so much to my life and my family.  And I will say goodbye without regret that for my health I needed to keep her at a distance.  I guess we both just did the best that we could.

me and grandma sheets


Date Nights and Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is manageable most of the time.  Then a day like yesterday happens.  I needed to get the kids to school and meet some deadlines before grabbing them and getting them to my parents for a much needed date weekend with Rae.  We don’t really have babysitters, since Lucy’s disease is complicated.  So there I am in the car on the way to meet up with mom to take the girls and I realize that I left the extra pods (medicine dispensing devices) on the kitchen counter.  How often do parents leave something at home?  It certainly happens.  If you are not struggling to get by, you probably plan a quick trip to Target.  But we can’t do that for Lucy’s medical supplies.  So I call my mom and we arrange to meet the next morning.  I can drive back down an hour and a half again and hand it over.

We meet up with friends to go out to dinner in DC.  We laugh and talk in complete paragraphs.  We have conversations where we can swear or even talk about sex without spelling things out.  We have a great night celebrating a good friend.  We head to the metro and feel this great reconnection ready to head home.  I am looking forward to sleeping in the next day and getting some extra rest. Then I get a message from my mom.  The device expired early and needs to be changed within 5 hours.  I had no choice but to metro and then drive back to Baltimore from DC, grab the supplies from the kitchen and get back on the road at 11pm and drive down to Richmond so I could change her pod and make sure she gets the medication that is necessary to keep her healthy and out of the hospital.

Most days we keep it together and it is a lot – calls and texts from teachers with questions or clarifications, cajoling and negotiating to get her to eat dinner because we can’t do the “if you don’t want to eat, then don’t” when she could go too low and not wake up, getting up multiple times at night to check her number – but we do it.  It is our life.  It is our reality.  Then a day like yesterday happens.

We manage Lucy’s disease.  We do everything we have to because she is our sweet girl and there is nothing more important than the health and happiness of our girls.  We sacrifice sleep.  We argue with medical device companies who forget to send the regularly scheduled shipment.  We juggle our schedules for pod malfunctions and doctor’s appointments during work days.  We do what we have to do and we will always do what we have to do.  But after a night like last night, I have to say out loud and admit that it is hard.

I have to be honest that I lay awake at night worrying sometimes about what her life will be like.  I have a night where I accidentally snooze the 2am alarm where I am supposed to check her number and I wake up at 5am in abject terror that she could be too low and for a few seconds until I look at her monitor I am scared that by letting myself sleep a few extra hours my girl could be hurt.  Like so many parents, I am multitasking and running and just getting by each day with the myriad of responsibilities, but this disease adds a whole other incredibly difficult layer.  We make it happen, but damn it is hard.  So we are trying to do something about it.  We are raising money to support finding a cure.  We are participating in the JRDF One Walk.

A family is a team.  We are on Team Catie and Team Lucy.  Being their cheerleaders, their coaches and their teammates is the most incredible thing I will ever get to do.  But we need you to be on our team, too.  We need you to help us find a cure – to help our sweet, sassy, eldest and the many kids with Type 1 diabetes – and their parents.

You can join our team – either in Baltimore on April 16th or in Washington, DC on June 5th.  What does that mean?  Go to the page for the even that you can attend with us and click “join the team”.  Even if you are not able to be there on the day, you can help.  Make a donation, however large or small you are able to make and help fund ongoing research – the research that will eventually result in a cure.  Donations can be made to Team Lucy for the Baltimore or DC event.

We are all trying to pay the bills and there are many worthy causes, but I hope that you will support Team Lucy.  Whether you can give $5, $50 or $500, you are making a difference in the life of our sweet girl and millions of other children and their families.


team lucy




Thanksgiving at Preschool: Paste, Paint and Cultural Appropriation

I wrote a piece last year about visiting my eldest daughter’s preschool and being surrounded by headdresses and war paint on children in suburban Maryland.

I recently visited my daughter’s preschool for their annual Thanksgiving luncheon. I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked into find her wearing a pilgrim hat. As I drove over that morning, I kept picturing what I would do if I walked in to find her wearing some terrible rendering of a native headdress. Suffice it to say that I was not pleased when we met up with the older class next door to find them not only wearing their crafty version of headdresses but also war paint.

I understand that at 4 years old they may not be ready to hear the unsanitized version of the discovery and colonization of America. I know they will read the warm fuzzy stories of breaking bread together. I just wish people would understand that painting war paint on a child and pasting feathers on a paper cut out to represent something that has incredible meaning for a group of people is not a great way to celebrate unity.

Let’s take a moment to teach children about different cultures rather than picking one, trite depiction and thinking that is “multicultural education”.

I am trying to figure out the best way to address this with the school. I know there are some who would tell me to get over it, but I feel committed to doing not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because let me tell you that if next year that is my child, we will promptly march to the restroom to wash it off.  I want to be a parent who lives my values even when it means pushing my own comfort level to do so.”

So back into the office I will go tomorrow to chat with the administrators about how to approach Thanksgiving and other holidays in a way that truly appreciates other cultures instead of appropriating them.

“There is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation.” Tate Walker

For other parents who are not thrilled with the use of crafts and myths as the primary way that Thanksgiving is celebrated in their children’s schools, I compiled a few resources.  I hope people will share their thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

Five Books that Reframe the Thanksgiving Narrative: This list has suggestions for different age groups. I’m still looking for very simple ones for little kids – one they would sit through and we could talk about. I may just get non-Thanksgiving ones about Native American communities and people and use those to talk about Thanksgiving and learn about other cultures.


Real Story of Thanksgiving: Teaching Kids : This one has a few tips and ideas, including emphasizing that this should not be the only time of year that schools talk about Native American people and culture.


Teaching a People’s History:  This site has so many incredible ideas and lessons, including pieces about Thanksgiving.


Rethinking Schools: This is a blog looking at how to introduce social justice concepts and push back on myths. It is geared towards training teachers and has suggestions. What about learning about what the paint or headdresses mean or signify and reading stories about Native American people and culture? Or what about drawing the headdresses, but not having non-Native kids wear them.


Thanksgiving Lesson: Teacher of young elementary kids utilizing the idea of it being a season of thanks and charity to teach children about poverty and about giving back.

Teaching Tolerance: Lesson on Thanksgiving and colonialism for middle school.


4 Ways to Honor Native Americans Without Cultural Appropriation:  Great piece from Everyday Feminism.

We Must Not Keep Telling the Same Stories About Why Young People Deserve Reproductive Agency

Check out my latest on RH Reality Check looking at how the current framing we use to oppose laws that force parental involvement actually disrespects young people and strips them of their agency.


“Instead of facing the potential difficulty of acknowledging that all teens—regardless of circumstances—deserve access to abortion care, we trot out just a small fraction of the stories that are out there. This narrow focus perpetuates the stigma about young people’s sexuality that endures in both allies and opponents of reproductive health. Many sex ed organizations, for instance, tiptoe around teen sexuality as if it is something we, as adults, must put up with as a necessary, but distasteful, reality. While I have no doubt these kinds of talking points are frequently rooted in a genuine care for the health of adolescents, they imply that young people need someone to step in and tell them how to behave.

Read full piece HERE.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Mr. President!

Today, President Obama released the 2016 budget.  This document will change over the coming months, but this is his statement about how we should prioritize our funds. I am incredibly disappointed that he included language that denies health coverage for abortion for women who use Medicaid benefits and other federal health insurance programs (service members, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers, Indian Health Services, women in detention). However you feel about abortion, politicians should not get to impose limits on someone’s insurance based on their personal beliefs or political calculations.

The President could have stood put his money where his mouth is.  He could have stood behind his State of the Union statements about the right to make our own decisions and removed the language that withholds abortion coverage for federal health programs.  I am thankful that he did provide for the District of Columbia to use their own health funds to include coverage for those using Medicaid benefits, but I feel like he missed out on a chance to truly lead by putting the needs of women on the list of priorities.  I wrote about this in 2013….sadly, it is still all too true.

READ – “Women Not on the Priority List: President Obama’s Budget, Congress, and the Struggle for Affordable Abortion Care“.


Every Pregnancy is Exceptional: Questioning Exceptions and Creating Empathy in Later Abortion Debate

Check out my latest piece on the need to figure out how to have critical and complex conversations about later abortion and personal decisions that reflect the diverse range of experiences that women and families face and the role politicians can play in supporting people, rather than judging them.


“When I was in my first year at college and found myself with a late period and a lackluster relationship with my high school boyfriend, I knew then and have absolutely no doubt what I would have done if that plus sign had appeared. I did not want to tie my life to him and knew I was not ready to be a parent. But here I was 20 years later with a pregnancy that we planned for and dreamed of from our first date. I am not sure what I would have done if I was told that I had potentially life threatening complications. Would it have been worth the risk for me? I don’t know. I did not have to make that decision. But you can be damn sure I would not have called my lawmakers to ask their opinion and that I would not have stood by while anyone presumed to tell me what the right thing to do was.”

Read the full piece HERE.


Reflections on “Roe at 42”

When I think of the days before the Supreme Court affirmed a legal right to abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade, I think of women who felt they had no good options. Women who had to call random phone numbers handed to them covertly on little slips of paper and trust that the information they received was legitimate. Women who were directed to go to dark buildings or houses and sneak into rooms and hope that the procedure would not leave them sick, infertile or dead. Women who felt like they could not turn to anyone in their life for support because they would be judged or even reported to the police for illegal activity. I think of women forced into exceptionally difficult positions to maintain their own bodily autonomy, do what they felt was best for them and access a health care procedure.

Forty-two years later, I see reports of people who have to take time off work multiple times and risk being fired, try desperately to find care for their kids and pull together whatever little bit of money they may have to pay for abortion care. I read about people who are driving six, eight or ten hours to find a licensed provider. I hear stories from my friends who volunteer on abortion fund hotlines where people are selling their belongings and saving over weeks and then realizing that they have been pushed past what is to them an invisible line where the procedure is more expensive and not out of reach because of cost or an arbitrary cut off created by politicians.

People who need to seek an abortion in 2015 have a legal right to access care, but for far too many people that right is just not a reality.   We must do better not only to ensure access to abortion care, but also the promise of Roe.

Roe affirmed that people should be able to seek legal abortion care, but it is so much more than that. It is about women being able to say what happens to their body and make decisions about their future. As I think today about the anniversary, I commit myself to the work to push back on the restrictions that are chipping away at access to care for far too many people – from legislation that is designed to close clinics and cut off availability to laws that deny health coverage for abortion and make services unaffordable.  We must also speak out for the policies that enable people to plan healthy pregnancies and prevent unintended pregnancies – from sex education to contraception coverage and family planning funding. And we need to push for legislation and cultural change that ensures that when someone is ready become a parent that they have the support they need – from pregnant worker accommodations to paid family leave to adoption policies that don’t exclude LGBT people or people with disabilities to a fair wage and a safe place to raise their kids where they won’t have to constantly worry if they will make it home.

There is much work to be done. Let’s make not just today, but every day one that we celebrate the promise of Roe and do all we can to make it real for us all.