What I Wish I Could’ve Said

To the Black mom protecting her son I understand why you fear for your teen son I’m a mother of sons too, and while mine are grown men now, I vividly recall the stomach-dropping anxiety of their adolescent years. But I’m white. Whatever fears that kept me wide-eyed at night waiting for them to come home were, I’m sure, only a peek at the dread you must carry with having a Black son in America. That’s true even in our lovely, mostly progressive small town — a place you and your family relocated to, hoping to find an environment less polluted by racism…

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What To Do On Juneteenth

White people, there’s a lot to learn Now that it’s a federal holiday, most white folks at least know about Juneteenth But we may not be clear on what it means. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when Major General Gordon Granger led a group of Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas. There he read out General Order Number 3, which stated that the war was over, the Union had won, and that slavery would no longer be tolerated. The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed over two years previously, but this marked the first time that enslaved people in Texas learned that they…

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The Next Big Thing

Somebody invent this right away Is it weird to be excited about a hearing aid? Of course, I’m way too young for such a thing. But my employee health benefits include coverage for a good chunk of the expense, and I’m soon to leave that job while we move several states away, so my husband and I decided to check it out. Maybe all those rock concerts and loud bars back in our headier days have taken a toll. Turns out Husband has just enough hearing loss in his left ear to barely qualify, and I have about the same…

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Nevertheless, I Persisted

Success has a lot to do with just not quitting I found an agent with the first book I wrote Does that sound like I had instant beginner’s luck? A win, right out of the box? Lest you roll your eyes, I assure you there was nothing quick or easy about finding my novel a professional advocate and champion. But there was an element of chance about it.  I suspect that’s true of any leg up that any artist gets. The first big role you land, the first gallery opening, the first prize in a juried contest, the first publishing or…

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I Thought I Was Post-Racist

But yesterday proved me wrong, and I’m sad I could have grabbed the strap to my shoulder bag at any time The leather tote that held my small purse, laptop, iPad, and journal hung by one of its straps from my shoulder as I tugged my carry-on out of the overhead compartment. “I should fix that,” I thought. But the people behind me were waiting to join the slow queue shuffling down the aisle toward the jetway. I left the outer strap hanging as I steered my suitcase ahead of me like a sleepwalking toddler. Out in the terminal, I…

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Killing Your Darlings, Softly

When your book has to cut weight or die Writing a novel has a lot in common with gardening You prepare the soil, removing rocks and dead roots (limiting beliefs, self-defeating assumptions) and adding amendments (reading, daydreaming). You select seeds (story ideas), plant them carefully, water them judiciously as they sprout (rough drafting). You guard the tender seedlings from rough weather (premature feedback) until they’ve hardened off. You care for your crop as it grows and blossoms (a story!). You pick off pests (clichés, misplaced modifiers), pluck out weeds (stray characters, rogue sentences), until eventually — after months, sometimes years — you harvest the…

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A Sonnet for my Sister

Going into care was the best heartbreaking option The bird with ruined wings still hopes to fly,But keepers kind have feathered her last nest.Intending well, they turn her from the skyAnd urge her fragile, hollow bones toward rest. There was a time the sky was hers to roam;The wind, the sun, the open air, her friends.Her world’s now shrunk to this, her strange new home.Kind keepers say, all journeys have their ends. She flutters, fretful in the building’s bounds,Its other inmates long since turned to stone.The keepers kind, they wheel her ‘round the grounds.In sleep, she soars above them all…

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Tip: Pack the Wine Last

5 simple steps to preparing for a move Step 1: Sell your house If your house is in California, particularly anywhere in or near the San Francisco Bay Area, this is likely to happen with blinding speed. It’s nice to be on the shiny side of the region’s apparently pop-immune real estate bubble. Still, it’s a little disorienting when your house hits the market on a Monday and is in contract on Wednesday. Don’t complain. Nobody wants to hear it. Step 2: Notice you have a lot of stuff You downsized when you moved to this place, vowing to live forevermore in…

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