My only daughter, my middle child, turned 13 on our first day of quarantine. Gone was her overnight party with her best friends. Gone was getting together with the cousins for her birthday dinner. Gone was pretty much everything fun.

Wait, scratch that. We celebrated with a three hour, six-feet-apart photo shoot at all kinds of beautiful natural spots near our house. I even had the Instagram-ready number 13 helium balloons. I made her favorite cake, even though I had to go to four stores to find the mix (people apparently horde Funfetti as well as toilet paper). Even my daughter admitted that it was a great birthday. Not an “all things considered” great….an …

All alone in my minivan yesterday, kids all dropped at their various enrichment (if not enriching) activities, I found myself singing along to Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”. As always, I was transported back to April 8, 1994, that gloomy Seattle day when Cobain killed himself in his garage. On that day, all of us twenty-somethings gathered around our MTV, watching the gory details roll in and wondering how could this have happened? He swore he didn’t have a gun, right?

It was a shock. It was an end of innocence, an end of sharing smokes, wearing flannel shirts and accepting your boyfriend’s dirty hair. It was up there with our generation’s other burning question, Where were you when the Challenger exploded?

Here’s the truth: I’ve always had a thing against “businessmen,” especially those with a capital “B”. You know the guys I mean. Bad Men’s Warehouse suits. Ties a bit too broad with matching handkerchiefs in their pockets. The guys who talk too loud, tend to have some mayo from lunch still in the corner of their mouths, and who call you “sweetheart” or “young lady”. Silver Foxes. Little Donald Trumps.

When I graduated college way back when in ’92 (yes, 1992), there was a financial crisis that many of today’s tech CEOs never even heard of: the recession of 1991. Despite a humanities degree from an Ivy, I ended up working the customer support line at a mutual fund company. And despite the fact that we were only on phones, us girls weren’t allowed to wear sleeveless dresses or open toed shoes. We were also required to wear nylons. And they checked every single day. …

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I have to admit it: I have Christmas lights up. It’s not that I wanted to have them up, but the guy who does them gives you a break if you adorn your house before you dress your turkey. I know, #firstworldproblems.

But, before you judge, I’ve also got a lot of first world gratitude this year, much of it to do with this liberal elite bubble I live in, also known as Northern California:

Dear Hillary:

This has been a dark week. It’s been like a death — I’ve been shocked, I’ve been angered, I’ve been in denial. Ultimately I’ve accepted you didn’t win. But you know what? Unlike when someone actually does die, you don’t have to go away. In fact, you — and all you stand for — is more alive than ever.

Your voice matters more than ever. You may not be our president but you are our leader in something even bigger. You have given us a reason to act — you’ve compelled us to come together and carry on your work in creating a world where every voice matters, where women can achieve just as much as men, where your sexuality, your age, your “abilities”, are all things to be celebrated not hidden away. Where we all have a place in the sun, no ridicule allowed. …

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Yesterday I ate ice cream in the middle of the day. I cried off and on. I marveled at the grace that Hillary showed and her respect for our democracy. I wrote nasty responses to Trump supporters’ Facebook crowing (and then deleted them before I posted them). I did my share of wallowing in it all.

But today I’m going high. Today I’m thinking about what I can do to make sure this never happens again. And I believe it all comes down to kindness, especially in instilling kindness into our children.

When I think of Hillary, the fist images that come to me are those pictures of Hillary and Bill when they were just kids, kids out to make a difference, committed to political activism and social justice for all. I want my children to have pictures of themselves like that someday because I have a distinct feeling that most people who voted for Trump have no such images in their albums. …

What I’m Telling My Children

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My seven year old has only known a world with an African American president. He thinks we are joking with him that Trump won. My 12 year old boy cried himself to sleep. He is afraid because Trump has nuclear codes. My daughter has been left speechless for the first time in her nine years. All those Justice girl power clothes feel cheapened.

We walked to school in silence. We didn’t quite know what to say. Even my husband joined us. …

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Dear Candy Corn,

I remember the good old days. I’d line you up in neat rows, like tiny soldiers waiting to be beheaded. I’d circle you around delicious pumpkins. You would snuggle in my bathrobe pocket, hidden from those greedy children of mine. You’d tinkle against forgotten paper clips and lint. Once you even mingled in with a baby tooth I’d forgotten to put beneath a pillow. That was an unpleasant bite for me. I’m sure you laughed.

How we both laughed. Our sugary love could get me through late night breastfeeding, midnight work calls,and bad TV binges. You were there for me, even when my husband fell asleep watching the same episode of House of Cards every single night. …

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My mother died four years ago in June. I remember exactly where I stood in the Paradise Pier Hotel lobby in Disneyland, past midnight, alone with the man polishing the floors, when it happened. It was a horrible, numbing, blackness falling all around moment. But the truth is I had been experiencing this moment, preparing for it, for at least a year.

My mom had been sick. Heart attack. Progressive congestive heart failure. Massive stroke. My last few cross-country trips home to visit her had been increasingly heartbreaking. Sometimes I would arrive and she would think I was going home that same night. She became fixated on getting my kids a swing set, like she had gotten her other grandchildren, forgetting that my yard in California was the size of a postage stamp. She forgot it was my birthday. It sounds small to bring it up, but there is something devastating about spending your birthday with your mother and neither of you acknowledging the day. My two year old became afraid to lie with her in her hospital bed. …

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I am 45 years old. I am hungrier than I have ever been in my life. My doctor told me that this happens to women my age. It’s just hormones. She also told me that my stomach is desperately wanting to hold on to belly fat because it’s so worried about my diminishing hormones that it would like to keep some estrogen in there just in case. I can work out every day and it really won’t make a difference, she said (perhaps grinning a bit). Which I guess is why my doctor thinks my weight is just fine whereas I’d like her to ask me to aim higher. …


Eileen Stanley Conway

Mother. Middle grade/YA fiction writer. Tone deaf but enthusiastic singer. For a good time Twitter @scoutpr

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