Just before Halloween, Andy and I watched The Babadook on Netflix. Andy liked it. I thought it was the most terrifying movie I had ever seen. As the credits rolled, I thought, this was absolutely made by a woman- the depictions of the hardest parts of motherhood were uncomfortably real and stayed with me for days. (I was right- it was written and directed by a woman and produced by another. They’re brilliant.) Anyway, there’s a scene in it (mild spoiler?) where the mom throws up some vile black goo and it is the best way I can think of to describe how I have felt since the election. I walked around last week with a mass of tar in my stomach and a hollowness in my chest.
I don’t sit with my feelings. I get angry and I do shit. But this time I just let it wash over me, each day bringing fresh realizations of the progress that’s in jeopardy now that Trump has won. My immediate thoughts went to the most oppressed groups in our country- people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, the poor, then to climate change, then to the supreme court, women’s rights, voting rights, healthcare, nuclear war, genocide. The stocks in private prisons are rising. Our national parks are in jeopardy. There’s going to be a self-proclaimed white nationalist and anti-Semite advising President Trump’s every move. It’s beyond belief. I want to get on my hands and knees and throw this shit up.
I know I live in an echo chamber. That 99 out of my 100 readers are worried about the same things I am, and that the one leftover reader is probably going to skip this post because I put ‘Politics’ in the title. But if that one reader did get this far, I would guess that they’re thinking that it won’t be so bad, that my life won’t really be affected by all this stuff. And they’d be right that I’m in a better position than a lot of other people. But I don’t know that I’ll be unaffected. I’m a Jew living in Texas, a stone’s throw from the site of the annual sons and daughters of the confederacy reunion. My husband is a type-one diabetic. After he was laid off earlier this year he COBRA-ed his health care plan and went to work at a start-up company, with plans to buy insurance on the ACA exchange when that ran out. The ACA may not exist by that point. He might be denied on account of a revived pre-existing condition clause. The Texas economy might be completely destroyed if Trump backs out of NAFTA. We could all die in a super-hurricane.
Here’s the part I really don’t understand though. I am not an empathetic person. My brain just doesn’t think about or pay attention to others’ feelings. And yet, the idea of immigrant parents being ripped from their children destroys me. That people could be denied entrance to our country based on their religion is appalling. That a woman who needs an abortion will have Pence and Trump making that decision for her is just fucked. So even if I’m not directly affected by a Trump presidency, why wouldn’t I do everything I can to speak up for and protect the people who might be? And why wouldn’t you? I’m really asking this. I know it’s not because I’m more empathetic than you.
We went on a three-day camping trip to Garner State Park over the weekend. It was nice to be disconnected from things and to be able to sort through my grief. I came back ready to get to work. Andy and I set up recurring monthly donations to the NRDC, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Central Texas Food Bank. I called my senators (yugh) to ask them to please speak out against the Bannon appointment. I signed up to work in the gardens in the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First village, which allows all ages of volunteers so the boys can get involved too. I signed up for an ACLU of Texas webinar about the upcoming legislative session. I signed up for the boys and I to volunteer through Little Helping Hands. And I’m organizing a gift drive for children whose moms are in prison. These are all things I should have been doing all along, but which feel absolutely essential now. If you have other ideas for ways I can actively work to protect the people and things that need protecting (bonus points if I can do them with children) will you please share them with me? I’m all in.
I still feel like throwing up.
This concludes the politics half of this post. On to camping.
Garner State Park. Andy gave me a birthday gift of a reservation at this beautiful park. He picked it on a whim, not knowing that it’s the state park I’ve been to more than any other. I spent several summers swimming in the Frio river with my friend Amanda, whose parents had a house there. We took turns sliding down a raging waterfall and jumping into the river from trees and rope swings. We read Fear Street books and watched The Usual Suspects. I accidentally closed her mom’s finger in the sliding door of their minivan on the drive out there. I still remember exactly what that looked like (I’m so sorry, Cristina!). I camped there the summer before my freshman year of high school with Molly. We ate s’mores and studiously avoided our required summer reading of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and The Once and Future King. We watched ladies in high-waisted wranglers twirl imaginary lassos to the tune of Whip It at the famous Saturday night dance. I love this park. The river is crystal clear, there’s a huge network of varied and delightful hiking trails, some that take you along the river, some up onto Old Baldy (a big rocky overlook thing), some through caves that are cold inside even in the dead heat of summer. It’s a magical spot and I was so happy to get to go back again.
The fire took a while to get started our first night so I had no light for a picture of our dinner. We had Christy’s famous flank steak (marinated in equal parts honey and tamari plus a whole lot of minced ginger) and charley bread, a recipe from my dutch oven cookbook which necessitated the purchase of my first ever can of creamed corn. I was going to serve kale salad with cashew tamari salad dressing too, but the kale smelled bad when I opened the tub so we skipped that. I think I was the only one who missed it.
Sausage and Egg Breakfast Tacos. Before the trip, I made my own breakfast sausage using the incredible ground pork from Blue Earth Farm. Food always tastes better when you’re camping, but I was deliriously happy with this.
Start-of-the-hike picture. I don’t know what George was doing but it is my favorite thing.
Middle-of-the-hike picture. One of the kids always has to stick their tongue out in pictures. It’s the rule.
We made it! George hiked the whole way! This is unprecedented.
Take one of a top-of-the-hike picture. Not the best.
Take two, staring into the sun. Yes they did stick an American flag on top of Old Baldy.
Garner has paddle boats! I realized halfway through that Andy and I were the only adults on the water wearing the life jackets they give you. We are the nerdiest people you know. Also, look at that water. The whole river is crystal clear. We saw turtles and big fish and then tried to identify them with the fish guide that came in the junior explorer backpack we borrowed from the visitor’s center.
The only picture of my children in existence where they’re both kind of smiling.
It didn’t last long.
I don’t know why.
Andy almost looks like a real fisherman here. The $9 child’s fishing pole from Wal-Mart shatters the illusion.
These boys! Heart eyes emoji.
No pants. Never pants.
George fell in, naturally. What’s that? You want more tongue?
Wait, wait, I can do better.
There it is.
Thanks for the hammock, Gangie and Grandpa!
Playing the ever-popular How many grapes are in my mouth? game. It’s three.
Also three. Also! We used dry ice in the bottom of the cooler which had the bonus effect of carbonating the grapes! They were so fizzy. Fun fact- a lifetime ago I made a youtube video about how to carbonate grapes with dry ice. I still get the occasional comment on that video- they are almost always a blow to my self-esteem.
Haven’t yet perfected using that dutch oven on a wood burning (not charcoal fire). It’s tricky.
Jambalaya from a box.
We ate it with saltine crackers and Elmo’s fruit punch.
Gotta do Jiffy Pop.
On the morning of our last day we ate chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and more of that homemade sausage. I took a picture, but the sausage, which I squeezed into link-like tube shapes, came out looking like literal poop. It was delicious but I didn’t want you to see it.
Then we went on one last hike along the river trail.
We’re super good at selfies.
And that was it. It was a beautiful escape.
Lots of love to all of you.