Weekend Reads #267

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Self Portrait at the Easel 1556 oil on canvas by Sofonisba Anguissola c.1532–1625
Sofonisba Anguissola, Self Portrait at the Easel, 1556

Since my mom died September 29th, I've been out of sorts. I have had a hard time completing projects, my mind going in 200 different directions. I am trying to give myself grace and space to grieve and heal, but it's hard when life is still moving forward. My writing is suffering because after everything that has to get done is done, I don't have much heart, time, or mindspace left to craft proper sentences. In fact, this Weekend Reads has been in draft mode for a couple of weeks. I have come in and added here and there, but often I have returned to find incomplete thoughts and unreadable sentences.

But Weekend Reads is a good place to share the personal side of my life. I have mentioned my mom's passing a few times in posts but I know not everyone reads all my content nor do they follow on social and it's clear not everyone knows and thinks I'm just being standoffish or half-assing things. When in fact I feel like I am treading water in the middle of the ocean.

One reason I am so overwhelmed is this summer I joined the Board of Elections for my city. I have always been passionate about fair and accessible voting; it is one of the things that makes this country great. And it is one right that is constantly being taken from vulnerable populations and being put at risk by folks who do not care about anyone but themselves, their bubbles, and their agendas. I have been an election judge (AKA poll worker) for many years, and when I heard my city was looking for more Board members I applied.

This week, we had our city elections. We voted for the new City Council; there were 11 candidates and the top 7 were chosen for council seats. The candidate with the highest number of votes usually becomes Mayor and second for votes becomes Mayor Pro Tem. This election we also had a question to gauge the city's thoughts on letting non-citizen city residents vote in city elections.

I have attended weekly meetings for months, and in the month leading up to the election, we often had more than one meeting a week plus in-person and virtual trainings on voting equipment and conducting trainings for election clerks and judges. Election Day was this past Tuesday; I woke at 4:30am and didn't get home until almost midnight. The experience has been exhausting and exhilarating, overwhelming and frustrating, insightful and… did I say exhausting? I believe it warrants being mentioned twice because friend, Alison is TIRED.

October 28th was my mom's memorial service. She didn't have a funeral because she was cremated and wanted to join my dad's ashes in Arlington Cemetary (he was in the Navy). That takes up to 18 months to get an appointment so for now, Mommy resides in our home. But we had a celebration of life that my sister and I planned, and then we had a get-together at my house where family, friends, and neighbors joined us into late in the evening.

Managing the estate of someone who died is a lot. There are so many steps, and so many hurdles. Since we reached out to Arlington about having her ashes there, that started the ball rolling much faster. OPM found out, and they stopped her pension, which meant her bank found out and froze her accounts, which meant we had to pay the bills necessary to keep her house going, which meant so many copies of death certificates, and so many calls, and so many appointments, and so many forms… I'm grateful for my Excel-loving sister who is keeping things so organized as my brain turns to soggy oatmeal.

‘Tis the season for sponsored posts, and I was contracted for many before my mom's passing. Brands have been very understanding (at least most) but work needs to be done even when I have no desire to be photographed or filmed and have no creativity for pithy captions. Thank you in advance for supporting this content and not judging me on the quality. I know I can do better. I will… in the future.

My eye is healing, but it still troubles me. It is still a bit bloodshot, and I get these white flickers that the retina specialists say are nothing but I now know they mean my eye is tired, I am stressed, and it's time to rest. The eye will hurt if I don't rest it when the white flashes come. On Election Night I felt like my heartbeat was pulsing in it, my vision bouncing with each beat.

Thanksgiving was my mom's holiday. Growing up, we always hosted family, whoever we were dating, friends and coworkers who had nowhere else to go, folks who were like family. She cooked the same dishes every year, served them in the same bowls, placing them on the same trivets on the same tablecloth, saying the same two graces before cutting into the turkey. When my mom downsized to a row home down the street from me, I began hosting. And I just can't host this year without her.

After discussing with the family, and weighing options, my sister and I are going to go away for the holiday and the rest of my family is going to do something else that will give us all a hard reset so we can assess Thanksgiving next year. That took a good bit of planning, coordinating, and budgeting but Debbie and I are excited for our trip. I think we deserve it.

Weekend Reads will sometimes be as it has always been, sometimes it won't. And I cannot guarantee there will be an issue every single week through the holidays. But just like me, and Wardrobe Oxygen, it's not going anywhere. I thank you for your understanding as this Q4 may be atypical, but as I get through, things will ramp up again and based on my reader survey, I hope to have some cool changes that I think you all will like. All in good time, let's just get through the holidays first.

Weekend Reads

G/O Media shuts down Jezebel as layoffs hit company. (The Daily Beast)

Jezebel and the question of women's anger. (The New Yorker)

Brooke Shields is in her f*ck-it era. (Glamour)

Gaza's blocked relief. (The New York Review)

How young Floridians are fighting “Florida-Grown Fascism” under Ron DeSantis. (Teen Vogue)

Tanya Taylor is having their Archive Sale with fashion up to 70% off. Not only that, 10% of all proceeds are being donated to the nonprofit Save the Children. Shop the sale (it includes extended sizes) at this link. As a heads up, at the time of writing this, the dress I am wearing in this Instagram post is part of the sale. In fact, pretty much everything I'm wearing in this Tanya Taylor review is on sale!

Why antidepressants take so long to work. (Wired)

It’s OK to wear an Aloha shirt. Here’s what culturally conscious travelers should know. (National Geographic)

I posted a selfie online. (Hopefully Yours)

Dancing connects me to Judaism — and to the great-grandmother I never met. (Hey Alma)

Drugstore closures are leaving millions without easy access to a pharmacy. (Washington Post – gift article)

A woman had never been a hip-hop star, an actress and producer and the face of mainstream America all at once. Then Queen Latifah came along and made it look almost easy. (New York Times Style Magazine)

When both silence and statement become complicity. (Charlotte's Web Thoughts)

Why Apple’s weather app is so bad. (Vox)

I was a guest on The Things We Know podcast earlier this year and have gotten to know and adore Lisa and Kari. They are hosting a retreat this January in Laguna Beach that is designed specifically for us grown-ass women!

Are GenXers the new Boomers? (Dame)

Hindsight is the best filter. (The Everywhereist)

The collective erosion of X, Instagram, and Facebook marks a turning point for millennials, who are outgrowing a constant need to be plugged in. (Wired)

There will be more than a billion menopausal individuals in the world by 2025. There are three things employers can do now to support their workforce. (MSNBC)

See/Hear/Read

britney spears the woman in me

I have now had both eyes repaired (I had retina surgery on one, and in-office laser on the other). However, the right eye is still red, gets sore, and the vision is permanently changed. Once the inflammation is gone we will outfit me with a corrective lens, but in the meantime reading books is really hard, I can't look at screens for long, and subtitles and captioning on the TV is near impossible. So I've been down with the audiobooks.

As soon as the audiobook for Britney Spears' memoir, The Woman In Me came out, I got it. So did my three besties and we've been discussing it so much on text we're having a book club meeting later this month to discuss in person. Even if you're not a big Britney fan, and especially if you're a Brit Brit hater, I recommend this book.

This book had me think of all the times I criticized Spears. Her fashion, her actions in public, her relationships. And how the '90s and 2000's were so incredibly toxic (heh heh, Toxic), while at the time we thought they were liberating. The audiobook is only five hours long, the book must also be a quick read.

Lessons in Chemistry TV series poster

I am one of the few who didn't really like the novel, Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. It started off strong for me, but the dog, and the kid, and just some things turned me off. Whether you felt the same, or if you loved the book, or if you didn't even read it, I suggest you check out the miniseries based on it, now showing on Apple TV.

Calvin and Elizabeth, characters from the miniseries Lessons in Chemistry, at work in the lab

The whole series isn't out, we're still in the episode-a-week stage, but so far this series has modified the story just so to make the aspects of the novel I didn't like sort of take a back seat and add details that make the story make more sense and give everyone a bit more of a human touch.

A scene from the miniseries Lessons in Chemistry where protagonist Elizabeth visits her neighbor Harriet's party welcoming back her husband from the Army

Lessons in Chemistry is lovely to look at, painful to see the blatant sexism of the mid-20th century (and see how much is still rampant, especially in STEM), the acting is great, the story is compelling, and it's a show that my husband also loves and even my teen will stay in the room to watch much of each episode. Starring Brie Larson, Lewis Pullman (who looks so much like his dad Bill), Aja Naomi King, and Kevin Sussman, this show is empowering without being cheesy.

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Those who have read Killers of a Certain Age may recognize the artist at the top of the page. I just finished the audiobook Wednesday so haven't had time to write my thoughts other than it was great! I recommend! And I'd love to know who you would cast if they made a movie from this novel!

For Your Entertainment

Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince from the band The Kills

If someone asks me my favorite band, I'd likely say My Morning Jacket. But I really really love The Kills. I love everything about them. The simple throbbing music, Alison Mosshart's voice, watching Jamie Hince play the guitar, how IDGAF sexy badass these two grown-ass folks are (Mosshart is 44, Hince is 54), their signature sound that I don't tire of. And their latest album, God Games, is IMO pretty freaking great.

I am famous for buying concert tickets as soon as they go on sale and then months later when the event comes up, life has happened and I am unable to attend. So when I saw The Kills were coming to DC in March and the tickets went on sale recently (after my mom died, while I've been all over the place), I said no. No Alison, don't get tickets now. You'll regret it. And the show is already sold out and I am regretting it.

So to comfort myself, I am watching the videos for their latest singles. They don't compare to them wailing on stage at Lincoln Theater (where I saw them with Dream Wife as the opener and that is one of my top concert experiences ever). But for now, they will do. Who knows, come March I may be able to buy someone else's bought too quick regret ticket. Enjoy their video for “Wasterpiece” from their latest album.


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30 Comments

  1. You get all the space and grace and forgiveness we have to offer. I’m so glad you and your sister are taking some time away. May it be peaceful and loving. We’ll be here when you get back.

  2. Alison,

    I miss my mom so much. She died unexpectedly on Halloween a few years ago, and I still tear up thinking about it. Sending hugs and support. It’s hard. Life goes on, but that piece of the orchestra is missing and the symphony isn’t quite the same. Be as kind as you can to yourself and trust that everyone will extend that grace to you as well.

    K

  3. I am late to read the Weekend Read, but also want to say that we understand and that your #1 priority should be taking care of yourself and your family.

    I am also fascinated by, “This election we also had a question to gauge the city’s thoughts on letting non-citizen city residents vote in city elections.” If you ever feel like throwing a few links jus about it, I would love it. I live in one of the townships surrounding a small city, and often it feels like I have no voice because so much of the agenda for the region is set BY the city and its voters.

    1. We live in a city that has a lot of folks who aren’t U.S. citizens, but are city taxpayers. Expats, folks on work Visas, and more. We’re close to colleges, hospitals, NASA, and D.C. and have a large community of immigrants, some who have not yet been granted citizenship. The council wanted to gauge interest in letting those who have proof of permanent residence in our city have the opportunity to vote for city-specific elections like the one we held.

      I hear you though. I know so many parts of this country folks who rely on a city but don’t live within the city limits would love to have more say on decisions. Being on the Board of Elections helps me see there are options out there if local governments are willing to check them out. Especially when it comes to things like infrastructure, roads, schools, and zoning changes, it can affect border communities as much or even more so than the city inhabitants!

  4. Give your self SO MUCH grace in this moment. The death of a close loved one resonates through the years and particularly at holidays. I am now the age my father passed–it has been 30 years but it still “gets” me at times. I didn’t have a good relationship with my MIL, but she died at the end of February this year, and Thanksgiving was “her” holiday. So we are doing several Thanksgivings this year to honor her. I also wanted to suggest that the eye health you’ve been dealing with plus the civic responsibilities would overwhelm anyone. Thank you as always for your candor and delightful blog. Out here in the inter webs we appreciate you!

  5. Alison, I am so glad to read you and your sister are getting away this Thanksgiving. Each of my parents died at Christmastime (four years apart) and the first holiday without them, my sister and our families got away. It was the best thing we could’ve done. Take all the time you need, this community you created so lovingly is – and will be – here for you, always, with understanding, gratitude and compassion.

  6. Thank you for sharing that beautiful note about how you’re doing in the face of such loss. I follow you on IG so I’m aware that your mother passed–but even so, it was moving and heartbreaking and somehow also affirming to hear what you (and your sister) are going through, and dealing with, and doing to move forward. Not that you need me to tell you, but it’s phenomenal that you are giving yourself space, as/when you can, to grieve. That’s so easy (and awful) to push aside as life marches on and responsibilities stack up; but nothing could be smarter and more compassionate to yourself than what you’re doing. Enjoy your Txgiving away with your sister. I imagine there will be tough moments–but sharing your grief will no doubt be helpful, too. All the best to both of you.

  7. Alison – I’ve been waiting for you to post something like this. When my Dad died he’d been ill and declining for nearly 10 years. When the end finally came we were heartbroken, but it was not a surprise. Each little decline had been a bit of death and we were prepared for the end.
    That’s not what happened to you, and it’s not reasonable to think that you could have just resume life after a few weeks and a memorial service.

    It’s a good time for you to make sure you take the space you deserve, and we’re rooting for you!

  8. Leaving you prayers for healing and comfort at this most difficult time. It’s amazingly hard losing parents, even when you think you’ve done all kinds of things to prepare.
    Griefing is such hard work as well, no matter your relationship with the parent as well. May you find your strength and comfort in family and friends who love you. Prayers for you.

  9. Hi Alison (and family) – losing a parent is so hard, and even harder when there are all the details of life/death to attend to. Grief can weigh you down so it feels hard to get out of bed, never mind do all the required paperwork, memorials, etc. It sounds like you are making such good decisions for yourself, and I’m glad your family is supportive. Take care of each other – wishing you comfort and rest.

  10. I’m really glad you and Debbie are taking a trip to reset and sort of skip over a very difficult first holiday without your mom. The year my husband lost his dad, there was some other family strife going on and we decided to travel over Christmas to mix things up a bit and just to do something different because we knew it would be different anyway. I hope the reset is exactly what you need and helps in your healing. It’s our turn to hold you up while you’re navigating this. Do what you need, take the time you need, and know that we’ll be here when you get back…even if that’s off and on for a while. We’re like old friends that pick up where we left off…no judgement and no BS guilt trips ♥️

  11. I’m writing this with tears running down my face. You expressed so much of what I went through with my mom in 2019. My parents would have celebrated 70 years married during late November, and they got married on my dad’s Birthday-so we made Thanksgiving the one big event. It still is, just mostly in my heart. Women that have lost their beloved mother’s are a warm bunch. Just looking at your other comments confirms that. Take care, you are a special one.

  12. 10 years ago I lost my husband, a sister, my mother and then another sister in the space of 13 months. I still miss all of them. The holidays are not the same but we still celebrate them. I’m agreeing with all of the comments. Give yourself more time, more grace and lots more rest. We are not going anywhere and being grown ass women, we understand.

  13. I appreciate how hard it is to grieve and continue working full-time, esp during the fall and winter season when everything is all about holidays and traditions and family and gift-giving and buying, buying, buying. My dad and my brother both died in early December, years ago, and still today, it’s the darkest month (literally). I love the idea of your sister and you having your own Thanksgiving retreat — I hope it’s a wonderful respite and helps to both honor your mom and create something new.

  14. I saw the best visual explanation of grief -there was a box with a huge ball inside (indicating that the grief was all consuming) and the picture that was the “after” showed the ball as the same size but the box was much bigger. So the grief was still there but it wasn’t as all consuming.

    Please know that we all support your taking care of your self, as best you can, right now.

  15. I totally understand what you are going through. I remember when I lost my parents. And this week I lost my job and my father-in-law died a few days later. Take care of YOU first because self care is THE most important thing right now. It is not being selfish at all. Rest, vent, yell, sleep etc. – whatever you need to do to get through this time. Your readers will be here for you!

  16. Your post about your life at this time was gut wrenching, Alison. You are brave. You are strong. You are real. Take as much time as you and your family need. Your readers will be right here whenever you are ready. Love and blessings to you at this time.

  17. Oh, I do remember so vividly how grief felt most often like an endless slog, and being surprised at how long the grief took up primary residence in my head. It won’t always be this hard, but it might be this hard for a while, and for that, I am sending support as a loyal reader who will stick around regardless of your posting schedule or whatever changes you need to make to manage your energy and be tender with your hurting heart. Peace, Alison.

  18. My dad died 10 years ago….I still can barely watch anything but HGTV and Hallmark movies, because I don’t want anything that doesn’t have a happy ending. Give yourself some grace. Thanksgiving will be different, but it will be a time to remember the wonderful times and to create new traditions for and with your daughter.

  19. Please take time to heal both mentally & physically. We love you & we’ll be here waiting for you. Nothing is more important than your health & your family.

  20. Alison, you are going through so much & it’s certainly understandable if things on the blog look a bit different for a little while or a long while. You should give yourself grace & time to work through all of this (& please know I don’t mean that you’ll just suddenly be all better one day). You write about your mom so beautifully. It’s obvious how much she was loved. The “business” aspect of a family death is difficult & often surprising at how much time it takes up. Just sending you & your family much love.

    I listened to the Brittany Spears memoir very quickly too & was surprised by how much I liked it. I definitely misjudged her, and it is so sad all the ways she was treated badly by the media and others. I love that she called it out so often in her book. That woman has been through a lot.

  21. Dear Alison,
    You are brave. And doing a fine job of showing up for work in a very hard time.
    I am so sorry your mother has died, she always came across in your comments as such a kind and remarkable woman.
    Take all the time you need. Rest your eye! We will be here when you come, and understand when you cannot.What is most important is care and rest.

  22. Allison- This made me
    feel normal. My best friend died unexpectedly on October 5th. We not only shared an office but texted constantly. Of course- you are dealing with so, so much more than I am. However reading your eloquent description of the impact your grief is having on your life really resonates with me. I question daily if my feelings of lethargy, inattentiveness and total lack of motivation are “normal”? I am miserable at work without her. And my usual solution to that misery was hanging out with her after work. Anyway- thank you for your transparency- we appreciate your honesty with us!

  23. Sending hugs and support from this internet stranger. There’s something about the layering of different kinds of stress (grief, world events, work, health) that multiplies it, rather than just adding to it. I hope you can continue to give yourself grace as you move through this season of stress.

  24. longtime reader, first time commenting, to say how very much I appreciate your hard work here. Sending you strength and grace, Alison. It’s hard for us to care for ourselves. Glad you are doing it.

  25. I hope you can scale back some of your obligations for a few months. Step down from the election post, for example. When you made that commitment life was different. It is OK to acknowledge that and reduce your number of jobs because life just got very complicated. I was not myself for months after my Mom died. Three years later, there are still some tasks I haven’t completed. Prioritize your health, family, and primary job during this transition period. Take care.

    1. I think I speak for so many of your loyal influencees 🙂 when I say take the time you need and go easy on yourself. We’ll be here when you’re ready. So sorry about your mom. It is clear how much you loved each other.

  26. Grief is so hard. And you have so much going on in your life! You don’t have to do it all even though it feels like you should. Listen to your body and rest when it tells you to and you’ll be stronger for it. Thanks for the articles and recommendations and most of all for being a defender of democracy with your election work. It isn’t easy these days but it’s important for us all.

  27. Alison (and Debbie), please give yourself as much time and grace as you need. Then give yourselves even some more. My mom died in June 2021. She was 91 and in hearty good health until just those last couple of weeks and so it came as a shock. I handled her estate on my own, and as you say it’s a LOT and it takes a long time. Looking back on the early weeks into months, I’m not at all sure how I did it all. The logistics of regular life become exhausting and when things come up like your eye, it can be too, too much. When your mom is part of your daily life it leaves a big hole in the day to day and holidays are minefields. Going away is a great idea! I’ll be honest – 2-1/2 years out and the exhaustion caused by grief and responsibilities still lingers for me, though it’s getting better. My mom was the center of holidays – I ignored the first year, tried to recreate something the second and honestly this year I think I’m going to skip it again. All of us who have lost someone so important in our lives understand and wish for you to take the time you need to take care of yourself.

  28. I teared up reading your post because it took me back to what I went through when my mother died, and it’s been more than 20 years. It took me about a year after her death before I stopped crying at the drop of a hat, and it was only very recently that I could talk about her without getting weepy. This is a very hard time for you and your sister so be gentle with yourselves and take whatever time you need. I can only hope that my now adult kids will speak as lovingly of me when I pass away. She must have been really special.

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