January 27, 2017

"What I am trying to cultivate is not blind optimism...but radical hope."

Modern Adventuress

27 JANUARY 2017

Hello letter friends,

Well, it’s been a week, hasn’t it. I thought I would start out by sharing some coping methods and action strategies that have come up for me in conversations recently.

1) On the activism front: I was able to march last Saturday in Chicago’s Women’s March, but it’s true that getting out to protests is not something I get to do often. It’s a hard for single mothers to make work. Or any parents, or people with other care responsibilities, or people with disabilities or mental illnesses or anything else that makes walking around in crowds not always feasible. So I want to reassure you that, if you’re in one of these groups, there are other ways of contributing. I feel one of the easiest and most impactful ways is donating to organizations out there fighting the good fight. If you don’t have a lot to spare, I recommend setting up a small monthly donation, like $5, or even $1, a month. It may not seem like a lot, but it builds up. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Emily’s List and BLM, as well as many local food banks, all accept automatic monthly payments. Take a moment and see if you can pick one, or another org you love, and help out.

2) On the self-care front: I mentioned before I not too long ago began a regular meditation practice. I’m finding it tremendously useful. And useful in beginning/maintaining that practice has been the Smiling Mind app. It has guided programs for different age ranges and settings, it’s easy to fit into your day and it's free. Try it out, and reach for it when you need a bit of space.

3) On the community front: I recommend that you send a letter or postcard to a friend. I push handwritten material and paper-based communication as rule, but it’s true getting a physical note from someone can carry a lot more weight than a digital one. Alternatively, write a letter to a woman or person of color whom you admire. I got this idea from this calligrapher’s “Dear Women” notecard campaign, which you can totally participate in—but you don’t need to buy special cards, you can just send a heartfelt missive to anyone you like, to let them know why you like them. We could all use some encouragement these days.

For some other action ideas, I’ll refer you to this actionnow newsletter.

Let’s get on with business. Today I have for you links, a book recommendation, an update on our Donors Choose campaign and an essay on winter, part two.


The women’s marches showed America at its best.

Photographs from women’s marches on every continent.

"Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive.” Full transcript of Janet Mock’s Women’s March speech.

Full transcript of legend Angela Davis’s Women’s March speech.

“They didn’t choose Joan of Arc—with the sword and the horse and the big stuff—they chose a flawed human to be their champion because she overcame.” How Carrie Fisher became the surprising face of the rebellion against Trump.

Jamelle Bouie on how protest works.

No, Trump won’t be good for the arts.

This week I learned a new, fascinating bit of history about the Jane Collective, a medical underground that served Chicago’s South Side in the years before Roe V. Wade.

Inside the weird, industry-shaking world of Donald Glover.

Scott Tobias on Sundance, sex, lies and videotape and foreseeing the digital recording age.

How struggling mothers are horror’s new final girls.

America is afraid of ambitious women, even on TV, from Angelica Jade Bastién.

On the portraits of black cowboys.

Photographs from the abandoned Istvantelek Train Yard.

A reading list on the wisdom of Mr. Rogers.


M Train
Patti Smith

I’ve waxed poetic about Patti Smith often enough before, so I’ll keep this brief. M Train is great. And I’m pleased by how closely her habits of being alone, visiting graves and binging detective shows mirror my own. Kindred spirits are wonderful to discover, even by the proxy of a book.


"While feminism is now often explicitly part of the narrative for some of today’s women musicians (and Patti rarely, if ever, addressed feminism explicitly), I worry that now the bar has risen in terms of the women we listen to on the topic of women’s places in the world. Now, it’s not enough to talk about women without being a polished, beautiful, fabulous woman yourself. Now, you can be smart and pretty at the same time, and so we require both, and just being smart won’t cut it anymore. There’s nothing inherently wrong about being polished, beautiful or fabulous, whether individually or all at the same time. But, well, I rarely achieve any of that, at any time. I find myself yearning more and more for the examples that speak to my reality. Where is the music of the woman who isn’t perfectly packaged?”

This week’s essay look back is on Patti Smith.

Action Squad

Out of all of the Donors Choose projects I listed on our campaign page, we’ve contributed to funding two. There are three still active. If you’d like to chip in, you can do so over here: donorschoose.org/modernadventuress

Notes in the Margins

On winter, part two.

It’s nearing the end of January and it’s unseasonably warm. When I go out, I leave my gloves in my pockets and my coat is sometimes a layer too heavy. But, for all this, I don’t go out very often. Temperature notwithstanding, it’s the depths of winter and my mind is fixed there.

As if protecting myself preemptively, I have made myself too comfortable. I can stay home to work and so I do. My daughter, claiming more and more independence, can now walk to and from school by herself, and so she does. I get meals and groceries delivered. Winter hardly touches my daily life anymore. But I still feel in hibernation, in stasis. I say, “still,” but the comfort keeps me inert more than anything else.

The cold I set myself against may have had a purpose after all. After a certain point, comfort seems to have little point. And a part of me wants resistance, something to push and poke and inconvenience. Something to overcome.

There’s a lot of weight in whether or not you choose to avoid the cold or move into it.

Tomorrow, I think, I’ll go for a walk. Straight east, which in Chicago leads to Lake Michigan. Past the Lakeshore Trail clogged with runners and bikers is the real lake shore, bolstered by concrete, and the icy wind there will rip away every last excuse for not paying attention to the world around you and, even though it’s uncomfortable, the horizon is wide open.

That’s all for today. Thank you for reading.

Get out there however you can.



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Today’s subject line quote from Junot Diaz.