Lady Liberty Speaks To The Donald

Lady Liberty Speaks To The Donald

what-does-the-tablet-say-on-the-statue-of-liberty_902a2395-8a85-42b5-993a-e93429By Marcelle Soviero

Protestors, bring your peonies to the picket lines, your marigolds to marches. Bring daisies and daffodils, roses and quince. Consider, perhaps, wild flowers; lavender and lupine. “See,” you will subtly say, “each bloom is different.” Diversity is gorgeous.

Bring your confetti, your fairy dust; something to sprinkle the bad stuff away. Something nontoxic that lands soft when tossed on the White House stairs, little wishes curling at the seams; people’s hopes and dreams.

You Donald, bring us your very many tax forms, your very many campaign promises, your sound bites and speeches. Yes, bring us your words, so we too can alter facts, rearrange the letters into something plausible, something with a lisp of empathy, something we wish you had said. We will imagine again, in the space of our findings, our wheat fields and flower beds.

And should you even think you can blow my lantern out, believe me, you can’t. I will summon the sun and the stars for light.

Marcelle Soviero is the editor-in-chief of Brain Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers. She is also an award-winning poet and essayist and mother of five children.







Taking My Children To A Rally In A Storm

Taking My Children To A Rally In A Storm

BJ Blog Photo

By B.J. Hollars

One Saturday in the midst of primary season, I, like any informed member of the electorate, performed my civic duty of buckling my children—Henry (4), Eleanor (22 months)—into the double stroller and wheeling us toward the Bernie Sanders rally. I did so in a near-blizzard.

Let the record show that this is neither an endorsement of Bernie nor blizzards, and in fact, after a lot of soul-searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am anti-blizzard, especially when they strike in April when I’m expecting flowers.

Instead, that morning we were greeted with snowfall, a momentary whiteout making it difficult to determine just how far that Bernie line stretched. When conditions cleared it became obvious: it stretched forever.

Ahead of me, the line overflowed with the most rare of species—college students awake at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday. I tried to blend in as best I could, but something (maybe the double stroller?) pegged me as an outsider. In a good faith effort at parenting, I attempted to keep the kids warm by creating a cocoon, draping a blanket atop the stroller and tucking it around their legs. Every few minutes I’d peek inside to find Henry and Eleanor belting out their off-key rendition of the Daniel Tiger theme song in the hypnotic glow of the Kindle. Which is to say: they were having the time of their lives.

Meanwhile, the conditions outside that cocoon were less than ideal, and after a lot of highly visible teeth chattering and salvos for sympathy (“It’s okay children, just keep moving your fingers!”), a kind-hearted field worker took pity on us, offering hand warmers and a promise to get the kids out of the cold as fast as he could. He was good on his word, and a security pat down later we were in, taking our seats on the front row of the arena bleachers.

“OK,” I said, wiping the snowflakes from my watch as reality set in, “just another three hours till Bernie.”

There are only so many ways to kill time at a political rally and we tried all of them: peeking into the press room, chatting with the band, waving to the news anchors until they just stopped waving back. We talked to the people behind us, in front of us, all around us, and when that game wore thin, we even tried talking to each another.

At around 10:00a.m.—two hours till show time—the kids began to grow restless.

“Dad,” Henry whined, “I’m hungry.”

I reached into my pocket to unearth a half-eaten candy cane.

“Is it still good?” he asked skeptically.

“I don’t see an expiration date, do you?”

That candy bought us a good hour, at which point the sugar crash set in. I attempted to neutralize the situation by returning their attention to the Kindle, which they watched contentedly, while I watched the battery deplete at an alarming rate.

Stay cool, I thought, you got this.

And even if I didn’t, I figured that if my children—inspired by Bernie—attempted their own revolution, the secret service would have no choice but to come to my rescue.

Yes, things were looking up, right up until that battery died.

“Dad…” Henry said, “I’m still hungry.”

By this point Eleanor had taken the liberty of eating the granola bar belonging to the young woman to our left, and when that didn’t suffice, a woman six rows up read the situation perfectly and came bearing a bag of crackers.

In my mind’s eye, that woman wore a halo round her head, floating down from those bleachers to a crescendo of harps and sopranos. It was just what we needed just when we needed it, and by the time my ravenous children had worked through those crackers, our city’s favorite son, a Grammy-winning rock star, took to the mic to introduce the presidential candidate.

I’ll give Bernie this: he was punctual. And he knew how to get college-aged folks to cheer. What he didn’t know was how to persuade my young children to cheer at appropriate times. Instead, Henry and Eleanor provided a call-and-response to Bernie, hollering like a couple of tent revival parishioners taken by the spirit.

This, of course, was hilarious to precisely them and nobody else. By this point even the most polite progressives had begun to tire of us, and though they continued to brandish their tight, forgiving smiles, I knew it was time to take our leave. We retreated to the edge of the stage where I could stand, shush, and rock as appropriate—anything to keep them quiet.

Henry demanded my phone so I handed it over (“Right away, sir!”), and for the next minute, watched miserably as my 21st century child snapped selfies of himself. As the photos momentarily froze on the screen, I noticed a blurry rock star directly in the background.

Great, I thought, not only is my kids’ behavior ruining a rally, but we’re probably pissing off the rock star as well.

All of this might have been avoided, of course, had I better prepared for our adventure. Yet in my haste to give my children a memorable experience, I’d forgotten the basics: food, water, and backup Kindles.

Conscientious parents often exaggerate how bothersome their kids are in their own minds. Maybe there’s a chance everyone in that arena actually appreciated the adorable distraction my kids provided. Maybe…

But in the event we were as bad as I think (and I think we were pretty bad), allow me to offer a public thank you.

Thank to you the field worker who kept us from freezing, and to the woman who gave us her granola bar. Thanks to the angel with the crackers, the rock star with the patience, and the political candidate whose hearing kept him from hearing us. As a voter, I’m still undecided. But as a father, those people in that rally won my vote.

B.J. Hollars is a Brain, Child contributing blogger. He the author of several books, most recently From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life, Death, and Being Human, as well as a collection of essays, This Is Only A Test. He serves as the reviews editor for Pleiades, a mentor for Creative Nonfiction, and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. For more, visit:

photo credit: Bill Hoepner



Sunday News Update: August 10, 2014

Sunday News Update: August 10, 2014

BC Logo_SquareBy Valerie Young

Welcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday wrap up of policy issues impacting women and children with Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

Think we are gaining ground in the effort to remove the barriers between motherhood and equitable treatment at work?  Bad news:   The Wage Penalty For Becoming A Mother Is The Same Now As It Was In 1977.

“According to a new report from the Council on Contemporary Families, since 2006, more people have been letting go of traditional attitudes toward gender roles—where the mom is expected to stay home while the dad works—and are viewing moms who work outside the home and participate in politics more favorably.” Now if we could turn that approval into some paid family leave, so that all working people can deal with life’s normal complications and support their families financially too, we’d be golden.

Who takes the big hit for having kids?  Moms do, according to US News & World Report, because the way we do work in this country makes it an all or nothing proposition. “Professional women often end up opting out because it simply feels impossible to take care of both family and work responsibilities,” Lovejoy says. “The decision was often unexpected and unplanned,” she explains. When Stone and Lovejoy followed up on these opt-out women 10 years later, they found two-thirds of the women had returned to work, but to different types of work that offered greater flexibility – and lower pay.”

State legislators in New Jersey can’t deliver paid sick days – so advocates will make it happen city by city.  Organizers are collecting signatures to get the issue on the ballot in November, according to the New York Times.

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at




Sunday Night News Update: July 27, 2014

Sunday Night News Update: July 27, 2014

BC Logo_SquareWelcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday night news update where we look at policy issues impacting women and children with Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

With Congress half out the door on the way to their August vacation,  two bills were dropped in the hopper that could  make life better for moms.  The Schedules That Work Act would require employers of part-time workers to give more notice of shift schedules and assignments so that workers could plan accordingly.  Much of the part-time workforce is mothers, as noted by Senator Elizabeth Warren in this article from The Guardian:  “A single mom working two jobs should know if her hours are being canceled before she arranges for daycare and drives halfway across town to show up at work…This is about some basic fairness in work scheduling so that both employees and employers have more certainty and can get the job done.”  Amen, sister!

Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Senator Angus King of Maine get a cheer for  introducing a bill that would give a tax credit to employers offering at least four weeks of paid family leave.  It’s called the Strong Families Act, and will likely go nowhere with the recess coming up and the mid-term elections getting all the attention once our do-nothing Congress reconvenes in September.  But it is an effort to deal with the fact that ONLY the US has no guaranteed paid time off for maternity or paternity leave.  In the 21st century.  With women half the labor force.  Sheesh.

Most states have some sort of laws on the books protecting pregnant or breastfeeding workers.  Does yours?  Here is a handy resource from your friends US Department of Labor.  Just click on your state on the map and see what rights you have.  Pregnancy discrimination runs rampant, and employers often fail to provide new moms what’s required, because we aren’t aware of and don’t ask for what the law allows.  Don’t suffer endlessly. Know your rights.

Some parting thoughts on issues that often concern women with children who work – How do I tell my boss I’m Pregnant?  Not an endorsement, just one person’s experience, from GoGirl Finance, as well as a series of articles on negotiating your salary, and three important tips to keep in mind when discussing your worth, from the same site.

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at


Sunday Night News: July 20,2014

Sunday Night News: July 20,2014

BC Logo_Square

Welcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday night news update where we look at issues impacting women and children. Tonight we hear from Your (Wo)Man in Washington, Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers:

A few key things happened last week in political momland that you should know about:

First, the bill that Democrats tried to get through Congress to avoid the effect of the US Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision failed.  Called the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, it would have prohibited employers from invoking their religious beliefs  to avoid federal law requiring coverage of contraceptive costs.  CNN predicts that the issue will figure prominently in the November elections.

A Tennessee law that allows a pregnant woman to be charged with assault if she is found to have narcotics in her system  was applied for the first time to a woman who tested positive when her child was delivered.  Advocates of the bill say it protects fetuses and infants.  Critics say it makes it less likely that addicted expectant mothers will ask for the help they need.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued an official “guidance” regarding discrimination against pregnant workers, still astonishingly common even decades after such behavior was made illegal.  Many women do not know their rights and find themselves forced onto unpaid leave, or fail to receive reasonable accommodation to continue their work.  NPR has an article and audio, and you can go right to the source at the EEOC.

Police arrested the mother of a 9 year old who was allowed to play unsupervised in a public park while her mother was at work at McDonald’s.  The child was placed in foster care.  The child typically sat in the restaurant when her mother worked, playing on a laptop, but their home had recently been burgled and the laptop stolen, so the child asked to go to the park instead.  Reports unleashed a veritable firestorm in the media.

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at

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