Category Archives: Philosophy of the world

44 is the new 44


It was my birthday last week. Back when I was a prolific, several times a week blogger, I offered reports on my birthday, all of them terrible. For years I was convinced that my birthday was a day set aside to haunt me, to remind me of the constant specter of death.

This is why people don’t usually invite me to parties.

Miraculously, though, I was invited to a party this Halloween! I dressed as the most irritating character on “Orange is the New Black,” Alex Vause.


No one at the party watched the show.

Do you ever feel like you’re that person at the party? The one who mentions death at the dessert table? The one whose costume is a little bit off?

I’ve been blogging as The Radical Housewife since 2006. A lot has changed in the last decade, including the rise and fall of blogging as media outlet and/or platform, or as some call it, “brand.” From the jump I loved writing about the things that interested me: feminism, parenting, pop culture, grief, joy, reproductive rights, Minnesota politics, body image, Courtney Love, Hillary Clinton, NOW, and books books books–especially my own.

People don’t read or write blogs that much anymore. I know I don’t. When my attention span is short and cranky, I go to Twitter. When I have the luxury of four sentences and a photo of my kids doing something cute, I go to Facebook. There doesn’t seem to be as much space for the long form noodling that connected so many interesting people via MySpace, Blogger, and LiveJournal back in the day.

Take me for example: I never wrote to make a living off of ad revenue, but I did want to connect. I did want to build SOMETHING of a “brand,” which I assumed would lead to the ego fulfillment that I felt was my American birthright. In the blogosphere, I could create my own costume! I deserved to be invited to ALL THE PARTIES, dammit!

I was invited to a few, and for that I am very grateful. I found my nonfiction voice and an audience, and I did what my high school yearbook promised I’d do (that would be to get published, NOT marry Holden Caulfield).

This isn’t my goodbye post, by the way. A presidential election is less than a year away–do you think I want to squander that opportunity to build my brand …er, join the party?? In fact, I might just throw myself a party to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of The Radical Housewife.

Don’t worry, you’ll be invited.


When housewives and bridges collapse

Last Easter, while others were churching and/or brunching, Matt and I went to see a locally-made film called “The Public Domain.” We are acquainted with Patrick Coyle, the film’s writer-director, which gave us additional incentive to see it, above and beyond our civic duty as supporters of independent art–and it did not disappoint.

From the film’s website:

 August, 1, 2007, 6:05pm, the hottest day of the year in Minneapolis.  A bridge spanning the Mississippi River collapses during rush hour. Thirteen people die, 145 are injured, a U.S. Senator arrives on the scene and declares that “a bridge shouldn’t just fall down in the middle of America.”  Five years later, the lives of four people, impacted by the tragedy and on the run from their personal demons, intersect in a waterfront bar operating in the shadow of the bridge.  The name of the bar is THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.



An important point: “The Public Domain” is not a film about things that fall down. It is a film about how things, and people, rebuild.

After watching the film I was reminded of how deeply the bridge collapse affected the entire Twin Cities community, including one  housewife-columnist for the Minnesota Women’s Press. Like Coyle, I also used the fallen bridge as a way in to some pretty deep shit.

The housewife’s collapse
By Shannon Drury
August 23, 2007

I am an at-home parent. That’s how I identify, purposefully avoiding the popular, gender-coded acronym SAHM that implies all stay-at-home moms are the same. I’m not. Another label I created is The Radical Housewife, a moniker that seemed pretty funny when I set up a MySpace page. I’m just that kind of post-hipster, Gen-X irony-laden spouse and parent who wants to reclaim “housewife” from the June Cleavers and Barbara Bushes of American history.

Why the distinction? Why deem it necessary to create a goofball label at all? Not simply to declare my leftist leanings to the world, surely. No, my choice to differentiate myself runs deeper than my political beliefs-it’s about the long-suppressed secret of full-time motherhood.

Housewifery really sucks.

But it sucks no more or less than any other job, when evaluated critically. Kissing ass can be as soul draining as wiping ass, but the white-collar worker doing the former lacks the suffocating aura of love and devotion and all-consuming cultural sacrifice of the latter. Back when I slung lattes for a living, I didn’t have the world’s expectations upon me. I wasn’t molding the future, I wasn’t anyone’s savior, I wasn’t anyone’s model of goodness and purity. I made coffee people liked. People liked it enough to buy more. The corporate coffee gods rewarded me in turn. You don’t need a radical outlook to miss the simplicity of those capitalist days.

At times, I do like my job. At times I even love it. But lately, I hate it. I suppose this admission is as radical an action as any.

Strip housewifery of its pink aprons and banana bread scent and it’s a job like any other, with aggravation and burnout and depression or worse. And when we housewives finally implode, it can be spectacular.

It’s not too much of a stretch to call moms the neglected infrastructure of our society, taken for granted each and every day. My children certainly careen over me with abandon, caring little of the wear and tear they exact. Whining demands are like rust, intractable demands are hairline cracks, bellows of “I hate you!” are deep shudders. A child’s special needs diagnosis turns into a fracture that’s harder and harder to repair. But it’s supposed to be that way, isn’t it? We’re built to withstand the strain, right? Maybe. Some bridges and moms are built tougher than others. Unlike highway bridges, however, moms aren’t subjected to yearly inspections, no matter how flawed. How would anyone know if I were structurally deficient if I didn’t tell them so? And I’m not going to. It seems even radicals cling to outmoded ideals of motherly perfection, in spite of themselves.

Is it any wonder, then, that the horrific Aug. 1 bridge collapse affected everyone so deeply, and me so viscerally? To me, the fall was a tragedy not only for the people lost and for the survivors whose lives where irrevocably shaken, but for my entire city, and by extension, me. How else to explain the constant tears and the intense, almost physical discomfort at seeing my city on the front page of the New York Times?

I recoiled in disgust watching Matt Lauer’s handsome mug reporting from the riverbank. What in hell was he doing here? When the nation’s First Housewife and her husband flew in to witness the rubble for themselves, I’d finally had it. Get away! I shouted at the television. Leave us alone! We don’t need you! This was wrong, utterly wrong. This was not supposed to happen here. The despair twisting in my gut felt familiar, as it was the same churn I experienced only a week or so before, when my own mother told me, “You are falling apart from stress and you need help.”

How did I reply to her? To the woman over whom I ran roughshod in my own way, so many years ago? Get away! Leave me alone! Some things never change. Until they have to.

For when we are unsupported, we will fall. Cracks and fractures happen; they are part of life and as such are easy to ignore. If only our deeply held myths were as vulnerable. If a mother weren’t held up so high and trod upon so often, all the while supporting the desperate hopes of so many, maybe her collapse wouldn’t be so unavoidable. And maybe, just maybe, if a wounded community can accept the scrutiny of the entire world, one mom can too.

That would be radical.



35W Bridge Memorial

“The Public Domain” on Facebook and Twitter


2014 in bests and worsts

2014 is over, long live 2014! Was it the BEST year I ever had? It couldn’t have been the WORST, but a lot of really crappy things happened.

In the BEST year file is the culmination of a lifelong dream and five years of hard work: the publication of my first book.



Too bad it had to happen when I was laid up with two additional, accidental firsts: my first broken bone and my first surgery.

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Those were such painful WORSTS that I had to wonder if the universe had a message for me. I mean, neither Ariel Gore nor Cheryl Strayed broke their dominant wrists seven weeks before a book signing! Maybe this was evidence that I needed to use the laptop not for writing but for reposting videos of my daughter playing drums with the girls from rock camp:


OMG, right? She is the BEST. As a frustrated drummer myself it is a thrill every day to hear her practice and to remember how much fun she had being part of a band. Gina Schock and Georgia Hubley should watch their backs.

But as much as I love my daughter, her band wasn’t the BEST concert I saw this year. My sister and I got to relive our youth with the Replacements’ hometown reunion show in September.

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Paul Westerberg looks tiny because I was not going to twiddle with the settings on my phone’s camera while I was watching a performance by the band I’ve loved dearly for close to thirty years. The Replacements are the BEST band in the world.*

One of the WORST things in life is definitely air travel, but the end result can be spectacular. In October, still with a cast on my wrist, I traveled with my family to the Grand Canyon.



This is probably the BEST place on earth to have a nice hike and contemplate your tininess, your absolute meaninglessness in the presence of millions of years of geologic time. You think to yourself, “is it really the WORST thing ever to have just 14 reviews of the book up on Amazon? Will it matter a hundred, or hell, even a dozen years from now?”

That’s the tricky thing about achieving a lifelong goal–the day after, you still have to get up and brush your own teeth. Everything around you looks the same; the world didn’t shift off its axis like you thought it would. If you let that get inside your head, it can be the WORST.

I should know.

So I come back to this photograph, one of the BEST I think I’ve ever taken, with three of the BEST, most adorable people on the planet:




2014 is over, long live 2014–the best and the worst.







*Anyone who complains about the lack of Bob Stinson, Chris Mars and/or Slim Dunlap is the WORST. Let it go.




Why do I write a blog?


I received my first blank book as a Christmas present in 1982. Prior to then I scribbled my thoughts and various Archie fanfics (though in those days we didn’t call them fanfics, we called them silly stories about comic book characters) in notebooks and scratch pads around the house. My mother believed me when I said I wanted to be a Writer When I Grew Up, so she thought I finally needed something Fancy to Write In.

And write in it I did. I was a faithful correspondent in that book for months, pushing myself to write something every day, including what I had for dinner (Green Mill pizza) what I watched on TV (Powerhouse) and whose family got a mysterious machine called a VCR that showed movies you actually wanted to watch (Rachel’s, the lucky girl). Then I realized that my fifth grade existence was actually pretty boring and I gave it up.

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In 8th grade I was given a new book, perhaps to sort out my complicated feelings about my parents’ yearlong separation, but family problems barely made its pages, devoted as they were to my single-minded pursuit of the cute boy who sat in front of me in math class. Oh sweet heavens, he was adorable. Even the sudden death of a classmate gets only a page of reflection before devolving into a navel-gazing meditation on how important it was to make that cute boy like me before I, like Lisa, got run over by a car on my way home from school.

After reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in high school (another gift from my mother, who still believed me when I said I wanted to be a Writer When I Grew Up), I ditched the B. Dalton brand blank books and returned to notebooks. Goldberg swore by the unassuming nature of the lowly school notebook, believing that fancy books deterred creativity instead of inspiring it. I kept a journal only sporadically, however, as I was more interested in writing teenage angst fiction based on the skaters and McPunks who hung out at the Uptown McDonald’s.

2014-06-28 19.07.39


After graduation, I decided to take up the journaling habit again, this time in a series of beat-up notebooks covered in random stickers, including one from my place of employment. I wrote constantly. I wrote at home, in coffee shops, at bars. I wrote so much I gave myself cramps in my hands. In 1997, I fell head over heels for the cute boy at the record store–but this time, I was so busy being loved  in return that I didn’t have to pine about it. Requited love is a great productivity killer. I stopped journaling for a very long time.

Until I started a blog.

Old masthead


Of course I wasn’t nearly as candid in a blog as I was with my blank books or journals, but I was still pretty honest when I wrote about my children, my family of origin, my best friend, the parents at my kids’ school.

Surprise! The only people who weren’t pissed off were my kids–because they were too young to have MySpace accounts.

About a month ago I wrote another personal blog post in which I reflected on the end of a friendship. I received a swift and brutal response from the person I wrote about, in the form of a comment that hit me so hard I felt dizzy and unsettled for days (last week I finally removed it). Again, I had to wonder why I ever thought to make the jump from easily hidden packs of paper to digital diaries that are open to the whole goddamn world. Why?

Why do I write a blog? These days I could say that I do it to push the soon-to-be-published book that shares the blog’s name. But we’re going to go deeper and REALLY WONDER WHY:

To make friends? To make enemies? To make manifest the promised Writer When I Grew Up? To feed my penchant for narcissistic navel-gazing? To make sense of what Mary Oliver called my one wild and precious life? To embarrass myself? To make myself happy?

All of the above?

I’m sure I’ll post something here when I’ve figured it out.






To linger at the bus stop


I can usually be counted on to announce when one of my columns appears in the Minnesota Women’s Press.  I like the gig, I want to keep it, and I’m proud of the work that I’ve done for the magazine.  But the column that appeared in last October’s issue was different.  It felt too raw, too emotional, too vulnerable to link to on Twitter with the usual “HEY EVERYBODY CHECK THIS OUT!”

How could I be happy to publicize a column I wrote about a loved one who is dead?



My friend and neighbor Pam Taylor was diagnosed with an aggressive and virtually untreatable brain tumor in November 2011.  In one week Pam went from being just another mama at the school bus stop to a semi-paralyzed terminally ill hospital patient.

This was nothing at all like other times cancer has touched my life.  My friend Liz’s colon cancer treatment, though eventually futile, allowed her at least some time with mobility, hair, and most importantly, hope.  A family member with lung cancer has been trucking along for six and a half years, switching out medications in search of whatever works.  Not Pam.  Once her cancer was diagnosed it was too late for anything but goodbye.




A new mother I know told me recently that she was surprised to see the parents in her neighborhood linger at the bus stop long after the children had been whisked away to school.  It seemed odd to her that busy people, commuter mugs in hand, would yak at the corner for up to a half hour in the mornings, longer on warm afternoons.  I told her that I might have thought that was silly, too, if I hadn’t lingered at my own bus stop and gotten to know some incredibly funny, thoughtful and supportive parents who I’m happy to say became dear friends.  Including Pam.




Pam’s diagnosis was shattering for me.  In late 2011 I was already in a pretty crappy headspace, dealing with professional rejection, interpersonal drama, and a long-festering depression that required more attention than I cared to give it.  I used to write a couple blogs a week, but in 2012 and 2013, I wrote a couple blogs a month.  I say this just to be honest, not to make you think that my own pain in any way compares to the suffering endured by Pam and her family.  And what a family!  Pam loved her two daughters so fiercely that she defied the odds and lived 14 months after her diagnosis, more than a year than any fancypants oncologist expected.  She was stubborn like that.

Pam passed away on January 30, 2013, in the house just up the street from where I type one year later.  I still miss her.  As I wrote in that October 2013 column:

I could pretend, in my worst days, that Pam was merely behind schedule and was seconds away from opening the kitchen window to ask me if I’d seen the school bus cresting the top of the hill. All of that pretending failed to make her materialize; on my very worst days, I blamed myself for not trying harder. 

The bus is scheduled to drop my daughter and Pam’s youngest off in ten minutes, but will likely be delayed due to last night’s heavy snow that has yet to be fully plowed.  With the windchill factored in, it feels like three above zero, not the ideal conditions for hanging out on a street corner, gabbing.

But I’ll do it anyway, and if you have the opportunity, I hope you can too.  Who knows?  Taking the time to linger at the bus stop could change your life.

It changed mine, for the better.





Repose en paix, Monsieur Seeger


“Aw no, Pete Seeger died,” I said, turning up the radio so I could hear the entire report from NPR news.

“Who’s Pete Seeger?” Elliott asked.

I paused for a moment, listening to the familiar plinkety-plunk of his banjo on the cold airwaves.  “I know you’ve heard of him,” I said.  “Pete Seeger, probably the world’s most famous folk singer.”

“Nope,” Elliott said.

“Have you heard of him, Miriam?” I asked.

She stared at me blankly. “Who?”

“Are you telling me that you’ve both been in public elementary school music programs for years and you’ve never had to sing “If I Had a Hammer”?’

“NO,” they shouted.

“Crap,” I said, snapping the radio dial off when talk returned to the ongoing disaster in Syria, the kind of hopeless warring between brothers and sisters that Seeger spent his music career denouncing.  “I’m sorry,” I added.  “I guess I goofed on an important part of your musical education.”



I cannot hope to add much to the public conversation about Seeger’s contribution to music, politics, and culture.  Instead, I’ll use my tiny platform to share my favorite version of “If I Had a Hammer” outside of an elementary school music class. In the wobbly but magnificent clip below, it is performed in French ye-ye style by the obscure but amazing group Les Surfs.  Enjoy it as part of your musical education.

Merci beaucoup, M. Seeger.  RIP.





The dream


“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”




“….when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

Manuscript Monday: “Patriarchy and our sons”

Hi readers!  Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, but it’s sorta hard to type when you’re hiding under your thickest blanket, scared to death not only of the bizarro Minnesota weather (nine inches of snow last week, eight inches more expected tonight) but also of the United States Senate.  And that thing that happened in Boston.



I can’t get over how young and vulnerable the boy in this photograph seems.  He’s a baby!  What the hell happened between the moment this picture was taken and the moment he decided to drop a bomb in a crowd full of people?  

As this face flashed across my television and computer screens myriad times over the last five days I flashed back to the intense, white-knuckled terror I felt in 1999 when, within weeks of each other, the Columbine tapes were released and discovered the sex of my first child.  



Since [my] angst-filled first pregnancy, I’ve become convinced that the greatest challenge of the 21st century women’s movement is to raise feminist boys who become feminist men.  I chanted this mantra to myself in 1999 to build up my confidence, to be sure, but the reality is that no part of our culture will change until men make it happen.

If you’ve forgotten, we live under patriarchy.  Men make the world go ‘round.  Women like Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel, Margaret Thatcher of the UK, Michelle Bachelet of Argentina, and our own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are exceptions, but not the rule.  A 2007 report from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) discovered that  “women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the [world’s] food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.”

Successful civil rights movements acknowledge that power can’t be shifted without the consent of the powerful.  Women got the vote by appealing to the consciences of their menfolk.  How will we upend patriarchy?  By raising a generation of boys who reject the rigidity of gendered society in favor of a balance of power that will ultimately benefit everybody.

Deeper minds than mine have probed the motives and psyches of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; I cannot claim to improve on their work here.  But would these broken children have expressed their frustrations differently in a world less accepting of testosterone-fueled violence?  Could some gender flexibility instead of ingrained machismo have allowed Klebold to ask for help with his suicidal ideation?  Perhaps suicide was an inevitable outcome of his mental illness—chronic depression has as high a fatality rate as cancer—but where does a boy get the idea to kill others, too?

The prevailing wisdom is that Harris was an irredeemable psychopath.  Where does such a lack of empathy for others begin?  In the cradle, where boy babies are less likely than their sisters to be held when they cry?

Is it too radical to suggest that feminism could have prevented Columbine?  I don’t think so.  Feminism asks that we critically examine the interconnections between gender roles and social behavior, and there’s no better starting point for such a discussion than in our persistent, almost intractable, culture of violence.



So why the hell are you so angry, fellas?  Why, with virtually all the power on the planet, do you still need to hurt others?  Why do you, yourselves, hurt so badly?

Would you like to talk about it?



One from the heart


I have started and stopped this post more than a dozen times. Here’s the conversation I hear as I type, delete, type, hit save draft…

Head: “It’s time to write a blog post.”

Heart: “Yeah, probably, but I don’t wanna.”

Head: “You have stuff to say, publications to plug, yadda yadda.”

Heart: “Ugh, I would rather sit under a blanket and watch Scandal, the best show on television.”

Head: “You streamed every episode available.  There won’t be a new one until March 21. WRITE THAT POST.”

Heart: “Dammit.”


In last month’s issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press, themed “Matters of the Heart,”  I wrote a fan letter to feminist men.  It was pretty good, I think–at least good enough to warrant many hetero women to inquire where I found my awesome feminist husband (behind the counter at Cheapo, of course).  But I didn’t do the usual thing and hawk it here, for an uncomfortable reason.

My big fat feminist heart is in pieces.

On January 30, my friend Pam Taylor passed away from brain cancer.  She died with her family at her side, at home, in typically stubborn fashion–her doctors gave her just weeks to live, but she pushed that out to fourteen months.  If you knew Pam, you knew she was not about to leave her two daughters THAT quickly.  No way.

Usually, I respond to upheaval by writing.  I wrote volumes when my dear friend Liz passed away in 2007, also of cancer, also at home, also leaving behind two young daughters.  At the time I kept my blog on MySpace, a charmingly mindless place to vent about the ugliness and unfairness of life.  As a plus, you could add the music you were listening to at the time, which in 2007 was always Paul Westerberg’s “Let the Bad Times Roll“:

The good times hide/and so do I/out of my control/I dig a hole/I’m gonna let the bad times roll

It should be noted that this song was released in 2002, a decade before Scandal was available to cheer ol’ Paul up.

In the years (yes, years) that I’ve been working on The Radical Housewife, the book, I’ve utilized the services of a number of industry professionals who advised me that my blog should be a place where I “build my platform,” such as it is.  I must be vigorous about promoting myself and my work at the Women’s Press, at MPR, at the Minnesota NOW Times, at any analog and/or digital publication that would have me–nevermind that this is contrary to every introverted cell in my body.  I find that this push towards “branding” has strangled my natural impulse to write directly from my heart, whether it’s broken or whole.

And more and more often I see bloggers are clashing with each other (and with their readers, sometimes) over anything and everything.  Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg seem to have reinvigorated the Mommy Wars for 2013, and every feminist writer I know has taken a side.  Page views and well-placed editorials are the reward for the winner, dontcha know!  The Feminist Breeder was so fed up she put up a paywall on her site.  Kinda makes you wish we were all gluing up zines at Kinko’s doesn’t it?

Goddammit, whatever happened to GIRL POWER?!  Forgive us, Bratmobile and Sporty Spice!  We need you!

Ultimately, waxing nostalgic for long-lost “good old days” is as unhelpful as wishing very very VERY hard that people wouldn’t die.  You can give it a go, just don’t expect results.

The heart is a fragile thing.





Once upon a time, I thought that the opposite of love was hate.  Now that I’ve grown (much) older, I believe that the opposite of love is fear.

Fear prevents us from asking for help when we need it, sometimes desperately.  Fear prevents us from offering help to others when we know, from the gut, that it is desperately needed.

Fear stops us from accessing our own humanity.

Fear sells weapons.



Fear enforces stereotypes.

Fear tightens, restricts, confines.  Fear obscures our interconnectedness.

Fear hurts.


Fear feeds on fear.  Fear snowballs, compounds, multiplies.  Fear makes you type dumb things on Facebook that you would never say to a person’s face, things like “unfriend me now if you don’t do this or that.”

Fear creates an insatiable need to create and assign labels, from “outcast” to “weirdo” to “Trench Coat Mafia” to “mentally ill” to “autistic” to “threat to society” to “gun-worshipping NRA lunatic.”

Fear stigmatizes.  Fear isolates.

Fear kills.


Knowing that, what can we do?  Here’s a thought from Pema Chödrön, who has made the study of fear her life’s work:

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.”  

I’m starting to do things differently already–but it’s not easy, and I am afraid.  Are you?