Election 2020. GET. HIM. OUT. (a playlist)

spotify election playlist jpg

Photo of Spotify playlist. Playlist link is at the end of this post.

Nothing says life in the Trump/McConnell era like going about your daily business in a simmering, nail-spitting rage, while also functioning more or less as if it’s a “normal” day. It’s quite the split. Quite the disconnect. (How will this alone, as a chronic state, fracture our souls? )

Is it at least as bad as we thought it would be, when we were tossing and turning in the wee hours of November 9 in 2016, waking up a hundred times from a half-sleep, knowing something was horribly wrong, then remembering what it was? Is it worse than we thought it could get?  I don’t think most of us imagined COVID. Except, of course, for the epidemiology experts who predicted it almost exactly, and briefed the Trump administration on the necessary preparations, as they cut the funding and programs to do so.

We were worried about RBG, but did we imagine the way they would do it— with her, 8 days before the election? That it would be so…poetic in its staggering hypocrisy and shameless evil?

We were very worried about the hell he promised to make for immigrants seeking asylum (fleeing from horrific conditions we helped create). But did we really imagine 500+ children kept in cages, their parents lost to them, them lost to their parents? Stolen, I mean. Not lost.

Did we imagine that Trump’s foot soldiers (read: jack-booted thugs) would be plucking protestors off the streets, without cause or even identification? Or that his most staunch supporters would set police stations on fire and incite violence at protests in order to pin their violent acts on Black Lives Matter activists? I think many of us did imagine things like this, actually.

But did we imagine a frightening and exponentially increasing number of “normal” people falling (diving?) down the QAnon rabbit hole, actually believing Trump is the savior from blood-drinking pedophile devil-worshippers taking over the world? (Did I really just type that? Or is this a dream?) No. I’m pretty sure no one imagined that—at least not the amount of traction it would gain or its potential to stoke white supremacist domestic terrorism, even after Pizzagate. Or how it would attract mommy bloggers and Instagram influencers, and dovetail with traditionally left-leaning New Age spirituality and holistic wellness communities (phenomena known as “Pastel QAnon”).

These are just a few of the horrors, and I could go on at length, of course. Who knows if it’s as bad, or not quite as bad, or worse than we knew it could be. It’s in the ballpark, that’s for sure.

The week after the election, I wrote about the way my younger son–six years old at the time, sat on the stairs the morning of November 9, 2016 and said, “It’s hard. It’s hard to admit that Trump is the president.” It still is. Back then, as I did my best to console my stunned, crying firstborn, I vowed that in 2020, I would take him to a swing state so we could knock on doors together. He would be 14 and the perfect age for that, I thought. He is, but the pandemic nixed that plan along with all the others. So, we settle for phone banking.

Anyway. Like it’s been my whole life, music is mental health. I used to want to be a DJ when I was a kid. I have no idea what happened to that little-girl’s-dream. This wretched, terrifying, dare-we-be-hopeful week seems as good a time as any to revive it.

So here’s what will likely be the first of many playlists I want to share. Hopefully, it has a little something for everyone (everyone who wants him OUT, anyway). I’m sending it out with prayers for us all, and most of all our children, who will have to live with the consequences of whatever happens next. Here’s hoping this is rock bottom and humanity will soon be on our way out and up.

May the last song turn out to be true.

© Copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2020

Thank you, Eddie Van Halen (and David Lee Roth).

In the 80’s, I was that girl in the jean jacket with the big VH logo patch on it. (Gen X’ers—you know, the one with the peroxide-bleached feathered mullet and the knee-high moccasin boots, smoking in the bathroom between classes.) I wish I knew whatever happened to that jacket! It went missing long ago, along with the spiral notebooks with the same logo etched into the covers by a teen fan’s ballpoint pen.

That feels like several lifetimes ago, and I haven’t really listened to Van Halen’s music in decades. When I heard the news of Eddie Van Halen’s death last week, I was of course saddened and mostly I felt for his son, whose heartbreak was palpable in his short announcement.

In the week and a half that has followed, more has come up for me personally than I ever would have expected. No doubt like many people who came of age during Van Halen’s heyday, revisiting and celebrating EVH’s music has meant revisiting those years in the visceral way that only music triggers. In perfect timing, last week there was a meme going around that says something like, “If visual art decorates space, music decorates time.” This has never felt more true.

How many fans have long love stories like this? I want to read them ALL. Here’s hoping mine finds a few die-hards who truly understand, and it makes them smile.

The “1984” album dropped during my 13th year. I had some vague knowledge of Van Halen before that—I think must have heard “Jamie’s Cryin’” and “Pretty Woman” on the radio. I remember hearing about Valerie Bertinelli’s marriage to Eddie Van Halen and feeling happy about that, since I grew up watching “One Day at a Time” and I loved her. Other than that, they weren’t really on my radar until “1984” came out and the “Jump” and “Panama” videos went into heavy rotation on MTV.

Very quickly after that, I devoured that and all previous albums, and these posters went up on my wall:

DLR poster

van halen poster

(No, I do not still have them—I found these pics via google search!)

Their show at the LSU Assembly Center during the 1984 tour was my first ever concert. My mom surprised me with two tickets and let me and a friend go on our own. I wish I remembered more of it—mostly what I remember is being so beside myself I thought I might pass out!

It should go without saying that I was (and, come to find out, still am) a devotee strictly of Van Halen version 1.0.

I wasn’t necessarily done with Van Halen when David Lee Roth left—I was willing to keep an open mind (maybe). But then they hired that other guy who I’m not going to name, and from that point on, the band was DEAD to me. I would turn the dial in utter disgust when a song from that era came on. Seriously, it used to make me mad just thinking about it.

Meanwhile, DLR’s solo stuff didn’t much do it for me, and I started listening to more Led Zeppelin and other stuff. As I got even older, my musical taste got more eclectic. I guess due to a combination of all those things, I left Van Halen far behind in favor of more “mature” music. I don’t think I listened to them—other than the same few songs by chance on the car radio— for at least 25 years.

Now that I’m listening again, I do believe I was engaged in musical snobbery toward my own younger self. The day I heard the news, I listened to the debut album in its entirety, and it’s more than nostalgic—it sounds like perfection, song by song and as a whole. Example: I had completely forgotten about the part in “I’m the One” where they go from loud guitar and rock star screaming right into that barber shop quartet thing (and back again). I thought, “Holy shit, I wasn’t just a clueless kid with immature musical taste and a hormonally crazed DLR obsession. They really were that good, unique and talented.” As a band, not just a vehicle for EVH’s genius or a backdrop for DLR’s antics.

Over a week later, I’m still binge-listening to those first six albums. It’s a surprising and oddly life-affirming experience to hear songs you haven’t heard in decades (and in some cases had completely forgotten about) and discover that those songs actually live in your body, because you still know every riff, every lyric, every vocal inflection, and can still do a lot of the drum parts on the steering wheel.


OK, here’s my ranking of those first (ahem, only) six albums:

  • Van Halen (debut album). Rolling Stone called it “one of the strongest debut albums in rock history” and I wholeheartedly agree.
  • Women and Children First. My #2 spot was a toss-up between this one and “Fair Warning.” I love them equally now that I’m revisiting all the albums, so the tie breaker is the one I loved more back in the day, which is hands down this one. For starters, how I looooooooved that cover photo! Secondly, I have visceral memory of dropping the needle on the first track over and over. (Remember when having a song “on repeat” required staying actively, physically involved?)
  • Fair Warning. As noted, this one was almost #2. Fantastic album. I think I’ve actually listened to this one the most over the last week.
  • 1984. The gateway drug. When I quickly started getting into the older stuff, I understood why many die-hard fans were not in favor “Jump” and the addition of synthesizers. But I loved “I’ll Wait” which is heavy on that. The guitar-driven “Panama” and “Drop Dead Legs” are two of my very favorites.
  • Van Halen II. “Light Up the Sky” is one of my favorites of all VH songs, which is why this came out ahead of Diver Down—another toss-up. But the album as a whole is “meh” for me, especially after the perfection of the first album and how much I love the 3rd and 4th
  • Diver Down. Some unexpected gems here for sure, (Secrets, Little Guitars intro, Big Bad Bill), but something had to be last on the list.

I’ve read and watched a ton of articles, interviews and videos during the google-fest component of my Van Halen binge. Here are just a few things I want to share:

This NPR Music article, The Astonishing Techniques That Made Eddie Van Halen a Guitar God, is a good, concise description of what was so special about his playing and invention of new techniques. It also has a short list of 5 representative songs for those who may want to check it out in a small dose.

I agree 100% with his song choices. In fact, before I saw this article, I chose three of the same ones to play for my kids by way of explaining what all the fuss was about—”Eruption” (obligatory), “I’m the One,” and “Mean Street.” My 10-year-old likes different types of music and was duly impressed, if not an instantly converted fan. My 14-year-old has a one-track mind for hip hop right now. He humored me, but also called it “your old head music.” LOL. Fellow Gen-Xers—would you ever have guessed future kids would call it that, back in the day?

I will say one thing strictly as a side note, since this is a whole other blog post, and if I were to maintain high standards in this regard, I would lose half the music I’ve loved my whole life. I’m trying to raise my boys to be anti-sexist (not easy in this world), and there is some incongruence between those values and some of the lyrics and behaviors displayed by many of my musical favorites. When choosing songs to share with my kids, I was aware of messaging about women that hasn’t aged as well as the music. I have very little objectivity here in sorting appreciation from objectification, since this music was in my DNA long before I was old enough to know better about such things. I had to think of it strictly as a parent and ask myself if I would feel the need to qualify anything for them and encourage a critical social eye as a preface to a particular song, in the same way I do with some of the current music they’re listening to. (I trust some of it gets through, despite the eye rolling and “I KNOW, Mom.”)  I chose other songs, since the point was to have them appreciate Eddie Van Halen’s guitar chops!

Ok, back to the fun stuff.

Here’s some restored concert footage from 1978 (opening for Black Sabbath in Fresno):

And here’s an interview with Eddie Van Halen that shows what a down-to-earth, humble guy he was. My favorite part was when he said the best thing  about his musical life was being blessed to make music with his brother and his son.


It’s been an interesting week and a fun ride. The other part of this story is that I became a fan during one of the worst periods of my difficult and tumultuous adolescence, and this music brought me some joy and positive energy during that time. Despite all the healing work I’ve done, I still compartmentalize and disown that time to some degree. This has been a catalyst for another layer of integration—an unexpected chance to get reacquainted with this girl:

IMG_1530        IMG_1525

In a very different way, this music is serving a healing purpose right now, in the present. Who doesn’t need a little pick-me-up during these horrifying times we’re in? This trip down memory lane is enabling me to spend fewer than 100% of my waking hours enraged by the Amy Coney Barrett hearings and terrified by the upcoming election. (And in fact, I’m feeling energized and ready to hit the phone banks—join me!)


The day after the news broke, I attended yet another Zoom meeting, and the participants were asked to do a quick check-in about how they were doing. I said I felt pretty amazing due to the dopamine flood from all the Van Halen I’d been listening to. When I noted it was a bit odd to feel that good since I should be mourning, someone said, “That’s how we mourn. We listen.”

I love that.

RIP Eddie Van Halen. Lots of love to his family, friends, and fans.

©Copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2020 All rights reserved.

21 Days from the Old to the New Normal, Week 3: #StayingAtHome, Sitting with Paradox (and catching babies!)


Part 1 of this series can be found here. Part 2 is here.

The Weekend: March 14 and 15

Saturday morning, a friend suggested we meet up at a basketball court so the kids could play. I’m thinking, that’s OK, right? It’s just my younger son and one other kid. My husband Gurpreet says he thinks we should shy away from that, especially with contact sports, and in general we should keep everyone at home. Yet again, I’m thinking this is nuts, we’ve gone from no crowds to no school to no small gatherings to no get-togethers with even ONE kid? But he was spot-on about not going to India. That gave me pause, along with having just experienced an entire week of safety thresholds changing by the day.

Moments later, I got a message from another mom on a group text. Her son was already asking to have the usual small group of boys over—what did we think? I replied that our “family policy” was evolving in that moment. One of the dads said his family was observing strict social distancing and suggested Google hangouts instead. He shared the article many people reading this will have already seen, “Social Distancing: This is not a snow day.”  I was convinced.

Despite the background anxiety, we had a nice weekend, relaxed and harmonious. We cooked a lot, took a long walk together, played Pandemic (because what else?) and actually won for the first time. Even though the reason behind it was nothing to celebrate, I set out to intentionally appreciate the empty calendar and whatever blessings this mandatory downtime and togetherness might bring. I listened to my boys chatting and laughing before bed and playing basketball together (thank God for our little backyard “court”!) and felt grateful for their relationship, since they would be spending A LOT of time together.

I got nostalgic for our homeschool days and in a way looked forward to having them at home again, especially the relaxed mornings, something I missed from those days. With my husband working from home and our kids being older, there would be no child care issues, and with all the assignments from school and me not having to curate or plan anything, I thought, this will be a piece of cake! (Let’s see if I end up eating those words.) And nothing would start for a couple weeks anyway, since they would be on spring break.

Knowing I wouldn’t have to plan everything, it was even more fun to make a short list of activities we could do within the current constraints. Providence Preservation Society self-guided tours. A walk on the beach followed by researching piping plover conservation. We would go find the harbor seals.

Monday, March 16

Did I say relaxed? Harmonious? Relishing the blessings? Even a little excited? Right. Welp, that was short lived.

Monday, reality set in. Not going anywhere, and who knows for how long. No friends, at least not in person. No team basketball. All together, at home, all the time. There was fighting (them with each other and me with them). Yelling (me). Complaining (everyone).

After dinner, I dragged everyone, kicking and screaming, out for a walk. It was just the reset we all needed. I asked them, “How would you describe this time to beings from another planet?” My older one said, “It’s like you can do anything you want, but at the same time you can’t do anything.” That resonated with me, as it did seem this time would be a strange combination of freedom and restriction. When it was my younger one’s turn to describe it, he said “Boring, boring, and garbage.” He’s usually articulate and wise beyond his years so I don’t know what happened there, but at least he said it with good humor.

We talked about how although we are all going through an adjustment to this new reality, people all over the world are suffering and dying and many others have lost their jobs. We told the kids—at the same time, reminding ourselves—it’s OK to feel disappointed about things we are missing, but relatively speaking, we have nothing to complain about. And what can we learn from this time about living in the moment, adjusting to the unexpected, and not taking the future for granted? What can we do to serve others?

Tuesday, March 17

Off to work in our office to do outpatient visits. This was the first day I wore a surgical mask for all patient care. It felt awkward, particularly in the outpatient setting. I felt compelled to apologize to my patients for the mask and explain that I was not sick, it was just the new protocol.

By that Friday, the next time I worked in the office, it was clear no one needed any explanation.

Wednesday, March 18

Back at the hospital for 24 hours. Birth happens. Babies will come out the same way, always, no matter what else is going on.

My midwife student and I were busy. We had four births and another woman in active labor besides. In the early evening, I received a text from a colleague. She had just heard that until further notice, our hospital would not allow any medical or midwifery students, in the interest of reducing “nonessential” personnel. I decided that since I had not yet heard this by any official notification and my student had already established relationships with all our patients, I was not throwing her out on the spot. She would finish her shift, and I would keep this information to myself until the morning so she could care for our patients and attend their births without being upset.

She did a fantastic job. When I told her in the morning that she wouldn’t be coming back until further notice, she was disappointed but had been expecting it. Some of her classmates at other clinical sites were already gone. A couple of weeks later, it would no longer be up to the individual clinical sites. The school itself would soon suspend all clinical training for their students.

I do not envy decision-makers in this situation. I pray for them daily and I know there are many considerations going into every difficult decision that I may not know about. I had trouble with this one. This exemplary student has decades of critical care and labor and delivery nursing experience. Even as a new grad midwife, she could hit the ground running after graduating in a few short months—just as we may be facing a provider shortage due to illness and quarantine. We are pulling health care providers out of retirement, and yet here we are hitting pause on the training of new ones who would have soon been ready to step in and fill urgent needs.

I wonder if we would be doing that if we were not facing such a dire shortage of PPE, needing to save every scrap for those of us who are currently licensed to provide care. This makes me angry.

Thursday and Friday, March 19 and 20

The week’s end involved a lot of contemplation and discussion with family and friends about what this time means—for now and the future. A larger conversation was emerging about how as horrible as this crisis is likely to get, it also has the potential to catapult us into a reordering of society that could result in a more compassionate, creative and just world.

Like so many people, I was determined to appreciate the opportunity for more family time, more time for care of the home and creative projects, and simple enjoyment of nature and reflection. At the same time, I wanted to take care not to spiritually bypass the horror of what is happening around the world and increasingly here in the U.S. I always struggle with what can feel like the perversity of personal gratitude while other individuals and entire populations of people face extreme hardship. To some extent, I always live with the question: am I doing enough to be of service in the world—not only to do my part, but also to deserve to enjoy my life? All this is intensified now.

The freedom of unstructured time alongside extreme restrictions. Collective and individual blessings alongside collective and individual anxiety and grief. It was clear this time would be nothing if not a lesson in living with paradox.

Gurpreet said: Imagine? Something  a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair has brought the whole world to its knees.

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 

Part 1 of this series can be found here. Part 2 is here.


21 Days from the Old to the New Normal, Week 2: “Really? That seems crazy” to “Yes, obviously,” within days. (Over and over.)


Part 1 of this series is here

Saturday, March 7

This day was not quite three weeks ago, and it feels like forever. We were supposed to have arrived in India to spend three weeks with our family, but woke up at home in the U.S. after canceling at the last minute. Instead, we went to my older son’s basketball playoff game (they won!). My younger one had practice that night. We were grateful the kids could focus on being in the playoffs after all, to soften the blow of not being with their family in India. At that point, no one was questioning going to small sporting events or gathering kids and families outside of schools.

Moday, March 9

Governor Raimondo declared a State of Emergency. My kids went to school—there was no formal talk of school closures yet. Articles were coming out about New York, saying closing schools there would be a last resort because of all the children who would not eat if they were not at school. This and many other stories began to reveal what this pandemic tells us about ourselves—much of which activists have been screaming into the wind to no avail.

We were starting to see the ramifications for our pregnant patients. Visitor restrictions were applied—one support person only for labor and birth. We were successful in advocating for doulas to be recognized as part of the care team and not subject to visitor restrictions. But of course not everyone can afford a doula (hopefully this will change—see below!), nor is that the preferred support situation for every woman. We had our first patient sobbing and devastated at being forced to choose between having her partner or her mother at her birth.

At that time, most of the concerns we heard were related to the visitor restrictions. In the coming weeks, more and more of our prenatal visits would be dedicated to supporting women not just through crushing disappointments, but also through fears and very real grief over the burdens this pandemic has placed on their pregnancies.

Tuesday, March 10

This was the day I saw the first graphic about “flattening the curve.” (At that time, we were using this information to understand the cancelation of huge events like conferences and festivals, rather than the suspension of public life as we know it.) This was also the last day I hugged someone outside my family, something I’m grateful to remember. I remember it because it was such a good hug, and because right after, we looked at each other and said “We probably shouldn’t have done that.”  The fist and elbow bump thing was just becoming the new norm.

That happened during one of the last public events I attended—a press event to honor grants awarded by the City of Providence to expand access to doula care in pregnancy and birth. That night, I attended my very last public event—a House finance committee hearing in support of state legislation for Medicaid and private insurance coverage of doula services. It was a packed hearing—standing room only for those waiting to testify.

I was glad to be able to give testimony on behalf of our chapter of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), since I was in town after all. I don’t think anyone in that room gave a thought as to whether we should really be there, at a proceeding held by the State and attended by the Mayor with his toddler in tow.

Within days, a public assembly like that would be unthinkable.

Wednesday, March 11

My first 24-hour on-call shift at the hospital since I got back on the schedule. In the morning, I was wondering if the babies would see fit to stay put in their uteri just for a couple hours in the evening so I could scoot out for my younger son’s basketball game. No matter. At 3:30, I got the text that per the City Parks and Recreation department, games were postponed until further notice.

Breaking news:

NCAA March Madness to be closed to spectators (only it didn’t happen at all). Senate Blocks Emergency Paid Sick Leave Bill.  NBA Season: Cancelled (WHOA). And the horrifying reports from Italy—doctors in the impossible, heartbreaking position of having to decide who was most worthy of intubation—were coming in. The epidemiologists said we were on track to be in the same situation within a couple of weeks. And two weeks later, this is what New York is beginning to look like. It appears New Orleans is next.

Thursday, March 12

On my way out in the morning, I just happened to see an N95 fit-testing station set up in the hospital hallway. I was sleep deprived and already leaving an hour late, so I almost didn’t do it, thinking I’d get to it later—can you imagine? I asked if I really needed to, since I knew my size and haven’t had any big weight changes since the last fitting. They said yes, anyone who hasn’t been fit tested in the last year should do it. I’m so glad I did. I got ONE precious N95 mask out of the deal—they give you the one they used to fit test you, since otherwise they would have to throw it away. So I put it in the paper bag, to be saved in case I really need one and there are none available, not really thinking that could actually happen.

Fast forward for a moment…as it is now, two weeks later, the latest COVID-19 bulletin from my employer says that all patient care staff are to wear regular masks even when caring for patients who are confirmed COVID-19 positive. Yes, even the symptomatic ones who are coughing. N95’s are now reserved only for use during aerosolizing procedures. Meanwhile, yesterday in New York, a 48-year-old nurse died of COVID-19 in a hospital where the staff is using garbage bags for PPE.

Here. In the richest, “greatest” country in the world.

Also that day, in our little microcosm… there was more and more general talk of avoiding unnecessary gatherings. Basketball rec league decisions had been made for us, but the first practice for AAU season was set for the weekend. We were starting to wonder if we felt in good conscience we could send our kids, but it wasn’t yet cancelled. Those few days were characterized by a lot of scenarios like this, weren’t they? With people having different alarm thresholds for just about everything and no one knowing what was necessary or best, under-reaction or overkill.

I dreaded the possibility of telling my boys, “It’s still happening, but you’re not going” and the meltdowns that would surely ensue. I felt both guilty and ridiculous for being preoccupied with such petty, inconsequential concerns when people all over the world were in such desperate, traumatizing, life-or-death situations. And yet, I still had to continue parenting and managing the day-to-day stuff with my kids.

Friday, March 13

At work that day, I did a few GYN problem visits, but mostly prenatals. We had started postponing annual preventive care visits. None of the women I saw that day happened to be close to term, but I was struck by how none of them asked about COVID-19. I had to bring it up to find out what they knew and if they were taking any precautions. Data was limited (still is) and the CDC hadn’t yet placed pregnant people in the higher-risk categories with people age 65 and over and those with certain underlying conditions. They now have, but even before that, we obviously wanted to prevent pregnant women becoming infected, for many reasons. The patients I saw that day didn’t seem to have it on their radar quite yet.

It was an odd place to be as a midwife. There is excessive fear in our culture around pregnancy and especially birth, much of it unfounded. It’s pretty much my mission to take the fear OUT of pregnant women. And here I was trying to put some in—if not fear, at least vigilance.

At the end of the work day, it was announced that all providers and staff were to wear regular surgical masks for all patient care. Due to a nationwide supply shortage, we were to wear the same disposable mask for two consecutive work days (This would soon change to “until visibly soiled or nonfunctional.”)

That afternoon, the Governor announced the schools would be closed the following week (soon to be extended of course) and issued guidelines to avoid gatherings of 25 or more and stay home as much as possible. This was clearly the right move for larger gatherings of people in all age groups, and it made clear what we were supposed to do about smaller gatherings. Because as long as we were still putting hundreds of kids together in school buildings, how did it make sense to cancel a birthday party or a basketball practice with less than 20 kids? I felt relieved when the school closure and related guidelines brought the clarity we were all lacking: the clarity that said, “Yes. Seriously. It ALL stops.”

Also? I was thanking God for my husband’s foresight to cancel our India trip. The Indian government closed their borders on the 12th. No flights in would surely mean no flights out. If our flight to India on the 6th had been scheduled for just a day earlier, we would have gone and we’d be there indefinitely as we speak. Today, March 27, is the date of our now canceled return flight back to the U.S.

By that day—Friday the 13th— it was beginning to sink in that a precaution may feel like an overreaction in any given moment, and it would likely become a no-brainer within days. That’s what kept happening. Over and over.


P.S. Along with all the alarming information and constant change, here are a few things that gave me LIFE that week:

Elizabeth Warren and Kate McKinnon

All the Gen X love, but especially this: Gen Xers, Unite! Or Don’t. Whatever.

Wash Your Hands, by Dori Midnight. Soul salve. I keep going back to it.

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

(Part 3 to follow…)

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2020

21 Days from the Old to the New Normal, Week 1, India: to go or not to go?

Saturday, February 29

We were all set to fly out in six days for a three-week trip to visit family in India. My husband says, maybe we should cancel the trip. Me—really??  I had been among those asking, early on, “Is this really that different from the flu?” I was beginning to realize it was more, but still–India was nowhere on CDC’s radar. He says, look into it, I’ve been reading and I’m worried this virus thing is going to blow up. I called the airline to check it out. We could change our tickets, but it would be cost-prohibitive—no advantage over abandoning our current reservation and having to pay full price for a new one later. We decided to wait it out and make a final decision as late as the night before.

Over the following days, the news reports ramped up and people were talking more about international travel restrictions, but there were no new countries added to the handful on the CDC’s no-no list. We talked about worst-case scenarios, which seemed to be a) we get stuck there and b) self-quarantine for a couple of weeks on return, if India got added to the warning list while we were gone. The former seemed highly unlikely (ha!), the latter more of a concern, but not the end of the world. We asked several trusted friends, some of them health care providers, what they would do. All agreed canceling seemed like overkill.

We decided we would go if it was still OK per CDC guidelines as of our departure time. A friend texted me, “Please send me a selfie of your expression following the 100th coronavirus joke/comment about your travel plans,” but really, no one was batting an eye. At that time, only some business travel was getting canceled—most people were carrying on with their personal trips.

Thursday, March 5

While packing at 10am, I was on the phone with a friend and my husband beeped in for the third time in 10 minutes, so I tell her I don’t know what he wants, but I better answer this. He says, “We’re not going.” WHAT??  Are you sure? Travel advisories still haven’t changed. Nothing on the CDC website or in the headlines about India.

Yes, he’s sure. He got a call from a friend who works in a public health role there who just came from a meeting with WHO and various Indian government and public health officials. There was grave concern for an impending explosion of cases and resulting overwhelm of the health care system and other infrastructure. His friend advised we cancel the trip.

I was skeptical, but ultimately trusted my husband’s strong belief we needed to heed the advice and cancel. I got on the phone with the airline and rates had plummeted, so we were subject to hefty change fees (airlines hadn’t started waiving them yet) but at least there was no fare difference.



Image description: text thread of conversation about changing airline ticket dates to August.


(“PTSD music” refers to the same five songs they had on a loop 16 months ago, when I was on hold for hours, frantically trying to change the flight dates of our last trip to India, the day my father-in-law died. Same exact torturous five songs.)

It was done. We would go in August (but will we?).

Alongside heartbreak and anger over Elizabeth Warren’s exit from the presidential primary, the next couple days were a strange reordering. It was a bit of a process, shifting gears from preparation for a 3-week trip halfway around the world to being at home and seeing what would happen next (still having no idea how radically things were about to change). Comforting disappointed kids. Giving back vacation time and getting back on the work schedule for outpatient and hospital shifts. Preparing ACNM testimony for the doula reimbursement legislation House finance committee hearing, which I would be able to do after all. Putting the boys’ rec league basketball playoff games back on the calendar—the bright spot for them. Thinking about things to do close to home during the boys’ spring break from school. When my dad found out we weren’t going, he said, “I’m going to take the boys to see Blue Man Group.” (since canceled of course, like everything else).

Friday, March 6

A few hours after were supposed to have flown out, my employer sent an email “discouraging” all personal travel, domestic or international. Later that same day, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin was canceled. Like, the whole thing. Whoa. Of all things, that was the moment I knew we were in for some kind of wild ride.

That email and that event cancelation on the day of our planned departure were the first confirmatory signs my husband made the right call canceling our trip. Many more would follow. I started looking to him and one of my friends as bellweathers for where we’re at and at any given moment, and what’s coming. Their alarm bells are a few days ahead of mine, and proven accurate.

(Weeks 2 and 3 to follow…)

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2020

“They Grow Up So Fast.” On memory, and remembering, and the Hubble Space Telescope.


My boys, when they were four (the Hubble Space Telescope phase) and one.

“They grow up way too fast.” It’s so cliché, you’re probably rolling your eyes as you read it. We all know it, and yet when we’re in it, in the day-to-day of parenting, we forget. So even if we have a knee-jerk “yeah, yeah, I know” reaction to the cliché, how do we actually remember this thing we all know? As our children grow up at dizzying speed, faster with each passing year, is there any way to counterbalance the feeling that it’s getting away from us, without holding on to them—or the past—too tightly?

Most mothers of small children have had some version of the following experience: you’re in a public place and your toddler is melting down while the baby is screaming (or substitute some other flavor of wildness and chaos that comes with parenting small children).  An older mother, or a mother of children older than yours, gives you that knowing smile and says, “They grow so fast—hang in there, savor every moment!”

Some people (like this mom) hate this. They find it patronizing and invalidating and I get that, which why I resist the urge to say it myself—especially to people who are clearly struggling—now that my kids are getting older. It never bothered me, though, and in fact, I always appreciated the reminder. Because it’s so easy to forget, isn’t it, when things are hard? Or even when things are fine and routine but we’re on autopilot, caught up in the busy-ness and tasky-ness of life.

So, whether or not we want to hear it from others, how do we remind ourselves how soon these days, months, years, will be gone? Continue reading



Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

The following is a guest post by my husband, Gurpreet Singh. He wrote this poem leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, for victims of gun violence and hate crimes. 



by Gurpreet Singh


Daddy, this morning 26 of us played and now we are none.

Motek, I too will miss our Shabbat dinners.

My Sardarni, I miss our quiet Sunday morning rush to get to the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

Mama, thank you for making a space where boys like me may be a little safer to play and to make art and music. I miss you.

I am so very glad you couldn’t make it to Pulse tonight. Love you.

Darlin’, sorry we could not have dinner together after Bible study.

Rana Sodhi, my brother, I am happy you forgave and found some peace.

Get yourselves a good football coach, Marjory Stoneman, you are going to shine.

Many came and many spoke, a lot more cried and no laws changed.



© Gurpreet Singh and Wake Up, Mama! All rights reserved. 


Spiritual White People: Do we really want to help heal humanity? Or are we full of sh*t?


Photo by Stephen Sandian on Unsplash

Spiritual white people: do we really want to help heal humanity? If we do, it’s past time to take a long, hard look at the ways we use spiritual beliefs to harm rather than heal.

Spiritual bypassing continues to show up in white-dominated spiritual/personal growth communities and wreak insidious havoc. Sometimes it’s empresses who turn out to be naked, like Danielle LaPorte or Marianne Williamson. Sometimes it’s emperors, like Tony Robbins. At least weekly, a lesser known spiritual entrepreneur—who may not be a household name but still might have followers in the thousands—uses their social media platform to push platitudes that deny and minimize oppression and legitimate suffering. This encourages their followers to follow suit. Just when I think I’ve said all I have to say on this subject, fresh inspiration is always right around the corner.

I’m talking to and about white people living in relative privilege who hold spirituality (not necessarily religion) as part of our identities and value systems. When I say “spiritual white people living in relative privilege,” I’m speaking about us as a collective, not as every single individual. So let’s practice observing our knee-jerk tendency to start concocting #notall type rebuttals, and then let that go, ok? On second thought, I do mean every individual, because we’ve all been complicit in some aspects, to some degree.

The following is a short list of beliefs and behaviors people in white-dominated spirituality/personal growth circles—including way too many “thought leaders” and spiritual business gurus—are very busy selling, buying and feeding each other. Continue reading

Spiritual Bypassing and White Fragility, By the Playbook


Photo by Valentina Aleksandrovna on Unsplash

At the end of this essay are some links to pertinent articles, videos and books, mostly by women of color whose perspectives on this matter most. Also, on a time-sensitive note: on May 17, there is a free webinar for white women who want to do the internal work necessary to be part of the solution on these issues. More info and sign-up link here.


Last week, Danielle LaPorte, one of the biggest names in women’s spirituality/personal growth entrepreneurship, launched a program with some marketing images that were racially problematic at best. When she posted her promotion of the program on her business’s Facebook page, numerous women of color (WOC) and white women in her target audience, many of whom had followed her and bought her products and programs for years, were upset and concerned. They let her know this with thoughtfully written, heartfelt (and yes, in some cases, angry!) explanations of why the marketing campaign was racist, and gave a wealth of educational links and suggestions for repair.

The original insult was compounded by her response to the feedback. She removed the images from online marketing materials and acknowledged the problem with her marketing campaign, but simultaneously implied the real harm was being done by the people giving the feedback rather than by her actions. Continue reading

Getting Unhooked: What Happened When I Took a Break from Facebook


Photo by William Iven on Unsplash. Image description: smartphone showing Facebook log-in screen next to the words “social media” spelled out with Scrabble letters.

Facebook and I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve reconnected with people I never would have without social media, which has been (mostly) a blessing, and made new friends. I’ve seen some ideas that have changed how I operate in my daily life, like bullet journaling, and found some great parenting advice, insight and camaraderie. In the last couple of years, political and social justice actions have been facilitated or even made possible by Facebook. I’ve participated in some important and enlightening discussions (along with the many futile and exhausting ones). I’ve been educated, enraged, amazed and moved (both to tears and to action) by countless articles, blog posts, long form Facebook posts, and discussions I likely would not have seen otherwise. And this platform has allowed me to share my own writing. Lots to love.

AND. Facebook trips the wiring of my addictive tendency, which is always looking for a way to get reactivated, the minute I leave it unsupervised. Continue reading