Week 35: End with grateful

See you soon -- here, and other places

We’ve reached a fork in the road, friends.

I’ve been avoiding this intro section all week. Writing the intro means it’s really time to say goodbye. And I don’t WANNA say goodbye!

…So I won’t. Not exactly. As I unpacked last week, this is the end of Move and Groove, but I plan to morph the newsletter into something new. Something that will arrive in your inboxes at a more reasonable hour of the day. Something that I hope will still feel personal and intimate, but will also allow for a different use of my writing brain, link-sharing brain, and whole self. Whether you stay on the list or opt out, I can’t thank you enough for being along for the ride over these past 35 weeks.

The stats that matter to me

My pal Josh (the Josh from Week 28) wrote to me a few weeks ago asking if I might consider writing a “peek behind the curtain”:

“What do the numbers look like? what have the ups and downs been? what have you learned about the various crafts involved - email, writing, online community building, content curation, a weekly discipline, etc? what's shaping your thinking about continuing or not continuing to publish?”

I liked this idea because I like transparency and I love when other writers share things like this. I was pondering the suggestion when I came across this image:

I’ve done very little promotion of this newsletter, and I think that’s why. If and when I write this follow-up, I’m down to share the subscriber stats and all that, but I also want to include the metrics that matter to me. Things like:

  • How many people of color vs. white people did I quote, cite, link to? What’s the rough breakdown among other demographics and identities?

  • How many times did I truly put myself out there and practice sharing vulnerable things about myself? (Somewhere between two and eight.) How many times did a lengthy, personal draft go to languish in the compost doc? (A lot.)

  • I don’t think we can calculate this exactly, but I might try to roughly estimate the amount we collectively gave to fundraisers for individuals. This wasn’t a goal when I started out, but it occurred to me after several of you sent me chunks of change last week toward a friend’s security deposit, which I pooled and contributed a few days later. Thank you to those who made that possible.

  • How often did I pass the mic — meaning how often did I just hand the space over to someone else whose ideas I wanted to amplify? I wish I had done this more.

And on that note, I’m about to turn things over to a friend for an interlude before we get to links. But if you have other ideas and would be curious to read an email with other "metrics,” hit reply and let me know.

Body love: Prerna’s top tips

I mentioned last week that my friend Prerna Abbi-Scanlon (@tripthelight on Instagram) and I sat down for a long conversation about intuitive eating, self-love, healthy bodies, and more. Prerna stopped dieting about a year and a half ago, inspired not only by her own well-being, but by creating a better mindset around bodies for her niblings [for those new to this word, “niblings” = a gender-free term for your siblings’ kids].

Keep an eye out for a longer piece on saying no to diet culture in my Medium publication soon; in it, we’ll cover some juicy topics like how to have productive intergenerational family conversations about food and how to choose a doctor who wants to be your “accomplice” in health.

In the meantime, here here are Prerna’s three tips to get started:

Tip 1: Create a new normal for what bodies can and “should” look like. (Spoiler alert: there is no should!)

The first step in my journey was looking for Instagram accounts to follow. Social media is a great tool for education, but beyond that, it’s also a lot of what we look at. I wanted to soak in more ideas and images that would help me on my mission to stop dieting and to start appreciating my physical body as it was. If you want to do this, I think a great place to start is @the_feeding_of_the_fox where Imogen Fox shares tons of content in her stories with all different kinds of bodies. This is so helpful in resetting your understanding of normal. Instead of seeing only white skinny people all day, I see people of all different skin tones and sizes and shapes and genders and abilities. This really helped me in retraining my brain to see them all as normal and good. This account often leads me down a rabbit hole of more accounts to follow, and was especially helpful in finding people who looked like me. Seeing more bodies like mine by following more women who are brown and have a belly helped me to feel better about my brown, round, femme self.

Tip 2: There are well-researched strategies and methods to help you.

If you feel ready to jump off the diet culture bandwagon, you’re not alone. But if you’re like me, this wasn’t the place where I wanted to carve my own path. The good news is, you don’t really have to. Of course, nothing is going to be perfect for everyone, but there are some really great places to start.

One I highly recommend is Intuitive Eating (intuitiveeating.org). This is a set of 10 principles to help you leave dieting behind by learning how to listen to and honor your body.

Another is Health at Every Size, or HAES (haescommunity.com), which is based on respect, critical awareness, and compassionate self-care. I wanted to stop torturing myself with diets, but I also wanted to do my part in ensuring that my body is functioning well and can continue to serve me. HAES helps me to do this, and to find healthcare providers who will support me in doing so.

A great Instagram account to follow for solid strategies is @danasuchow. Dana is an educator on diet culture and kids and her feed is full of specific tips on how to talk to kids about food and bodies, and how to shift what you’re doing to set a better foundation for them.

Tip 3: Talk to your people.

None of us live in a vacuum. You can’t change diet culture for yourself or anyone else in your life if the people you interact with aren’t supportive.

The people around you are likely to notice a shift, whether it’s physical changes to your body or changes in how you interact with things like food and movement. Forgetting about the trolls, people who love you may show concern. I try to be ready to respond with facts (see the helpful links in Tip 2!) for those who are swayed by that, like my scientist mom. For others who have an emotional bent, I try to share stories of how much better it feels to be free from the bounds of diets while also caring for my health.

Inevitably, the people and institutions we interact with are going to do things that are really contrary to what you want and need. When that happens, I try to remember that I’m not alone in the experience, so I’m not alone in trying to figure out what to do.

An Instagram account I love is @allisonkimmey. Allie is a self love educator with two kids, and she talks about not only learning to love her own body and teaching those lessons to her son and daughter, but also everyone else. She’s posted about everything from discussing body love with her daughter when most dolls are unreasonably thin, to how to inform a school that you don’t want your child’s BMI to be measured or discussed.

Thank you, Prerna, for your generous work writing all of this! I’m excited to learn more.

(Not) Following up: Boundaries and cancellations

Back in Week 32, I wrote about my desire to set healthy boundaries while also not writing people off if they’re truly willing to grow. The reflection was sparked by a strong gut-level reaction I had to an Instagram post about Joe Biden by the photographer Pete Souza. It was also fueled by my complicated feelings about Gina Rodriguez, the talented star of Jane the Virgin, a show I’m obsessed with (exhibit A: Move and Groove’s very first issue). I was really bummed that she went radio silent on social media after a bunch of criticism mounted against her. As a fan who had followed her online for awhile and was accustomed to seeing her engage actively there, I hoped she would quickly take in, metabolize, learn from, and publicly speak out about the criticism, “learning in public.” She hasn’t done that so far — her posts have been few and far between and mostly to promote work projects.

At any rate, several people wrote back because I explicitly invited feedback. And I read those emails carefully and thought about them, but I also haven’t revisited the topic here since. I wish I had the energy right now to write another post about it and quote Hannah, Lindsay, and Adam in particular. I feel really accountable to this group! And while I unfollowed Pete Souza, I am watching the fifth and final season of Jane—a show that is good and a show that does good—so maybe there’s more to tease out.

But since I’m maxed out and muddled, I’ll just say: 1) thank you to everyone who did write back with both support for and challenges against what I wrote, and maybe I’ll still be in touch about quoting you in a forthcoming piece at some point; 2) Joe Biden is still not the answer (The Cut) and 2b) this tweet, and 2c) Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Overlooked (Harper’s Bazaar); 3) Anyone who’s read this far on this topic might appreciate this Medium post: 10 Tips on Receiving Critical Feedback: A Guide for Activists.



  • Code Switch wrapped up the month of April with a beautiful episode full of poetry. Find it at NPR.org or on your podcast app of choice. Big love to Jenn G. B. for making sure I didn’t miss this.

  • Pod Save the People’s recent episode in celebration of Earth Day is worth the listen. (Crooked Media)

  • Back in the fall, Chris Hayes interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates in front of a live audience for his Why Is This Happening? podcast. Shoutout to Kent G. for flagging this episode, titled “In This Hope.” Find it on Stitcher, iTunes, and probably anywhere else you listen.

  • Looking forward to this Mashup Americans episode featuring Ai-Jen Poo (APM, again, search where you listen)

  • Speaking of podcasts: 9 Podcasts That Don’t Whitewash Race (Yes! Magazine); this new one called Man Up! looks intriguing (Slate.com); and Ahmed Ali Akhbar, creator and host of the illuminating See Something Say Something podcast, recently launched a Patreon.



  • Today my soundtrack has been a swirl of this year-old Royal Wedding rendition of Stand by Me (via Vox), and Lizzo’s Worship (YouTube).

That’s a wrap!

::Roll credits::

Ending (and beginning again) with grateful,


Hi, first-time readers! In August 2018, on my 35th birthday, I began to write an email a week for 35 weeks. I called the series Move and Groove: An Experiment in Getting and Staying Unstuck. This is the last of the 35 — but I still plan to share updates and personal writing with this list from time to time. If a friend forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, head to julia.substack.com.

My freelance work website is under construction, but you can peek: juliaconsults.com. I’m also on Instagram at @juliaseesmith and (less often) on Twitter at @juliacsmith.

You can also subscribe to Dandelions, a newsletter I’m piloting this summer with my friend Joanna Eng.

Week 34: Home stretch

"A beginning, a middle, and an end that I control"

Hey friends! It’s the second to last week of this project. I can’t believe it.

In this edition: How I’m feeling as I near the finish line; a preview of some things to come; and a way to help another human out.

life cycle flower GIF

Saying no, making space

Here’s an example of a brand making a very savvy marketing move: Mailchimp funded this Ann Friedman-hosted podcast series, Going Through It, in which she interviews “remarkable women” about “pivotal moments in their lives when they had to decide whether to quit or to keep going.” Last night I listened to her conversation with Samin Nosrat, the chef and writer behind Salt Fat Acid Heat, about her decision to end a popular food pop-up she created years ago with friends. (I couldn’t find a direct link, but you can scroll partway down that same Mailchimp page to find this interview.)

Around the 15:50 mark Nosrat discusses how she knew things had gone south because she began treating some employees and friends poorly. She describes a physical dread that set in. Then she says:

Samin Nosrat: I may not have been clear about what it was exactly that I did want to do, but I did know that, like, what I wanted to make in the world was a feeling of community around food. And that I wanted to be happy, and I wanted to be creatively fulfilled. And I knew I wasn’t getting that from this project. I just started telling myself, OK, like, it’s OK to end something and not let it be a failure, you know, it’s OK to control the narrative.

It’s ok for a business or a project to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that I control.

And only by choosing to say no to this thing would I ever have the space and peace of mind and clarity to ever get to do the thing that I really wanted to do. Which was to write.

So she announced they would discontinue the pop-up a few months later. The project had already received a ton of buzz, and so everyone in the food media/gossip world dove in like vultures wanting “the juice.” She told them there was no juice.

Ann Friedman: I would love for you to talk about what it felt like to be able to say “the reason is I just don’t wanna.”

SN: Ann, it was the best thing that I have ever done. (Laughter) It felt so amazing. I felt such sort of freedom and light. I felt so happy. And I just felt like a totally different person starting the next January.

And because I said no to that, because I ended that, immediately all of these other things — all of the other opportunities that led to me writing my book — appeared.

And, like, they may have appeared earlier and I probably wouldn’t have been able to do them. Or I would have taken everything on and then sort of crashed and burned.

That last part, about the new opportunities that suddenly called out to her? Julia Cameron, creator of The Artist’s Way, would call that “synchronicity.” (Here’s a solid 2016 New Yorker article about Julia Cameron for those who are unfamiliar: “The Artist’s Way” in an Age of Self-Promotion.)

And those lines in bold above help me to explain how I feel about ending this project.

To be clear: Writing an email each week, some of which were mostly a collection of links, is not nearly as dramatic or draining as producing a pop-up food experience. I don’t feel dread in my body when it comes to Move and Groove. (Well, maybe a little, during those weeks when I didn’t even begin writing until after dinner on Wednesday…aka at least half the time.)

I know what it’s like to have a job or task that is physically dreadful. This isn’t that.

But this “experiment in getting and staying un-stuck” was always meant to be 35 weeks long. With that constraint came fuel, occasional frustration, and also relief. There were plenty of weeks when I felt like I hadn’t done my best work, when it all felt too slap-dashed together at the last minute, or when I’d start to write something deeply personal that just didn’t fit into this column-shaped, largely one-way forum. Making decisions about what to include and what to leave out has taken up a fair share of brain space.

I’m trusting now that when I end this weekly Wednesday rhythm, there’ll be plenty to fill the space — and if there isn’t, that’s probably healthy. I’ll start noticing other clues and allow other pursuits to take root and bloom. Luckily, I can keep updating you about how the garden grows! This list doesn’t just disappear. Expect occasional emails after next week even if they don’t show up in your inbox every single Wednesday.

life cycle flower GIF

One thing taking root

My friend Joanna Eng and I are teaming up to bring you a new email newsletter: Dandelions!

Dandelions will launch Mother’s Day — that’s Sunday, May 12, a day we have lots of feelings about. We plan to send it twice a month throughout the summer and then evaluate whether to keep it up after Labor Day.

You can subscribe at http://dandelionsnewsletter.com/ and follow us on Instagram at @dandelionsnewsletter.

At Dandelions, we’re rooting for empathetic, brave, social justice-hearted families. Each installment will be loosely themed around a social or political issue. We’ll offer resources and suggestions for working together across generations — in all families, bio and chosen — to better understand and address these urgent issues. Joanna and I are both relatively new parents, but this isn’t (just) a “parenting newsletter”; we hope it’ll feel relevant to uncles and aunties and friends and…everyone who has a young person in their life.

We also hope it will be a pleasure to read! For a taste of Joanna’s writing, read DNA Relates You, But Here’s What Makes a Family (Motherly) or peruse her site archives.

And for any Emergent Strategy (akpress.org) fans reading this: Yes!, one big inspiration for the newsletter’s name comes from adrienne maree brown’s work. We’ll write about that in one of the first issues.

I hope you’ll join us for this pilot season.

This ain’t over yet

All that said, don’t forget to tune in here next week! Yesterday I sat down with my friend Prerna Abbi-Scanlon for a juicy conversation about bodies, love, weight, food, and health. The transcript is long, so we need a little time with it, but I’m excited to share more soon.

For a preview into who Prerna is and where she’s coming from on these topics, here are two recent Instagram slideshows from her current 100 Day Project: on asking people if they’re pregnant (spoiler: never OK!!!!); on her mom’s cooking and her relationship to Indian food.

In lieu of links…

This week there’s an opportunity to help someone I know personally who needs support with housing. They’re here in Chicago, their hours just got cut at work, and they need just $220 more by next Wednesday to pay the move-in fee + first month’s rent on their new apartment. This is another one of those totally doable, “literally even just a dollar will help” situations. If you have CashApp, you can send support via the username $ElmoreAda. (If you don’t have CashApp but want to pool resources with me and contribute, hit reply on this email and we’ll work something else out.) Thanks for considering this!

That’s it for tonight. See you next week.

stop motion confetti GIF by Julie Smith Schneider

A note to new readers: Hello! On my 35th birthday, I set out to write an email a week for 35 weeks. As you’ve gleaned by now, that ends next week — but I still plan to share updates and personal writing with this list from time to time.

If a friend forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, head to julia.substack.com.

I’m also on Instagram at @juliaseesmith and (less often) on Twitter at @juliacsmith.

All of the gifs in this email are from a Giphy search for “dandelions.”

Week 33: We hold these truths

I can almost be certain.

Hello. It’s the third Wednesday in April.

One year ago today we were summoned to The Staff Meeting That Changed Everything. Except it didn’t change everything, you know? It uncovered things, it revealed things, it set changes into motion.

It pushed us to examine our relationships to our jobs, teams, space, and resources. (See also: Your Workplace Isn’t Your Family. And That’s OK!, NYT, August 2018.)

It forced us to directly acknowledge power and privilege.

It reminded us to trust people, not institutions. (See also: After Allegations Of Toxic Culture, Southern Poverty Law Center Tries To Move Forward, NPR this morning, via my friend Cara; In the latest sign things really are dire, BuzzFeed is laying off 15 percent of its staff, Neiman Lab, January 2019.)

I can almost be certain I would not be writing this email if it weren’t for last April.

I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad you’re here.

Photo from Lakeview, today, for my 100 Day Project on Instagram. The mural reflected is “Lake View” by Anthony Lewellen.

You didn’t cancel me!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read last week’s email, and especially to those who wrote back. I’m thinking about including some of the responses in next week’s edition — I thought about it today, but decided to let the topic breathe a little.

We hold these truths

If you know me personally, it’s likely you also know the legendary Kira Wisniewski (here she is on Instagram with her bunny Billie Jean), whom I first met more than a decade ago when she pulled a ragtag group of folks together to create 826DC.

Her latest project, Self Evident, is one I’ve mentioned here before, but I’m bumping it again because a) hey - I want my kid (and myself) to grow up nestled in a rich tapestry of stories by, for, and about Asian America, and b) tomorrow’s the deadline for their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

I know it might sound dubious to say “if you have $1, please give, no donation is too small!” But they really need to reach 1000+ backers for this campaign in order to help show funders and radio networks (think NPR, American Public Media, PRX) that audiences want to hear these stories on a national level. They’re at 802 backers right now with 28 hours left, so this is totally doable if we rally. Go here to donate. Thanks for considering this!

While your wallet’s out

Two other worthy places to direct funds, if you have them:

Read more here (The Daily Advertiser, via Kelly Hayes).

And Mari Copeny, aka Little Miss Flint, has one week left to reach her GoFundMe goal and provide water to her neighbors:

On April 6th 2018, Governor Rick Snyder announced the end of a free bottled water program in Flint, claiming the water quality has been restored.  That is not the case, today thousands of Flint residents remain without clean water. Pipe replacement is still ongoing and should be "completed" by the end of the year but it will take longer for Flint residents to trust the water since we were lied to for almost 2 years.

For each dollar raised, we will be able to provide 11 bottles of water for Flint Residents.


This newsletter is really lacking in Beyoncé content.

I haven’t watched it yet. I know.

A note to new readers: Hello! I’m writing an email every week for 35 weeks. After that, I’ll still post to this list occasionally, but probably not quite so often. If a friend forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, sign up at julia.substack.com.

I’m also on Instagram at @juliaseesmith and (less often) on Twitter at @juliacsmith.

Week 32: Boundaries

Respect for the people who learn in public

Hey all, Quick note: This week is different and starts with a much deeper-than-usual dive into one corner of my brain and heart. Usually I make sure to attribute each article in the same paragraph or sentence where I link to it, both to give credit where it’s due and also so you have a heads up about paywalls and such. Because this is so long, this time I gathered all of the links into a list at the very end of the email — below a shorter-than-usual links/recipes/etc list — to try to make skimming a bit easier.

Not cancelled, but unfollowed

Last Wednesday in this newsletter, I shared two links related to former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores and her allegations of unwanted touching by then-Vice President Joe Biden back in 2014: an interview on NPR and then an essay by Nelini Stamp for Glamour. I shared the links because Biden’s behavior was unacceptable and because Lucy Flores was brave and I believed more people should listen, really listen, to what she was saying. From Stamp’s piece:

The absurd response to Flores’ revelation—from Biden, his supporters, and the inevitable brigade of defensive white men—has been entirely focused on Biden’s feelings. You see, they explain, Biden felt the situation was perfectly appropriate.

…The conversation around Lucy Flores is not a debate over what happened on that stage. Even Biden himself doesn’t deny it. Instead Flores is forcing us to look in the mirror as a country and think: Whose feelings matter? Why is the pain and discomfort of women, and especially women of color, so often dismissed?

The next day, I sat in the dark in my toddler’s bedroom. I’d finally gotten her to nap in my arms and began scrolling through feeds on my phone. I came to an Instagram post by Pete Souza.

For the uninitiated, Souza was the chief photographer for the Obama White House and has since gained a huge cult following on Instagram. He often responds to the Trump administration outrage of the day by going through his archive, choosing a beautiful, cutting, well-timed photo of the Obamas being gracious and graceful, and posting it with a side-eye caption to remind people to #ThrowShadeThenVote.

On Thursday I was rattled to see that Souza had posted a photograph of a handwritten letter from Joe Biden to his (Pete’s) 90-year-old mother back in 2016. It was the kind of thing that a busy national politician wouldn’t write for just anyone. It read as a warm, genuine gesture toward someone whose son had helped make him, or his team at least, look really good for eight-plus years. The kind of thing that instantly becomes a family keepsake to be passed down for generations. As of this writing, the post has more than 52,000 likes and almost 1,400 comments.

Ughhhh. Et tu, Pete? The timing was obviously not coincidental. This was meant to say: Uncle Joe is kind and good. He was kind and good to my mom, and thus it’s impossible that he did something unkind and not good to Lucy Flores. And anyone tearing her down right now is just standing up for a kind, good guy and — as commenters were hasty to pile on — anyone critiquing him is putting our democracy at risk, because he is President Material.

The good thing about being stuck under a sleeping kid and afraid to wake her up is that it gives you a moment to think. So I sat there quietly, wondering if there was any point to leaving a comment on a celebrity’s post about another celebrity, with the words “Anita Hill” running through my head.

Then I thought about my friend Prerna, who does an excellent job of calling people in and out on social media, sharing insights that could put folks on the defensive but instead draw them in to listen and learn. She is also humble enough to share her own learning process when other people ask her to reconsider things. (Follow her on Instagram.)

And I remembered this piece called On Joe Biden that Rachel Wilkerson Miller (writer of a lovely newsletter that just moved over to JustGoodShit.com) shared on her site The REWM back in 2017. In it she chronicles her experience at an event called Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit where Joe and Dr. Jill Biden turned out to be the surprise guests. As the Bidens recount aspects of his track record from the stage, Miller grows increasingly frustrated. She debates whether to challenge the former Vice President in this particular public space and decides to go for it.

So I got the mic and I stood up and said to Joe Biden, “My name’s Rachel Miller and my question is for the former vice president. In the context of changing the culture and women being brave enough to come forward [which he’d also said], I’m wondering if there’s anything that you would do differently with regards to Anita Hill if given the opportunity.”

And he said, “No.”


And then he said, “Let’s get something straight here.”

Which — sure, is a thing an old white man can say to a black woman asking him a question at a women’s event about the shameful treatment of a black woman on a national stage. He is certainly allowed to say that, if he wants to. 


Biden then went on to say a lot more words, but what he was really saying was, “I’m a good guy, I’m a good guy, I’m a good guy.” (The entire event was live streamed, and you can see the Bidens’ panel here; my question is at 25:53.) And here’s the thing: I have had eerily similar versions of this exact conversation several times over the past six weeks, and I am sick to goddamn death of men who have demonstrably not always been good guys immediately jumping in to defend themselves and tell me that I’m wrong — that they ARE, in fact, good (GREAT, even!!!), and I just don’t get it. They get emotional, they get belligerent, they get nasty as they try to get me to listen to the story of that one thing they did for a woman, like, three years ago. And they do this instead of, I don’t know, being introspective for one fucking second, and considering that maybe they are wrong.

Please go read the whole post. It won’t take long since I excerpted so much of it! But it’s worth getting the full context.

I decided that if Miller could be this brave, I could leave a dang comment on Pete Souza’s post. I opened Instagram back up. (I can’t remember if I’d managed to get my kid into the crib at this point. Sorry, kid! My clicktivism = your future?! 😂😭)

And wouldn’t you know it? Today (as in the day I’m writing and sending this email), I went through the comments on the post looking for mine so I could remember what I said, and…couldn’t find it. The activity history tab doesn’t go back far enough for me to get there directly, so I sat there and scrolled through the entire comment thread and couldn’t find mine anywhere.

Now, I could be wrong — see above: 1,400 comments! — but I looked through it three times, to no avail.

selina meyer veep GIF

But from what I remember this was the gist, written to the other commenters, with an ask that they consider Googling and reading both the NPR interview and Miller’s piece:

  • You can have warm, fond, fuzzy feelings toward a beloved uncle, and you can also be honest with him when he disappoints you. You can “respect your elders” and still explain to them clearly that consent isn’t just some trendy buzzword, and that you will not brush aside their previously-tolerated behavior if it causes/caused harm, and you can hope and expect that they might listen and grow. You don’t have to do those things, but Lucy Flores had every right to do so and shouldn’t be punished for it.

  • And you can simultaneously be furious that we have an actual sexual predator in the White House and still hold every single Democratic candidate responsible for understanding “intent vs. impact” and what it means to respect boundaries. When we elect people we. do. not. have. to. settle for candidates who aren’t humble enough to learn in public. Wouldn’t we rather elect someone who publicly acknowledges they caused another person harm, and then publicly works to un-learn their old behavior? I’d rather we do that than pretend certain candidates, the only ones who can “save us,” are harmless in their bumbling.

  • You can also appreciate the artistry of Pete Souza’s photography and his commitment to voter turnout, and still unfollow his account. Which I did. And I mentioned that offhand in my comment, which I suspect is why (I think) it was removed.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to be a person who “cancels” other people.

There are lots of in-betweens, right?

  • I’m a longtime fan of Jane the Virgin. I can watch the show’s final season and I can also make sure I’m actively listening to the criticism of star Gina Rodriguez about her public statements being anti-Black (The Cut). And I can bring that up in conversation with fellow fans and also hope that she is learning — and preparing to show her work.

  • Pete Souza has photographed the musician Brandi Carlile for a long time. Carlile jumped into the fray in the comments section on the Biden post, equating her love and cuddles for her own children with Biden’s kiss on the back of Flores’s head at the beginning of a public campaign event when he was Vice President. If you’re a Brandi Carlile fan, you can listen to her music and you could leave a comment challenging her defense of Biden. If that’s the kind of thing you think might reach her and/or get through to lurkers watching this play out in their feeds.

Right? I think this is right. I genuinely get muddled about these boundaries sometimes. (It’s why I appreciated the NYT’s Still Processing episode about Michael Jackson so much.) You might decide to boycott Brandi forever. You might think I’m a chump who’s choosing convenient entertainment over my principles if I continue to watch Jane.

But I found this piece by Zander Tsadwa (published last April) helpful: We Can’t ‘Cancel’ Everyone.

A part of me was really tempted to keep following Pete Souza. I miss photography, and I like to follow some professionals to kind of passively learn about composition and equipment and to be reminded of the power of a single, well-timed, well-chosen image. As the race toward a Democratic 2020 nominee continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if Souza resurfaces some really fun images of lots of candidates, not just Biden, that have the potential to humanize them, using his platform in creative ways to encourage people to learn the various platforms and make up their own minds.

But here in my self, in the blue chair, I am also on a lifelong quest to learn to quickly and decisively set healthier boundaries. And seeing that someone with such influence had posted that particular letter from Joe Biden at that particular moment made me feel like crap. And so I left my kind-but-firm comment on the post and then I cut this account out of my feed so that my escapism doesn’t come with a side of gaslighting.

I also started following @LucyFloresNV and her organization, @TheLuzCollective.

As for Biden, it’s possible that he really is on a learning journey. And I like to think that Rachel Wilkerson Miller played one role in pushing him along. The Q&A session where she called him out took place in fall 2017. One year later, Politico would publish a piece called Biden confronts the ghost of Anita Hill. And in the last week or two, I’ve seen pieces like this: Biden Expresses Fresh Regret Over Anita Hill Treatment. And we can ask ourselves, is this too little, too late? Are these just political moves to try to win over certain voters?

If I hear that Biden sincerely and thoroughly and publicly apologizes to Anita Hill, maybe I’ll believe it a little more.

What do you think?

If I’m missing things or off base, I’d love for you to hit Reply and let me know.

Recipes, (some) lighter links, and endorsements


A note to new readers: Hello! I’m writing an email every week for 35 weeks. After that, TBD. If a friend forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, sign up at julia.substack.com.

I’m also on Instagram at @juliaseesmith and (less often) on Twitter at @juliacsmith.

Photos: Can you believe Lake Michigan looked like this yesterday?!

Week 31: Shake the foundations

Hey, all. This was Day 9 of my latest full-time parenting streak (Crush’s amazing nanny is out of town) so tonight’s installment is link-heavy. Hope you’re taking good care this week.

Calendar by Nikki McClure, pic first shared on Instagram, and yes, I finally remembered to flip from March to April.

What comes next?

Thirty-one weeks! Thirty-one weeks is almost 2/3 of a year. It’s almost a pregnancy. For those who are wondering what’s been, er, gestating and if I plan to retire the newsletter after I reach my initial 35 week goal, I think the answers are:

  • I’ll take a break from writing these lengthy Wednesday night emails.

  • I’ll still write to you via this list from time to time to share news about what I’m up to, snippets of writing, and links I think are worth sitting with or acting upon.

  • I’ll finally finish my long-simmering, under-construction “professional” website, which I’ll link here once I at least make all of the font sizes consistent across each page.

  • I’ll keep posting to Instagram (@juliaseesmith).

  • I’m cooking up a fun new project with my fab writer friend Joanna Eng. More to come on that soon.

In the meantime, we’ve got four weeks after this one. How much spring do you think will have sprung in the meantime? Can you spot the first two tiny crocuses below? (And I don’t want to hear one gloating word, DC-based readers. Your cherry blossom porn is clogging my feed and making me jealous.)

Chicago links

I’m still processing the Chicago’s runoff election results from Tuesday night.

Wider World Links

  • “It’s enough to shake the foundations of our country.” If you haven’t been paying attention to the Lucy Flores/Joe Biden story, take a quick listen to this < 6 minute All Things Considered interview (npr.org) and then read this piece by Nelini Stamp What Lucy Flores Can Teach Us About How We Value Women’s Feelings (Glamour, spotted via Charlene Carruthers):

    Make no mistake. We understand this is an enormous task. We are asking men to consciously change how they move through the world, how they hold their bodies, how they interact with others.

    But understand too that women already spend our entire lives fully conscious of our bodies, how we move through space and how we interact with others. We are constantly questioning our movements, recalibrating our posture, shifting our size and our presence based on who we are around and how they might feel. We are hyperaware of our physicality and the space around us.

    Men, now it’s your turn.

‘Night! / ‘Morning, to those of you reading this tomorrow!

Respectfully, I decline your notes*,


*Buzzfeed News via Ericka Hines on FB, and no, I haven’t watched Grey’s Anatomy in years, and yes, the clip in this piece did make me bawl.

Hi, first-time readers! If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe at julia.substack.com.

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