An Open Letter to President Trump

Dear Mr. President Donald J. Trump,

I know that you’re very busy bringing profound change to the American people, so I’m sorry to interrupt. And I’m sure that you’re even busier now that your #healthcare bill has passed through the House and is making its way through the Senate. But I’m hoping that you can take just a few minutes to read a story.

It’s about a woman who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She works for the University of Wisconsin — one of the highest-rated public universities in the world, famous for its tenacious pursuit of truth and knowledge. Each morning, this woman walks or rides the city bus to her office, where she spends the day as an accountant, helping the university’s multitude of auxiliary operations to function. In the evenings, when she’s not volunteering at the local arts center, she volunteers with the U.S.’s figure skating association by leading several committees. She’s also part of a book club, and she enjoys hiking with her dog, listening to musicals, and going to dinner with her 25-year-old daughter.

She’s a very active, healthy woman. She has a petite frame and delicate features. She’s never smoked, rarely drinks, and eats fresh, unprocessed foods. She’s 56 years old, and happy to be working with no plans to retire soon. But, someday, she’ll have to. And if the healthcare bill that you’ve so carefully crafted is passed, her life could become — to use your favorite phrase — a disaster.

That’s because, Mr. President, five years ago on this day, this woman — my mother — was laid on an operating table for eight hours while cancer was removed from her body. That was just the beginning; with summer came the grueling chemotherapy process. Although we are happily celebrating her five-year cancer-free anniversary, it’s not something that we like to remember if we can help it. Should your healthcare bill be passed, my mother’s battle against cancer would become impossible to forget. It would brand her more than the scars she already bears, and send her into another uphill battle — this time, against health insurance agencies who would revel in reaping the consequences of a situation that she had no control over. Your healthcare bill sides with those agencies. It does not side with my mother. It does not side with the Americans who need your help the most.

We have our differences, Mr. President, but I truly hope that you don’t come to share this experience with me. Having to watch a loved one — your wife, your daughter — fight for her life. And further, I hope that you never have to watch the leader of your country fight against your loved one who has already survived so much.

I thank you for your time.

Chelsea Schlecht

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The Importance of Holding Hands

I’m not a mother. But I do spend many hours each week with 15 wonderful kids who, if I do my job right, I can have a positive effect on — and I’m not talking about teaching proper edges. They are wickedly smart, they ask hard questions, and they challenge me in thought as much as I challenge them on the ice. It both warmed and broke my heart last night when they saw my “I Voted” sticker and earnestly thanked me. It warmed and broke my heart when they cheered about having a woman president for the first time.

A few days ago, we worked on our traveling circle. They learned that everybody has a role, and every role is important. They learned that it doesn’t matter who is next to you — you hold that person’s hand and you hold on tight. They learned that if someone tries to travel the circle on their own, the circle will break. And they learned that if the circle breaks, you don’t get angry. You don’t place blame. You work with your neighbors to fix it.

I struggle to imagine how my skaters are making sense of today and how they will make sense of their futures. When the next election comes around, they will all be nearing young adulthood. They will have spent some of the most impressionable years of their life under an unpredictable presidential administration that, in it’s campaign, has made it acceptable to hate. To judge. To discriminate. To build barriers instead of holding hands.

So what do we tell them now?

Working Like a Dog

Matilda has a challenging job. For one thing, she’s constantly on her feet. She works with people who are dealing with physical, emotional, and mental challenges, and she always has to keep a brave face. If she’s not at the VA’s William S. Middleton Memorial Hospital helping wounded and recovering veterans, she’s traveling around the UW-Madison campus, calming harried students through their exams. But Matilda’s a pro — she’s been doing this for more than half of her life — about three years.

Matilda is a five-year-old Bernese mountain dog. Continue reading

Chasing Abloh

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@virgilabloh

Some months ago — never mind how long, exactly — having little to no expectations, and nothing in particular to lose, I thought to do a story on Virgil Abloh.

Haven’t heard of Abloh? You will. Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 2003, Abloh has thrown caution and his engineering degree to the wind and built an empire of music, fashion, and celebrity connections. Continue reading

Pole Perfect

“Keep going until it feels unpleasant!” shouts Sam Star, the petite, tattoo-covered brunette leading the class. Oh Sam, we bypassed unpleasant about 45 minutes ago when you told me that my nipples should be over my shins. (Just think about that for a second. Think about what position would allow both of one’s nipples to be lower to the ground than one’s shins.)

My body is currently being broken in the basement of Manhattan’s Body & Pole, a boutique fitness studio specializing in pole dancing fitness. I was tricked into coming here by Star, who promised that her Saturday evening “Flex” class would be a good “warm-up.” Consequently, I’ve found myself lying, facedown, with a skinny Asian chick’s ass in my face. Continue reading

What’s My Age Again?

“I’m not above moving back home after graduation.” One of my fellow graduate students said this to me recently. We were discussing our respective job hunts, and how we are going to survive our impending period of unemployment. My knee-jerk response to his statement was, “Wow, seriously?” Had he said, “I’m planning to move back home,” or “I’m thinking about moving back home,” perhaps my reaction would have been different. But the framing of “not being above” something, in turn, made the thing itself seem undesirable. Why is he “not above” moving home, versus just doing it? Because a grown person is not supposed to move back in with mom and dad. Continue reading

Risa Puno: New York’s Sweetest Cookie Monster

It’s 6:45am on a Thursday morning. It’s raining, the shops are still closed, and the streets are post-apocalyptically empty. And yet, from a seventh floor apartment in Gramercy Park, the smell of freshly baked cookies wafts through the halls. Risa Puno has been up since 5:00am, baking, decorating, and packaging for round two of her latest art installation, “Please Enable Cookies.” Continue reading