Monday, December 04, 2017

Salted Wounds

As this holiday season starts, I think I will be writing a lot more. Because I will be frustrated and lonely and tired and have insomnia and be depressed a lot.

I know I can try to avoid those feelings, just like I know we can avoid certain types of accidents and mishaps. We can try to put things out of reach, we can try to label things as dangerous, we can try but sometimes shit happens.

A few hours ago, my daughter might have drank some liquid soap. And in response to what she might have done, I asked her to tell me which is futile. So I smelled her and immediately took off the clothing that she was wearing that smelled of the soap. Then I took her up to the bathroom to wash the residue from her hands and face. While she was playing in the bathroom sink, I googled the product to determine its danger and then called poison control. I was reassured that she would survive and that no trip to the ER was necessary.

That's my version of what happened. And I think all of those steps were rational and non-panicky and non-judgmental. But according to the Hub, this was my fault. Even though she was downstairs with him when this happened. And I didn't overreact by threatening to pour the liquid soap down the drain or out of the window.

As he was about to lash out at me by pointing the finger at my negligence for leaving the product within her reach, I got mad because I felt that this wasn't the moment to blame either one of us for what could have happened. It was a moment for addressing the crisis at hand, talking to our child about danger, taking care of her immediate needs, and then addressing how we would avoid situations like this in the future. What seemed very straight-forward to me became yet another example of how he has become the most irrationally over-protective father on the planet.

And so I threatened to walk out if he ever tried to accuse me of being a bad or neglectful parent again. And I mean that shit. I will walk the fuck out. Because I'm at the point where it seems clear that would be the only way to get through to him.

Despite how pissed I am, I did not blame him for what happened. As always, I acknowledged that I might have left the product out (if I did, because I used it recently to clean up her vomit that he half cleaned up the other day). But I didn't say anything about the fact that he wasn't watching her at the precise moment she got into the soap. I never say anything about how whenever he is "watching" her, she always finds a way to get into mischief or how his way of "watching" her involves sitting on the sofa reading through his social media. I didn't imply that he was at all culpable for what happened because I didn't feel that way at all. I was just relieved that our daughter was okay.

I am tired of feeling like this is a parenting competition between us instead of us being in this together. Every time we face a challenge like this, his instinct is to become the histrionic, finger-pointing, deflective parent, which is supposed to be his way of resolving the issue. Because chastising me is doing something constructive? If she trips over something, he moves the item and then complains about my carelessness or about how I've given her too much stuff.

How is everything that happens my fucking fault? And how are we teaching her to face the world if he prefers to change the world instead of teaching her to deal? Who is the parent with the real problem here?

I'm just venting at 3am. I went to sleep but I woke up and needed to get some of this off my chest. I don't have anyone to talk to about anything anymore. I pray, and I know God hears me. But I am often unsure if I'm praying for the right things if I'm essentially saying and feeling the same thing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mom Ashamed

I am just going to admit that yes, I write a lot about my struggles as a mother, which might suggest that yes, this is pretty much a Mommy blog...which is consistent with most things about my life, totally the opposite of what I want.

I had a meltdown today in response to my daughter's meltdown. I threw her pacifier out of the moving car when it failed to keep her from screaming at me about whatever it was she wanted. I yelled. I cursed. I cried. I detoured to a nearby playground to get her to walk out her frustration (and to do the same for myself) and she refused. So I walked off and paced the tennis courts. When I decided that my "walk it off" idea wouldn't work, I drove us home.

I am so tired. She's only two. I am not going to make it if things continue the way they have.

I felt this way a few years ago when I reached a similar frustrated boiling point with my Mom. I had tried everything I could think of to interact and engage her, and everything was met with her treating me like she hated me. The worst period of her treating me like shit were during my pregnancy. She was so mean-spirited, and it seemed like no noticed or cared. Until the day I stormed out of the house after a particularly nasty exchange when I asked her to allow me to do something and she refused. My brother must have overheard, and finally came upstairs, but as far as I'm concerned, his concern was for my Mom and not much for me.

That's pretty much how I feel all the time during this Toddlersaurus phase (and honestly, since I was six months pregnant). No one gives much of a shit about me.

I do all of the heavy lifting, but if she has an unusual bruise on her leg, the entire world has to come to a stop to determine if we need to spend the night in the ER. When I was swollen and retaining fluid during her first month (steadily pumping myself with vitamins and bleeding and everything else to breastfeed and just adjust to everything), I was sent to the doctor (not taken, but sent on my own). Her discomfort is met with concern. Mine is met with indifference.

I fucking hate everybody right now. EVERYBODY.

I hate my Mother for being sick. I hate my Dad for being helpless. I hate my brothers for being men. I hate my sister in law for being so distant. I hate my other in-laws for living in New York. I hate my friends for never offering to do anything for me or my daughter. I hate how motherhood has isolated me. I hate my husband, period.

And I hate myself for not being the person I had hoped to be. I hate that the only way I can express myself is through writing that no one ever reads. I hate that I won't publish this (on BBW where I started writing this) because I am chicken shit and am more nervous of people judging me. I hate that the anxiety of not wanting to be judged has made it nearly impossible for me to ask for help.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sh** Storm

I lost it a couple of hours ago with the Hub and the Toddlersaurus. I was in the living room (cleaning up, as usual), when I found the pages of one of her books covered in crayon scribble.

Earlier this afternoon, I had to practically bathe this child in a restaurant bathroom sink because she had an accident and sat all in it, without even gesturing that things were squishy and runny in her diaper. Hours earlier than that, she tore down the lower bar in her closet because I wanted to change her diaper and get her dressed before we needed to leave for my dentist appointment.

I also wasted a good part of the morning/evening in search of a shoe bag. In the course of that search, I found the doll that typically travels in my ginormous Mom bag that had been missing for the past week. I'm sure that if I keep digging, I will find other things I've misplaced.

The Facebook crowd advises me to place the kid in day care to give her regular interaction with other children. And that is definitely something that I believe is necessary, but as long as I am not working and not actively looking for a job, I can't justify the expense. We need new bedroom furniture and updated plumbing. I prefer that she returns to the Montessori program that she attended this summer, but it is pricey. Yet, I might be willing to sell coffee at Starbucks to pay them because I thought it was just that great for her (small class, very diverse, close to home).

While she's gone during the day, I could attempt to take back control of this house...

I'm mad at the Hub for being so damn inattentive. To everything. Except her wants. Today, after I used half a pack of wipes to clean her up, he gave her candy. After I confronted him about the scribbling in the book, he read her two bedtime stories. TWO.

I'm mad that I don't have a physical Mom Squad. I have a community online, which is great, but it would be nice to physically talk to another parent with a toddler in my orbit. Otherwise, I am flying blind. (Actually, I am flying blind and have flown into all kinds of isht along the way.)

I'm mad at my family for not offering to help me EVER. No one ever calls me out of the blue to say "Hey, can I take the Toddlersaurus to wherever?" Not a one. And I don't expect that to change, so that frustrates me.

I'm mad that I am always doing unto others, but yeah *crickets*

I'm mad because when I think that others tried to do unto me, they might have been told that Mr. Inattentive had everything under control. And they believed him.

I'm mad because I read that Harvey Weinstein story in the New Yorker and wow. Phuck him! I'm also still mad that it was a year ago that we were still digesting the shock of this Clown's election to the White House. I'm mad that Roy Moore could win this Senate seat in Alabama, and despite all the haranguing, he will provide a solid vote to repeal Obamacare so all will be forgotten and forgiven. I'm mad because we've had 52 weeks of insanity all because we made some progress.

Friday, August 25, 2017

We're Chumped...but Not Out

If the past few months (weeks, days, hours) have anything to teach us, we can expect that the guy in the White House will do something outrageous and offensive before the end of the month. My guess is that it will either happen by Saturday, Aug. 26 (Women's Equality Day), but definitely no later than Monday, Aug. 28 (which is the March on Washington commemoration). It is his nature to be offensive, especially if we expect him to be otherwise.

Quick pause: I began writing this earlier in the day, BEFORE the pardon (mentioned in the next paragraph) was issued. This guy trolls us even in the midst of a natural disaster bearing down in the form of a Category 4 Hurricane! SMH

So it's way past time for us to collectively adjust our expectations so that we can stop acting alarmed when he baits an overreaction by his ridiculous behavior. Of course he looked up at the eclipse without those special glasses. Of course he went forward with an ill-timed rally in Arizona and flirted with the possibility that he will pardon the racist sheriff. Of course he defended the white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Confederacy. Of course he is feuding with Congress. Of course he has bankrupted the Secret Service. Of course he thinks it will be perfectly fine to shut down the government over a stupid wall.

And this was all the nonsense of just this week!!!

It will never stop. Because some of our fellow Americans thought he would be their man in Washington who would drain the swamp, or just stick it to the man (who was Obama, I think), there is no stopping this guy from making a giant ass of himself every chance he gets. So all of our FB haranguing about all of the damage he has done to our country, all of the defriending and blocking of your high school classmates, all of the counter-trolling, etc...I mean, keep doing it if it makes you happy. However, just know that it will make not an iota of difference.

His supporters love him and will continue to love him. They will send their teenage daughters out into the world to defend him like these young ladies here:

Or they will arm their sons and nephews with tiki torches and pretend that their outrage is really about old forgotten statues that no one cared about in communities where they don't live (and most of them don't even know why they're still standing):

Or they will send out their religious hacks to condemn your faith/patriotism/humanity:

Or they will huddle up in their posh owner's box to hatch a plan to discredit a modern-day John the Baptist for taking a knee during the anthem (you know, since football is like a religion for some of you, I thought I would analogize):

I could keep going, but I don't wish to post a picture of him on my blog, especially not the most recent one from the rally this week that prominently featured a legitimately unhinged black supporter. In a classic product placement move worthy of a Clio, "Mike" was intended to dispel the notion the Trumpets are racist/sexist/stupid. Or whatever.

I'm just putting it all out here to illustrate the point that he is here to stay. Remember when he said that he could shoot someone in Times Square and not lose any support? Well...??? Sure, he hasn't done that yet, but give him time.

Nothing will rid us of this troublesome honey badger. He don't care and we are definitely stuck with him until January 21, 2021. Now that is not a statement of resignation, but it is the truth because there won't be an impeachment. Believe me. There is no infrastructure in place to make that happen. This Russian probe is totally going to be the Iran-Contra hearings all over again. The fall guy might be someone expendable, like Don Jr., but that's why his Dad floated out the prospect of pardons. His congressional opposition consists of disorganized Democrats and Paul Ryan supporters. Mitch McConnell is his bitch. He's surrounded himself with military generals. He's been making friends with every authoritarian on the planet. And he has the nuclear codes.

I am not arguing that we give up, but I am just suggesting that we face the facts. Our energy is better spent counting down the 1,245 days until he boards that helicopter for the last time on our dime. Which means we do EVERYTHING to remind him of our disdain and odium. We use the same grassroots organizing tactics that have resulted in every other major social advancement in our country. We organize. We march. We rally. We keep making cool protest signs. We light candles for the Notorious RBG. We educate ourselves and our children. We protect our prophets (like Kaepernick); we mourn our martyrs (like Heather Heyer).  We raise our voices. We VOTE in 2018, and again in 2020, and every subsequent election. We find the folks who erected this chicken on the ellipse and mass produce miniature inflatable duplicates to pass around at his rallies like beach balls. We RESIST!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Gods and Generals

I think I want to go back to teaching American Government and History at the precise moment when Donald J. Trump boards Marine One and they take him to Andrews AFB so that he can fly back to his tower in New York City. Or wherever, so long as he is headed out of town NEVER to return as the Commander in Chief.

I know that I might end up teaching a few students who were supporters of his, and that we may or may not debate the disaster that was his Presidency. I know my position on him will be easy to discern from the absolute glee that might emanate from me, but there is another reason: I want students to truly understand how our government and system are supposed to work without the distraction of "alternative facts" and false equivalencies.

I wrote a screed on my FB page the other day in which I invoked the concerns I have about the current President's misleading interpretations of our government functions. How if he were a student of mine, he would fail...but not because I wouldn't have tried my best to impart knowledge, but because I'm convinced he would try his best not to receive it. For only a person who resists sound instruction would believe that there is ultimate power invested in the President despite the fact that our government consists of three co-equal branches. And then continue to act as if his executive powers are not subject to judicial review or congressional veto. Despite the fact that he, as a private citizen, spent the better part of the last four years cheering on the very checks and balances of power as exercised by his co-equal partners.

In addition, I need him to learn a more comprehensive version of American History--the story that offers a more in-depth understanding of both our country's founding after the Revolution and its near destruction during the Civil War. Because if the President understood those two crucial points in our history, he would not have casually and recklessly thrown out the suggestion that once statues of Confederate generals come down, so too would statues of our slave-holding Founding Fathers.

So let's unpack the difference, in anyone needs a tutorial--the Founders established this country, the Confederates tried to destroy this country. And to offer a little more nuance, in case there are more questions, slavery was bad. The Founders who owned slaves have that cloud hovering over their legacies, that stain permanently set in their expensive linens. And there is no denying that the Confederate generals who fought to maintain the southern economic engine fueled by the free labor of slaves also share that same permanent stain. Yet more than a clouded legacy or permanently blood-stained clothing, they also bear the responsibility for the death of every life lost in that struggle. The Confederate generals who took up arms in rebellion against the nation founded by those slave-holding Founders do not deserve an elevation of status on par with the Founding Fathers. In fact they shouldn't even have a proper adjective capitalized with the letter "C"...

But that is where I stray into opinion, so let me pivot back to facts. As difficult as it might be for me to separate the ownership of slaves in the 18th Century from owning slaves and defending that practice to the death in the 19th Century, that is not the point of comparison that distinguishes the two groups of men. And I know this because of my recent trip to Mount Vernon.

My Niece, who loves all things George Washington (thanks to the clever marketing genius of the Nationals' Racing Presidents), my daughter and I visited Mt. Vernon this week. I had tried to take them back in July, but I misread the hours of operation, so when I had a chance to take them on Monday, we took the drive down and had a chance to see most of the property. She loved it, I appreciated being able to see it through her eyes, and my hope is that she will continue to learn more about the founding of this country.

When George Washington decided to seek a second term as President of the entire nation, it was at a moment when it could have fractured along the very same regional lines that divided the nation 69 years later. In contrast, Robert E. Lee (ironically both a distant cousin of Washington and also his great-grandson in-law), chose exploit that rupture in 1861 when he opted to serve the Confederacy against the Union with his home state of Virginia.

Could it be argued that Washington, a traitor to England, should be remembered for that as a permanent sin? Well, the British people have opted to honor Washington in Trafalgar Square with a bronze statue presented to them by the Commonwealth of Virginia! So far, I can't say whether he is honored similarly in Canada, but that is none of my business...

The point is that not all monuments deserve public veneration. These confederate statues of generals might deserve a place of honor in communities where they did more than lead a rebellion against their country. So for example, Washington and Lee University, named for both generals and their contributions to that institution, can and should honor General Lee in whatever manner they deem appropriate. It is a private institution, and as such, the students who choose to matriculate there do so with the understanding that it has a specific history. But that does not mean that Lee deserves to have statues dedicated to his memory maintained at public expense in every city across the Commonwealth, so if some communities decide that he should retired to greener pastures, then that isn't erasing his memory insomuch as it is relocating it to a more appropriate venue.

Our country's history is very complicated, which is the other reason why we need a better understanding of those complexities. We need to agree that there are facts, and various opinions, and that what we teach are the facts and not the opinions. We don't need history taught by pundits who have a vested interest in promoting a certain perspective instead of uncomfortable truths. And we certainly don't need history reduced to 140-word character tweets dispatched by a leader desperate to prove his legitimacy. And as great as it is that most young people develop an interest in history because of interpretations in popular culture, this isn't actually a history lesson either:

But it is funny.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Last of the Rebel Yells

This piece evolved from an initial intent to post an article on the Busy Black Woman FB page featuring the faces of the "Unite the Right" protestors from Charlottesville. When the article and my commentary failed to post on my FB page (very unusual), I began writing the piece below in response, also in reflection from having attended my family reunion in Fredericksburg, VA. Here is part of what I wrote:
Unfortunately, the article I tried to post yesterday with the photo of the Unite the Right protestors did not post, nor did my message. But today, after all of the chaos, terror, destruction, and the unfortunate deaths, I have another opportunity to express my utter despair at what happened in Charlottesville yesterday.
As all of that nonsense was going on, I was in Fredericksburg for my family reunion. As a child, we would travel to "the country", at least once a year the second weekend in August to reunite those family members who had remained in Fredericksburg with those who had migrated to DC and Philadelphia. I hadn't been to one of these events since my grandmother passed away more than 20 years ago, for a variety of reasons I may share later. On the drive down I-95, we passed an enormous confederate flag that has been erected just past Quantico and right before Warrenton, VA.
So, just over an hour's drive away from the Nation's Capitol, the confederacy has resurrected itself on the side of a major interstate. I saw it the last time I drove down to Fredericksburg for my Aunt's funeral last fall; this time I asked my niece to take a photo so that we could post it online. She didn't get the picture, and now that I have had a chance to digest what occurred yesterday, I believe it was the hand of God maneuvering things so that we would not continue to spread the hate that flag represents. Of course, my reason for wanting to post a picture was to highlight that very sentiment, but it doesn't need to be broadcast by me.
I don't know all of the details of what happened yesterday in Charlottesville because we were absorbed in our bubble of reacquainting ourselves with distant relatives. But I was reminded of the very powerful reason why my grandmother and her favorite cousin left the "county" for DC and Philly so many decades ago--they wanted a better life for their children. They understood the limitations of opportunity for black Southerners, so they joined that Great Migration as young women and later established branches of our family tree in northern communities like so many of their peers. I can only imagine that some incident or mindset, similar to what was on display in Charlottesville yesterday, is what spurred them to leave.
I posted it here because in the days since the protests, I have been reflecting a LOT about what this all means today in 2017. Not that I had no expectations that the backlash to the Obama era had begun and ended with the last election (because, sadly this is only the beginning of the counter-revolution), but it builds on a theme that I felt compelled to express a few weeks back on July 4th. I framed that piece about being woke enough to cautiously appreciate that holiday, but now I want to stake out an even bolder position--that our celebrations of this country serve to appreciate our evolution, and then to demand that we continue to strive towards becoming a more perfect union.

Because these grand American ideals are for everyone.

If your ancestors died to preserve ideals that did not expand rights or that were meant to exclude people, then that is a reason to mourn, not celebrate. Your pride is rooted in something that is the very antithesis of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the ideals of our Founders--not the Confederate generals whose cause you defend. When you choose to stand for racial segregation, gender inequality, religious intolerance, and any other form of systematic oppression, it betrays them and every person who has ever shed blood for this country.

And of course, as I was writing this piece, the Trumpet sounded off again...and so I'm convinced that whenever I think I've missed the window to respond to his nonsense, I just need to give him six hours to say or do something else outrageous.

Too much has happened to unpack everything in one piece. So here are some themes I hope to address as I continue to examine my counter position to MAGA--America is for all of us:
  1. We all hear your dog whistle, Mr. President, so no need trying to conceal it by deliberately changing the subject and getting angry. No more fake nuclear crises or hollow threats to fire members of your Cabinet.
  2. Ironic that no one thought to be this overt during the tenure of the first black President. The worst you could muster up against Obama were racist cartoons, but this angry white mob thing is really quite a step forward. Feel free to march through the hood on your way back to the suburbs.
  3. My Grandma Viola and her Cousin Ruth, and my other Grandmother Amanda and the many other thousands of black folks who migrated out of the South clearly understood why you march to preserve your old confederate monuments. And they aren't spinning in their graves over any of this because Barack Obama was the real shock...this backlash was to be expected.
  4. There is no slippery slope when it comes to venerating Founding Fathers and Confederate generals. While many people have issues with our slave-owning Framers, most of us can see the difference between honoring the first President of the United States and honoring the President of the Confederacy. They are not equals.
  5. This title of this piece comes from the name of a roller coaster at King's Dominion, an amusement park located in Virginia, north of Richmond. For years, I never knew to associate the name of the coaster with anything connected to the confederacy, but I had a doh moment a few years ago when I was teaching. That's how embedded certain colloquialisms are...yet, we need to be mindful as we evolve as a society. If these truly are harmless symbols, then moving them should not evoke such emotion.
  6. Finally, thank you for leaving your bed sheets at home so that the world could really see your faces. Like many people, I was expecting to see more rowdies from the MAGA crowd because they are easier to ridicule. But color me shocked to see the IT guy at work, the guy who sells life insurance, the guy who manages the electronics store, and the kid's soccer coach. All clad in your Ralph Lauren polo shirts (he's a Jew, btw). 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Woke on the Fourth of July

This was initially published on the Busy Black Woman blog on Bastille Day (yeah I know), and I was just going to let that be until I saw this fuckery on Facebook. I have an updated message for folks like him, read on:

My Dad was woke back before we knew that would be the thing to be...because when we were growing up, his woke-ness was uncool. It was the 80s and as a proud, yet jaded veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, he restricted us from participating in anything he deemed to be counter-revolutionary. So we didn't watch the Dukes of Hazzard or any classic cartoons with racial caricatures (at least, not when he was around). He always belonged to a black bank. Our African names, black dolls, and annual observance of African Liberation/Malcolm X Day were nods to his embrace of pan-Africanism before everyone else caught on in the 90s. And my Dad hates Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Elvis Pressley, and Gone With the Wind.

Of course, like most people, his woke-ness could be inconsistent whenever he hit the snooze button. We couldn't play "Cowboys and Indians" although we were avid Washington football fans (even before Doug Williams). He won't celebrate Kwanzaa. For years he thought OJ was framed. And while we could happily spend the day at the beach, eat barbecue, and shoot off our little fireworks on July Fourth, it was never in celebration of America's birthday. So it made me beam with pride upon seeing how so many of my friends posted Frederick Douglass's powerful speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" last week since Daddy had made me read it years ago as part of his stance against celebrating American Independence.

For the record, my take on July Fourth falls somewhere between my Dad's outright hostility and other folks' unbounded enthusiasm. Which means I have no opposition to celebrating the day for what it commemorates, but I reserve the right to remind folks that the struggle for freedom continues. So no, you probably will not catch me wearing my patriotism on my ass like a cheap pair of American flag leggings (made in China). However, I am happy to wave a few sparklers (also made in China) while I recite the words to Langston Hughes' "I, Too" or Claude McKay's "America" or Maya Angelou's "These Yet to be United States". Or even better, as the Toddlersaurus, my Niece, and I belt out our favorite songs from the musical Hamilton.

Just as my Dad and others were disillusioned by the post-Civil Rights era backlash, I can appreciate how disheartening it is to confront the realities of this post-Obama era. From that race-baiting NRA video to the retreat by the Justice Department from protecting the rights of citizens to outright religious intolerance and hostility, it is easy to understand why folks have lost faith. Unfortunately, hypocrisy is as American as pumpkin pie--literally, ever since those eloquent words of equality and liberty were penned by a slaveowner whose "slave mistress" was his wife's half sister.

Despite the wide gulf between our ideals and reality, we too can celebrate America. We can believe in the hope expressed by both the Declaration of Independence and the Frederick Douglass speech because this is our country too. If we can celebrate both men for their greatness while acknowledging their very human weaknesses (Douglass' extracurricular activities), then we must learn to reconcile our disappointments with American shortcomings to our pride in American progress.

Since I mentioned it earlier, it is the genius of Hamilton that reminded me how we are all inheritors of the American legacy. Only in America could a Puerto Rican rapper write a Tony Award-winning musical on the life of an undocumented Caribbean immigrant who ascends from obscurity to notoriety by aligning with a black/brown George Washington. American History is our story too, so marginalizing or othering us doesn't negate that fact.

And in case you might be wondering, I can celebrate America and stay woke. In the words of the prophet known as James Baldwin, "I can love America more than any country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

Here's what I added for that idiot in Florida:
I was born here. And since you aren't a Native American, nor did your family come over on the Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, Mayflower, or on a slave ship, try again. Check your family tree to see if its roots are as deep as mine, because I assure you that your white skin is the only advantage you have. So you can keep your "Go Back to Africa" foolishness.

You can also keep those historical commemorations that have been purposefully sanitized, such as folks' misplaced nostalgia for the Confederacy. Let's be clear that if you insist on dedicating public space to venerate Confederate generals, then it should be okay if we drape those hallowed monuments in white bed sheets...because that is your history too. Or if we install colored water fountain signs nearby, because that is also your history.

And one more thing, now that I'm on a roll, let's address the anti-PC campaigns that want to graft Confederate history onto MLK Day, but don't want to acknowledge Native Americans during Columbus Day...yeah, stop. Ditto for White History Month. Get over yourselves and stop conflating freedom of speech with a license to offend.

It is our history, all of it--the good, the bad, and the shameful. The triumphs and the tragedies. George Washington and George W. Bush. Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama, and even the current President. Hopefully he'll be history soon enough.

Screaming at the Top of My Lungs

I promised myself that I would not use my BBW blog to air my dirty laundry, and for the most part I have kept that promise. That's why I keep this blog, and why I am grateful that I decided not to continue writing this post over there. Because I am feeling kinda crappy right now.


In an argument. By my toddler. By my family when I have a legitimate point of contention. By my friends? By anybody?

Do you know how frustrating it is to feel like NO ONE gives half a crap about you unless you are fucking up? How it feels to think that nothing you do ever matters because to some folks it is just your job? That you aren't even remotely special?

I feel like that right now. Right now, just as I want to eat my feelings (which was something I never did before this year). Right now as I am really thinking about running the fuck away and not telling anyone where I'm headed. Right now when I want to reach out, but don't think anyone has the time to understand why I am just feeling hopeless and useless and perennially frustrated by life.

When is it my turn to be first? Why can't I make demands and someone feel obligated to meet them just because? Why am I being high maintenance when I want something done a certain way? Why can't I have expectations? Why don't I ever feel appreciated? Can I get some flowers that someone actually took the time to look at to make sure that they weren't dying (instead of buying the cheap ones because they were cheap)? Can I not be given the lecture that I ought to be grateful for being an afterthought instead of not being thought of at all (which is the definition of afterthought, n'est pas)? Can someone call me and reach out to check in on me from time to time, instead of reaching out to ask for a favor? Why can't I be needy? Why does my loneliness feel more like normal the older I get?

Why so many questions, you might ask because from your perspective, I should be happy. And I get the green grass theory, which is true when you realize the reason why their grass is greener--someone waters and cares about that other lawn. If I am not watering my grass, it should be brought to my attention so that I can do a better job. I don't have a problem being told that I am doing something wrong. I have a problem with always being told that I am doing something wrong in response to telling someone else to modify their behavior.

I have a few other issues, but I will get to my laundry instead.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

More Than Enough

I need to write to remind myself of an important point, lest I drift backwards into self-doubt and depression: I am okay. I am doing my best, and on some days, I need to take comfort in the fact that my best is much better than those who do nothing but complain. And I'm giving myself this pep talk because I got flustered one evening last week in a true Charlie Foxtrot moment. By the end of the night, I had let a lot of that anxiety go, but I decided to write about it anyway so that I can have this to reread whenever I want to crawl back into a shell of self-loathing.

I am doing more than enough.

Instead of providing a turn-by-turn account of the events of the evening prior to that moment when I was running back and forth between answering the front door, helping my Mom in the bathroom, and giving my kid a bath...I will simply say there was a lot going on. And I was by myself with my 70 year old mother and my 2 year old daughter. Even if my choices at any given moment are questionable, at the end of the night I can at least say that I did something other than complain.

I hit the wall at the beginning of this year with my emotions, and I know that the stress of my mother's illness has been difficult for everyone. Chronic illness can devastate lives in so many ways. It ruins relationships and it can have reverberations for years. I have been stressed to the breaking point trying to manage caregiving and parenting, so much so that I essentially dropped out of a lot of activities and commitments. I don't lament the need to take such a drastic step, but I have been frustrated that it came to this point.

Attempts to address some of our issues as a family of caregivers unearthed a lot of resentment and unexpressed feelings. It also made things worse...but perhaps the only way to address an issue is to expose its ugliness. I am still open to the possibility of making peace, but I have accepted that it might not happen. Therefore, for anyone else who might be going through a similar situation or who might have to face the unforeseen chaos of chronic illness, here is a quick list of some of what I have learned these past eight years:

1. Communication is everything. Communication is everything. Communication is everything. And communication is not just about telling folks your positions or how you feel about the situation. It is also about how you listen. I spent a great deal of time communicating information that was not being processed or that was being ignored, or perhaps most importantly was not what folks wanted to know. I honestly do not have any tips about how to get others to listen, but if folks are not speaking to each other, listening to what is being said, or accepting the truth of what is being expressed, then you will have misunderstandings and chaos.

2. Caregiving is a 24-hour job and it involves everyone in the family. Everyone can contribute and no contribution is too small. However, if there is no contribution then that is a problem. When there is a need for an outside caregiver, it does not absolve anyone else of having to take part. It might diminish certain duties, but family care is still vital.

3. Offering criticism is not the same as offering assistance. As far as I am concerned, it is the same as doing nothing. Opinions are assholes...everybody has one.

4. Most non-immediate family and friends have no idea how to offer help or to even express support. So I don't hold that against them. I actually appreciate the benign gestures of just checking in because it helps to know that folks are thinking about us even when they can't do anything specific.

5. Caregivers often will not ask for help. Although that statement applies specifically to my family, I suspect it is true of most families. The vast majority of the time I will not tell outsiders what is really going on with my Mom, for any number of reasons. Thus, whenever people tell me to let them know if I need anything, I file that away with point #4 in mind. It isn't personal nor is it pride, but it is usually a case of not wanting to include too many people in our inner circle. Too many cooks spoil the broth. However, whenever we do ask for assistance, it is because we truly need something.

6. Caregivers have been thrust into an unexpected scenario, which ultimately becomes a perpetual series of unexpected scenarios. Thus, mistakes are bound to happen, and I have felt guilty about every single one. Yet, I rarely have time to lick my wounds, so yes, I am ultra-sensitive to criticism (#3) especially when I am the person who has to make the hard choices. If you would do the job better, then by all means...

7. Compromise. No caregiving situation is ideal. And when there are several people involved in the process, there are that many opinions and ways of doing things. Each person means well, and choosing not to take every suggestion is not personal--often it is a matter of feasibility. You do not lose if you don't get everything you want, but you get nothing if you walk away.

8. Children should not be shielded from the scenario. I decided that if my daughter was going to  know her only living grandparents, she will know them as they are at every stage of her life. She also needs to be prepared for the future. I was exposed to the illness of my grandparents and had to actively participate in their care, which I believe prepared me for dealing with this very situation. God forbid if my daughter has to care for me or her father, but at the very least she will have had a blueprint.

9. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Not just a song, but a reality, especially when dealing with your adult siblings, your even older parents and their siblings, and the outside paid caregivers. All of your family dynamics will be impacted by the illness, and all of your family issues will resurface as well. Respect is making the choice to put the needs of others above your need to be right.

10. Caregivers need support. We need friends. We need family. We need breaks. We need someone to recognize when the situation has gotten too overwhelming and we're in too deep to notice. We need someone to make that benign statement about showing up whenever needed and actually doing so without being asked. We need someone else to remind us that we have to live as well because the last thing anyone needs is an additional chronic illness to manage.

The Day I Almost Lost It

That would be today.

I dragged my two year old outside and let her scream on the front porch for about five minutes. This was after she refused to nap, dumped all of the clothes out of her drawers, scattered her jewelry, bit me (twice), and just got on my very last fucking nerve. And I was tempted to shut the door in her face, but then one of my curious neighbors walked up...

I am not feeling well. I didn't feel well last night. I told the Hub to go to work because instead of having him cater to the Toddlersaurus all day as if she is the sick one, I figured I could do just fine by myself. And that is why God is laughing at me...

Now she's sitting on the potty that she only uses as a stool or as a prop for her toys. That is also a sore spot for me, since I've been trying this potty training thing for months and we have made absolutely NO PROGRESS AT ALL. I had hoped that as her language continued to develop (another fail), she would begin to tell me when she needed to potty, seeing as how she can sing that stupid song from Daniel Tiger. But singing and making demands is about all she can do, and all I can do is get increasingly more frustrated.

I know that as I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself, playing my whiny solo on the world's smallest violin, whomever stumbles across this post will wonder why I just don't ask for help. Well, yeah shall we analyze my options: (1) my mother...; (2) my father who doesn't remember anything from my childhood except that my mother did all that stuff; (3) my dead grandmothers or mother-in-law; (4) my other family members who have children but don't really talk to me like that; (5) my sisters-in-law who all have grown children; (6) my two friends with children; (7) the Spanish-speaking nannies at the library or play group; or (8) my neighbor whose husband just walked over to check out why she was standing on the porch?

Feel free to pick one out the best option and let me know.

By the way, I once said that this was not going to be a Mommy blog, yet here we go again, right?

PS: We finally fell asleep.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Politics of Disrespectability

The other day a lot of us imagined that the late Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune rose up from her grave in utter shock and horror during the commencement exercises at the school she founded. The reason for that imagined resurrection is up for debate.

On the one hand, I think she was insulted that her name and legacy had been invoked to justify an invitation extended to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a woman whose credentials for the job of being the nation's school superintendent are, ahem, questionable. On the other hand, it could be argued that her anger was at the students for breaking with decorum. If I had another hand, I would say that she was irate about all of that and then some.

I started tweeting my own rant last week and urged students to walk out of the ceremony. Of course, I have no real followers so that was just my opinion. The official Twitter hashtag urged students to turn their backs on DeVos during the speech, and I guess that could have worked too. But then someone began booing and then the chanting and then things broke down from there. It was a spectacle and an unfortunate avoidable mess.

Part of my outrage over this sparked the campaign I am currently promoting through Busy Black Woman, Just Give. I believe more alumni giving can make our voices heard, even in a room full of tone deaf leaders. For all of the complaining and the anger we express on social media, it will mean nothing if donations to Bethune-Cookman University dry up or remain static. HBCUs should not have to curry favor with every million dollar donor when we have an adequate built-in base of untapped alumni support.

BCUs President and Board probably assumed that by inviting DeVos to speak, they could avail themselves of some federal funding, perhaps in the form of some special pilot grant program or that infrastructure spending that the Trumpet questioned. And I'm thinking that when the invitation was extended, DeVos saw it as an opportunity to reintroduce herself to the HBCU community after her earlier misguided statements and assumed that the students wouldn't really care...after all, aren't most students are drunk at graduation anyway?

Not at an HBCU Graduation! Because Mama and 'nem are there and they got dressed up and they waited 4, 5, 6 or so years for that moment. Folks took off from work to make the trip. Somebody went without so that balance was paid and you were cleared to walk at the last minute. Grandma endured the trip, even though you told her it would be ok if she didn't come, but she insisted because you are her oldest grandchild. Or the youngest. Or somewhere in the middle (no matter). And because HBCUs tend to hold graduations close to Mother's Day, Mama and Grandma and Aunties and that older cousin who is like a sister to you who brought her kids so that they can see you as a role model, they are in that audience beaming with pride, so this is not some corny formality. This is a BIG deal.

And so, despite the fact that Dr. Bethune left us these eloquent words in her famous Last Will and Testament, apparently the powers that be forgot that she had plenty more to say. So on Wednesday morning she rose up from her grave, knowing all of that commotion was about to take place, and she inspired a few of those meme savvy students to release some of her other important words to let the rest of us know why that fuckery was intolerable.
To those of you with your years of service still ahead, the challenge is yours. Stop doubting yourselves. Have the courage to make up your minds and hold your decisions. Refuse to be BOUGH for a nickel, or a million dollars, or a job!
If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves. We should, therefore, protest openly everything...that smacks of discrimination or slander.
To Miss Betsy, let's be clear that you had a right to speak at the invitation of the University President, Dr. Edison O. Jackson. But he had no right to invite you to be the commencement speaker, and then wait until the 11th hour to announce your selection when it would be too late for the graduates to oppose it. He claimed that he wanted to expose the students to opposing points of view, which might be appropriate when the attendees are current students who are still subject to the school's authority. Commencement is an audience of faculty, alumni, graduates, and families, which means these were not the young impressionable minds that should be compelled to sit through whatever Secretary DeVos had to say. This was not a campus convocation.

And that is why so many HBCU alumni were upset. We have legitimate issues with this Administration and while we can appreciate the assumption that there is a benefit to being exposed to alternative viewpoints, it is not a requirement. Every pronouncement from Trumpelthinskin and Company has been an egregious repudiation of the ideals many of us hold, so why should anyone assume good intentions from Mrs. DeVos' appearance? And why raise the specter of federal funding when we know that is a red herring? Because if she did come in peace, then there would have been no need to shroud her appearance with such mystery.

Thus, the prophetic nature of Dr. Bethune's words and why we must not sell our principles for any price. Bethune-Cookman is a private HBCU, so while it certainly depends on federal funding through student loans and other programs, perhaps it should be made public that DeVos' appearance would ensure the preservation of XYZ so at least folks would know why they were a captive audience at that circus. And knowing that the decision to walk out or turn their backs to the speech would be met with criticism anyway, why not "protest openly" against the slander that somehow we are expected to acquiesce to patronizing contempt and disrespect.

Continue to rise BCU Wildcats and continue to make Dr. Bethune proud!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Get In Formation

This is just a quick public service announcement because I want all HBCU alumni to understand something crucial for future reference: WE ARE NOT IN COMPETITION WITH EACH OTHER FOR DONORS.


That isn't our cross to bear. So please, before you waste time whining blogging about a high-profile donation to the so-called elite HBCUs, take a step back and do a little research. Recognize that every single one of these institutions needs support, and if every single alumni gave something, anything to his/her own HBCU, it wouldn't matter what the celebrities do.

Because what they do with their money is their damn business. Some of these folk will give that big one-time donation and never give another dime. Or they might give consistently for the rest of their natural lives. Or whatever, but again, it is their money and not ours. Our money is what we earn and how we choose to designate it, so that matters more to our institutions--whether alumni bother to donate.

So again, I repeat (just in case you forgot): WE ARE NOT IN COMPETITION WITH EACH OTHER FOR DONORS.

And because I really, really care that you get this, I just gave to Talladega College, as I said I would when I wrote this. Because I never want another HBCU to go hat in hand to participate in something that they would rather not, but feel compelled to do so because they need the money.

And that is the same reason why I gave to Bethune-Cookman University today, because for the life of me, I just cannot even form the words to express why the invitation to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to be their commencement speaker is seriously, were Omarosa or Ben Carson that busy? (And I'm not signing any petition because I made my feelings clear while making my contribution. Money talks, my friends.)

And to briefly address this gift from Beyonce to Spelman College and Howard University, please save your ire for real nonsense, like the aforementioned invitation to Betsy DeVos from Bethune-Cookman or the participation of Talladega's band at the Abomination in January. Hell, let's debate whether it is too soon for Barack Obama to collect $400,000 for speaking engagements. But let's not spend another minute complaining about how Beyonce should have spent her money; otherwise, we will ensure that the next big gift won't go to any of our schools. No one wants to court controversy for making a GIFT. So just stop.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Atlanta Riots - Part II

As I was writing the first part of this, I had this strange feeling of deja vu, so I went back to see what I had written in the past about this incident. I could not find it here, then remembered that I had probably written about this experience for the class I taught ten years ago! Although I won't be looking through the crates to see what I wrote then, it was interesting to look back through some of what I wrote here during that time period. Perhaps I need to repost and update a few things to demonstrate how my voice has evolved. Nevertheless, back to my analysis of the Atlanta Riots some 25 years later. 

I confirmed with a friend who graduated that year that my recollection of how the situation ended and quickly returned to what we would call normal was accurate. I went home, started a summer job, and here I am 25 years later trying to understand what we did and how it informs my opinions of what I see in police protests and interactions today.

Rodney King to Mike Brown to Freddie Gray
We were rightfully outraged by the King verdict, which to many of us proved that race almost always colors how people see the same incidents. None of us students felt that King's drug use justified such a savage beating. In hindsight, I still don't, especially as we compare it to the riots that engulfed Baltimore just two years ago or that took place in Ferguson, Missouri months earlier. The names are different, but the results and the finger-pointing are the same--the victims are blamed for escalating police behavior.

As we head into our first summer under the regime of a President who has been overtly supportive of the police tactics that have been practiced in all three of these confrontations, I am worried. It bothers me that when Rodney King was beaten for resisting arrest, we were told that he provoked their response. The same has been said about Mike Brown even though it is unclear if he resisted arrest. And as for Freddie Gray, that situation is so muddled and messy...

But what about those instances when the victim complies and still gets wounded or dies? What about Philando Castille, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice? How many more names do we add to that sad roll of inquiry before anyone acknowledges that the power to deescalate a potentially volatile situation resides with the person/people holding the lethal weapons with the power of the state encrusted on their lapels?

Public Protests and Black Lives Matter
I just happened to read another negative reaction to Black Lives Matter (BLM) and as I try not to dismiss that point of view, it occurs in the backdrop of a completely unrelated post a friend wrote about public Confederate monuments. However, in both situations, we are dealing with perspective.

And when I delve into how we perceive race and law enforcement in their historical intersections, then these two matters are not all that distinct. As a BLM supporter, I have never regarded the statement nor the movement as elevating one race over another. It has always been about demanding the humanization of black/brown lives. Similarly, as a person who has absolutely no sympathy for the Confederacy, I cannot regard monuments to the Lost Cause as honorable. Quite frankly, I believe that your revered ancestors died to preserve a system and way of life that did not regard black and brown lives as having any human value. Period.

Yet, when asked to consider the opposite viewpoints--that of law enforcement facing the hostility of an enraged mob or that of a Southerner seeking to reconcile the contradictions of family honor, I get it. Perhaps it is too easy to demonize police actions as overzealous in complicated situations. And maybe it is intellectually lazy to assume that every Confederate was an unrepentant racist. Alternatively, thousands take to the streets to march and protest in support of black/brown victims because we believe they had rights, irrespective of their bad or questionable behavior. If I can see the humanity in my neighbor who is a police officer or of a long-dead Confederate general who sincerely believed in my ancestors' inferiority, then surely you can muster up a modicum of human compassion for the mother whose child was taken from her prematurely under questionable circumstances.

We are all accountable for our actions--victim, oppressor, citizen, undocumented, insurrectionist, civil servant, rich, poor, black, white, President, soldier, civilian, sinner, and saint.