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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just Write 153.

I sit in the silence and feel myself exhale as if I'd been holding my breath.

It is morning, the kids just moments earlier strapped into their bus seats and off to school. I have a little under four hours before Tova will return and enough tasks and errands to fill that time, plus the time between her arrival and that of her brother, coinciding with my efforts to get ready for work.

I sit on the couch with my cup of coffee and feel it again. Exhale. My chest falls, my shoulders relax, and I allow myself to sit for a few moments, breathing.

I have many stories to tell, but I shy away from writing them down. I think I'm afraid of facing the truth, of being still enough to show but not tell, because what if everything just swallows me whole leaving no room for air?

If I feel too much I may not be able to stop and I'll lose my grip, lose my buoyancy, and be lost.

But there is good in those stories, beyond the obvious, the glaring, the sad. I have many good things happening, things I'd love to share in equal measure and yet, like many of the dark things, I can't. No matter where I turn the light and the dark muddle together and everything is shades of gray, none of it weightless enough to pass through my mental filters and beyond into my fingers to become the words that silently drive me through my days.

And you all know how I feel about not being able to use my words.

I have been, and probably forever will be, an all-or-nothing kind of girl.

In the last couple of weeks, I have dyed about half of my hair back to nearly-black, filed my fingernails into a "stiletto" shape -- claw-like points, if you will -- and painted them a deep plum, and have taken to wearing deep red lipstick practically every day. I hear the rumblings of the 90's goth look coming back and I can't very much hide my enthusiasm for that because I loved those fashions the first time around, but at 10-14 years old I wasn't able to embrace and participate as much as I would have liked. Being a grown-up now has it's perks, I suppose.

But all the black, the deep moody shades, these have always been me and it is mere serendipity that the fashion world is embracing the colors and shapes and textures that encompass my inner person, the place that I'm currently in. Bring me your dark florals and faux leather and heavy shoes and I will show you the beauty in this breakdown in tiny square pixels on your mobile phone.

Fall has almost always been my favorite despite nearly all of my life's traumatic events occurring within a few weeks of that same time span and I never know how to reconcile those two things, how I somehow forget all the triggers that come with the turning of the weather and the trees.

This year, they feel more subtle reminders that if anything, I always make it to the New Year, so go ahead and stop and take in the cool breezes and the bright colors contrasted against the shaded skies because this season, like everything in life, will be nothing but a vividly fading memory soon enough.

Hold on to it while you can.

Linking up to Heather's Just Write post today because it's a Tuesday and that's what you do on Tuesdays if you post.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Proof I Was There.

If you've been here for any length of time reading this blog, you'll know that I kind of ebb and flow in my attention to it.

Truth be told, I'm always thinking about this space. I'm constantly thinking of things I want to write about, to discuss with you, to weigh in on or get your opinion on.

But sometimes, that's not possible, for one reason or another. Sometimes it's a lack of a literal place to write it down while it's in my head, others it's far more psychosomatic.

It's the latter, mostly, lately.

But I'm working on it.

In the meantime, I was sent this little jewel from BlogHer last week and I finally found a couple of minutes to post it. For the sake of being more kind to myself, I won't talk about all the bad I see in myself in this video. I'll hold on to what a friend told me the next day with a severity that almost startled me -- that I looked stunning up there.

Again, to the BlogHer community who lifted me up for that week I was with them, who made the choice to honor me alongside some of my dearest friends, and to all of you who like every damn photo and share my posts and text me to check on me and find your ways to reach out to me in both good times and bad, thank you.

I promise to be back soon. My baby had a birthday, after all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This Is Where It Starts.

"Look, Mom!" Her tiny voice rang pure with confidence and certainty. "My baby has a black face!"

She gestured a circle around the head of her new baby doll, a Disney Princess Tiana (from The Princess and The Frog) that my mom had moments earlier given to her as an early birthday present. She had called me from the store, asking me which one to get. Tova had been talking for weeks about wanting a Princess Baby ever since a fateful trip to Target where they sat on the lowest shelf, right in full preschooler view.

The options before my mother were Tiana, Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel. Ideally, Tova would want all of them, and had talked of each character fondly. And a few months ago, my pick would have been Ariel because red hair and because at her age, The Little Mermaid captured a sacred place in my heart I still haven't challenged.

But my girl, when you ask her who her favorite Disney Princesses are, will tell you two: Tiana and Jasmine. She's never seen The Princess and The Frog, and Aladdin isn't one that's been on heavy repeat in our home. Of course, if you ask again, she'll adjust and say Ariel and Merida, or perhaps Anna and Elsa, but the first two, she knows, bear a slight resemblance to her, and the second two, well, Frozen is everywhere so I understand.

It took me a while to be able to place why these two specific princesses -- the singular African American and Arabian characters, respectively -- struck my daughter's fancy. As a white, middle-class, suburban-raised woman, I didn't see a lot of diversity growing up. I still don't, as a grown up around those same places. And she, my fair-skinned redheaded child, is close to the epitome of Anglo-Saxon whiteness that dominates so much of our culture.

But last year, she was one of maybe five white kids in her preschool class, the other students primarily being black or Turkish immigrant, among some other less-prevalent populations.

She likes the princesses that look like her friends and classmates.

And this, I think, is where it starts.
This Is Where It Starts.

I still struggle every day with recognizing my privilege and how it has benefited me throughout my life in ways I have completely taken for granted. I struggle with the lessons about race and gender and socioeconomics I have both been directly and indirectly taught by every agent of socialization throughout my thirty years.

I am watching the happenings in Ferguson ... and New York, and my own hometown, with my heart broken wide and my hands open, empty, not fully knowing what to do with them. I read about the experiences of my friends whose skin happens to be darker than mine, raising their children in a culture of fear that I think I may only vaguely be able to empathize with with some thin parallels to rape culture and being a woman and I feel helpless, enraged, and despondent. Yet I soak it all in, in to my bones and I try to make sense of it all quietly, while trying to hold them up and use my privilege and my whiteness to validate their experiences to others who probably would ignore them otherwise.

I look at the faces of my children's classmates -- all of them -- and I want better for them. I want better than to be aghast when I hear my son angrily repeat something about being bad and being put in a police car and furious that someone would have told him that such a thing was ever a possibility for him and then the sad shock of knowing that for the boy next to him on the bus, it will be a perverse right of passage when -- not if, when -- it happens because that boy is black and my child is white. There lies my privilege, that my son may never see the back of a police car for being brazen enough to exist. I listen to a coworker older than my parents tell other coworkers only slightly younger than my parents to "stay safe out there" in a way that sounds so familiar, so commonplace, but yet is a chilling reminder of the double standards of our society, of the othered-ness and second-class citizenship that so undeservedly has been placed upon the shoulders of a people who do not deserve it, have never deserved it.

And for all my education, for all my want to be of help with things I can't possibly fully comprehend because that is not a life I've remotely had to think about living, I am at a loss at what, tangibly, I can do besides raise my voice into the fray.

I look at Tova as she expects me to validate her statement about her doll, seeing in the periphery the slightly startled and tensely inquisitive face of my mother.

"No, honey. Her face is brown, kind of like chocolate. Like yours is pink, like a peach." I quickly blurt in my mom's direction that she's been confusing black and brown in her colors, which is true, while hoping that my child is still too young, too fresh in this world, to understand the implied weight of her statement.
This Is Where It Starts.

She looks down at her doll and gives a long, over-dramatic ohhhhh as she is wont to to as of late. I try not to let my nervous discomfort show as I tell her that everybody has different skin colors, just like hair and eyes, but that doesn't really make us any different from one another.

I just want to do this right, this one thing, right by them. Better than it was done for me.

The next day, Tova is still cuddling her doll, tossing aside her blonde baby doll to put Tiana in the coveted locations of the stroller and the high chair, even taking her outside as we wait for Kiedis' bus to arrive.
This Is Where It Starts.

I catch her studying the doll's face intently.

"Hey Mom!" The same tone of confidence fills the rounded edges of her child's lilt. "My baby has brown eyes, and I have brown eyes! See, they're the same! It matches!"

She turns the doll to show me, pointing to it's eyes and then her own, a version of my own.
This Is Where It Starts.

"Yes, honey, you're absolutely right. You match."

She proudly hugs her doll, then scampers off to play in the yard, doll tightly clutched to her side.

The first agent of socialization is the family.
This Is Where It Starts.
This is where it -- change -- starts.