Thursday, November 20, 2014

Repeal TN's Amendment 1

The post below was my comment to the petition to repeal Amendment 1 (with some adjustments for this blog post). Amendment 1 is the recent addition to the Tennessee Constitution that allows legislators to insert whatever laws they can get passed into women in Tennessee's lives and uteri.

If you'd like to sign the petition, please go here: Bill Haslam: Repeal Amendment One.

Women are intelligent beings. We are capable of making medical decisions that affect our lives. The decision to terminate a pregnancy should only be affected by the woman seeking the termination and the doctor performing it, and if the woman is married or with the father, perhaps her mate. No one should be forced to carry a fetus to term if that isn't what is best for their life. 

Women are human beings. In this day and age, balls of cells are given more rights than a living, breathing, functioning, working person. Nowadays, deceased bodies have more rights than a pregnant woman. If a person has not signed the organ donor card, his/her organs may not be removed from his/her body, but legislators and politicians (people without medical degrees or with medical degrees but no longer practicing medicine because they are politicians) have no right to tell a woman what she can/cannot do with her body when no one--doctor, legislator or otherwise--can dictate what can/cannot happen with a dead body.

Women sometimes seek terminations. Terminations have existed as long as pregnancies have existed. There will never be a world in which terminations don't exist unless in that world, pregnancies also cease to exist. Banning terminations only increases the likelihood that women will die seeking terminations. Roe v. Wade did not create the world of abortions; it created the world in which women no longer had to rely on self-abortions via wire hangers, had to drive to Mexico or fly to another country if you could afford it, had to rely on illegal doctors in questionable and/or unsavory locations. When safe, legal terminations are inaccessible, women turn to knitting needles, questionable drug mixtures, throwing themselves down stairs, paying people to beat them in the stomach, clinics like those run by Kermit Gosnell, etc. THAT is NOT a world I want to return to.

Women seek medical treatment wherever they deem necessary. And if the concern is that women come from other states to seek terminations here in TN, I suppose we should just close Tennessee's borders to all people seeking medical treatment so that only Tennesseans benefit from hospitals such as St. Jude, Erlanger, Vanderbilt, LeBonheur and the other hospitals in this state that do amazing work. And by that same token, I suppose Tennesseans should no longer have access to world class hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, etc. because they aren't in TN. This line of thinking that Tennessee medical care is only for Tennesseans is cruel and illogical.

Women are intelligent human beings who live in Tennessee in 2014. The passage of Amendment 1 makes me feel as if we've gone back to an era when women had to seek permission from her husband or father just to see a doctor and then seek permission from the husband/father and doctor before receiving treatment. And then the husband/father and doctor would meet in secret to determine what was the best course for the woman. Women are NOT children. Functioning, productive, intelligent women do not need to be protected from ourselves. We do not need to be shielded, and we don't need to be gaslighted into making decisions that are counterproductive to OUR lives.

Terminations are not ended by banning them. Terminations will never end as long as pregnancies exist because there will ALWAYS be some situation (rape, incest, poor health, domestic abuse, being poor, etc.) wherein it is a much better option for everyone involved that the fetus never grows beyond a ball of cells. Our society is not perfect to the point that every fetus that is conceived was done so in love and will grow up in a loving home and family.

The "great" Republican himself Ronald Reagan signed abortion legislation into CA law (The Therapeutic Abortion Act in 1967) because there were far too many women dying seeking abortions.  The Volstead Act was repealed because prohibiting alcohol increased crime, murder, and the growth of crime families. I suppose it will take an increase in women dying from seeking abortions for people to care enough to realize that prohibiting it will not make it go away.

Terminations won't go away. They can only be reduced and mitigated with comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception, and  access to safe and legal terminations.

Please repeal Amendment One.

The App Generation

I just had an interesting conversation with a colleague from another department.

Through this conversation, I uttered the phrase: "they're the app generation." His reply: "I think you just coined a phrase."

Well, while I realize I didn't actually coin this phrase (there's already a book out with that phrase as the title), this conversation did make me think about what this means.

So, what is the App Generation? We are so busy calling the current age of people the Millennial Generation, but how long will that phrase last? Is it more apropos to call them the App Generation? Is it fair to label only the Millennials the App Generation or does this label fit to many more people than that?

We're so tied to our mobile devices and the latest app and what it can do for us, to us, with us. We're so tethered to the electronic leashes and those little icons that connect us to various things.

Apps rule our lives. They help us connect to content, friends, media, images, food, and even places to go. They provide our news, our images, our livelihood, our money, our families, our life. Apps are our life.

Apps are so personal. They speak volumes about who you are, where you've been, where you plan to go, how you plan to get there, and how long it'll take.

Apps keep us occupied while we're getting there. Help us stay on course during the route. Help us find the food and toilets during the trip. Help us light the way in the dark--literally and figuratively.

Apps provide the info to keep us informed, entertained, communicative.

Apps tell us what's hot and new.  Apps suggest to us what may be hot and new in the future. Apps remind us of what used to be hot and new.

Apps are our culture. They are our innovation, our brainchildren, our way forward. Apps are our futures.

Apps are us.

Every company that wants to be relevant today must develop an app.  Years ago, what used to be a suite of programs (iWork and Office come to mind) is now a series of unconnected apps that you can (or must) buy individually.  What used to take up one icon, now takes up three.

But what does this all mean?

Does this mean we are too connected, too electronic device-ified?

Apps help bridge the miles between friends, family, and lovers. Apps keep military men and women connected to the family who so desperately just want to see them again. Apps offer a sense of stability but also a sense of spontaneity. They offer freedom but they also bring so many restrictions. Apps are your cache private photos but they are also your willful destruction of personal privacy.

All of that data fed into those apps says a lot of who you are. And all of it is given away freely.

Apps are helping us.

Apps are ruining us.

Years ago, I used to use two videos in my classes: "Did you know? Shift Happens" and "The Machine is Us/ing Us."  These videos have become even more relevant now than then.
                                           "Did you know?Shift Happens, 2014 Remix"

"Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing Us."

We have become our phones, our tablets, our laptops. We have become the apps. We are extensions of our mobiles devices and connectivity rather than the devices being extensions of us. We can no longer say it's this generation or that generation--sectioning off the generations according to when we were all born. Sure, we all belong to a pre-determined generation based on the year we were born, but we are all also a part of the App Generation. We exist in this App Generation because of the advancements in tech during our life times.

We also can't say it's one country or another. The world uses mobile devices. There are more mobile devices in this world than there are toilets:

And what does THAT say about who and what we are as humans? In our priorities as humans? We are the App Generation.

Do we have to remain a part of the App Generation? Is it a lasting label that can't be shed?

No. We can choose to ignore the apps and mobile devices for a time. Put them away for awhile. Silence them. Turn them off. Silence the notifications. Come back to them later.

The truth is, without your attention, the apps will continue to function; they'll exist in their space whether you acknowledge them or not. But will the real, tangible, breathing beings who are in your life continue to exist in your life if you ignore them for awhile?

Can we continue to ignore one another for the sake of the apps and devices? What will that society look like? Do I even want to know?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Shield Maidens Unite

Warning: This post contains spoilers about the show Vikings.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an info junkie, TV addict, and a feminist. A few months back, I was fortunate to watch the History Channel show called Vikings. I'd seen advertisements for it, but largely ignored them. Friends encouraged me to watch the show, and I'm so glad I did.

Lagertha c1Watching Vikings, I was instantly impressed by the main female character Lagertha. But more importantly, I was intrigued by this slightly more accurate portrayal of the Viking culture; it is after all, a TV show.  As an info junkie, I frequently paused the episodes to fact check things the show portrayed. I'm happy to learn more about any culture, but I'm especially appreciative to see that not only were the Vikings NOT a horned helmet wearing, beer guzzling, raping, pillaging, killing, maiming, destroying people who treated women like shite, women actually had prominent places in their society and what's more, they actually fought in battles and went on raids right alongside the men, as shield maidens. Yes, the Vikings raided other cultures, but their culture can also be credited with contributing a LOT to the world. Doubt me? Look them up for yourself.

Now, I fully understand and accept that Vikings is a (really good) fictional show whose main objective is to get ratings, but recent reports have claimed that mass graves of Viking warriors were not all or mostly men as scientists once thought (although being able to say with certainty that the female corpses were all warriors isn't as clear). With the popularity of Vikings and people's attempts to set the record straight on Viking culture and history, it has been discovered that shield maidens (such as Lagertha) were in fact, real.

Watching Vikings, Lagertha speaks to me. She's powerful, intelligent, respected.  People admire her, want to be her. And of course, she's beautiful, so men want to be with her. She was married to the man who became Earl (and ultimately, King). She became an Earl herself because she refused to bow down and be beaten (literally and figuratively) by a man. When she was Ragnar's wife, she ensured women were treated fairly by the community, and their own spouses. In essence, Lagertha didn't take shite from anyone, could kick anyone's ass who tried to give her shite, and strove to ensure that women had equality as much as possible within the society. We need a Lagertha today!

Watching the show, I was annoyed that a society many people view today as primitive, pagan, and heathenistic afforded more rights to women (see #28) than our modern, allegedly progressive, forward-thinking society. In fact, I find it interesting that the Christian societies depicted in the show demonstrate very oppressive lives for women (oppressive rules that we KNOW existed then and now) but what's even more interesting (and disheartening) is that those oppressive societies aren't that far off from societies today--Christian or otherwise.

So, as women today face increasing erosion of rights, inequality, unfair pay, discrimination, a persistent rape culture, continued victim blaming, and patriarchy that simply won't quit, I feel the inner Lagertha rising up in me.  Restrictions on terminations, disenfranchisement, lesser pay for equal work, unfair medical rules, forced births, child brides, female genital mutilation, the loss of the right to simply exist in a public space without being subjected to harassment (or even being murdered for rejecting the unwanted attention), needing male relative approval to merely move about, etc. While I can't solve the problems for all women worldwide, I can affect my sphere of influence. And my inner shield maiden is getting angrier and ready for battle.

I realize that American women have it SO much easier than other women worldwide. I realize the privilege of being born in America and existing in this particular time period. I know I have it easier than women elsewhere or even my great, great great grandmother who would've been a slave in the South. I realize I have it easier than women of the 1950s or 1960s or 1970s. And I realize that not all women in Viking culture had rights; there were slaves, concubines, whores, etc. But I also realize in learning more about the Viking culture, some women of hundreds of years ago, in different cultures had far more rights than women today. I also see that things that our grandmothers and mothers fought for have come back around again (some with a vengeance), and my generation and the one behind us will have to re-fight battles already won.  That I can't let stand.

So, my inner Lagertha is rising up. I'm preparing my battle armor.  I'm readying my shield. I cannot sit idly by and lose rights I know that as a human being I deserve. I demand that we will "be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth" and I damn sure will "bring it into existence by any means necessary"--even if it means as a shield maiden in the battle for my mere existence.

I'm angry at the loss of freedoms. But I will channel my anger and fight. Won't you join me?! Won't you be a shield maiden too?!

Shield Maidens Unite!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Flee, Scream, Fight... 2014 TN Amendment 1 and Other Election Reactions

This morning I awoke to news that not only does the GOP now control the Senate (that had been predicted for months) and many GOP governors maintained their seats (include Florida's Scott, Wisconsin's Walker, and Kansas' Brownback) but also, now in Tennessee, women may completely lose access to abortions--regardless of the circumstances.

Last night (as on many previous Election Nights), I purposely distracted myself until well after polls had closed. Being a mom with a kid in school means around the time polls close, I have little people to bathe, clothes to prep, backpacks to check, etc.  I'm thankful for that distraction because it means I no longer have the leisure time to sit in front of a TV and watch as the results roll in.  And even after everyone was put to bed, I purposely resisted the urge to check election results every 30 minutes before going to bed.  I checked once or twice, so I knew GOP had gained the Senate. That was enough upset for last night, so, I watch my new fave show (Peaky Blinders) drifted off to sleep and hoped, wished, and prayed that Amendment 1 would not pass in TN.

I woke in the morning when it was still dark outside to find that a nightmare had become reality. I wanted to pull the covers back over my head, fade into the dark of the early morning hours, and simply sleep until Super Tuesday in 2016.

Their are so many issues I have with this result that I'm not even sure where to begin.

Let's start with the actual Amendment itself.  Here's the language:
Shall Article I, of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriate designated section:
Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statues regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother. [Emphasis mine.]
(I got nauseous just now typing that.)
So, essentially, Tennessee didn't actual vote to ban anything, yet. They've voted to give the legislature the right to ban abortion in Tennessee, but what makes this amendment so horrifying is that it leaves no room for exceptions for rape, incest or life of mother. Even many pro-life people believe those things may be exceptions.

As a friend mentioned, I feel as if my body is under assault. My soul aches. My uterus weeps.

No one but me, my doctor and my mate should be able to make decisions about what happens with my body. And for some people, the mate doesn't even get a  say-so.
I recently watched a video connected with #IfTheySpeakForMe in which a white male steps from the shadows in a black hair salon to tell the stylist how to do the women's hair. The stylist (being in on the situation) go along with it, but the customers instantly go into WTF mode: "Oh, hell nah. Don't touch me. You don't determine how I wear my hair. And why are you [the stylist] going along with this." One lady was almost out the door before the person was able to explain the true situation.

Here's the video:

Even when I was watching the video days ago, I felt like this. "Oh, hell no. Some WHASP-y male politician has no right to tell me or anyone else what to do with their bodies." It was as if I could sense a male politician jumping out from the shadows when I'm at a Gyno visit to tell my doctor what she can/cannot do.

Now that Amendment 1 has passed, that's exactly what as happened.

Learning of this amendment passing angered me in ways I can't even truly describe. On the way to drop the kiddos this morning, I wished I weren't nice. Wished I didn't care.

I have so many emotions.
I want to flee.
I want to fight.
I want to scream.
I want to ... arrrgggghhhhh!

I'm too young to feel so battered politically. I need to leave this state. I need to leave this region.
And what's truly sad is you look at the results of the bigger cities of this state and in each of those counties, the majority voted No. It's the smaller towns that voted Yes, and OY, do we have a lot of those. Ugh!

And the people who voted for this amendment are delusional if they believe that whatever convoluted law they develop will actually stand and/or stop abortions. Termination is a medical procedure. Sometimes, it's medically necessary. Sometimes, it's elective. But like any other medical procedure, it's up to the patient and doctor to determine if and when they get it. Laws won't reduce abortions. Comprehensive sexual education reduces pregnancies and therefore, the need of terminations. Laws won't reduce abortions; they'll reduce safe abortions.

And in national news...
I suppose at some point during the first week of January 2015, we should expect Articles of Impeachment to be handed down since the 114th Congress starts on Jan. 3, and it'll only be a mere few days before they start that little plan. (Let's not forget the very same day Pres. Obama was first inaugurated in 2009, they met that day to plan his takedown.)

Again... flee, scream, and fight.
Parts of me want to just give up, but that isn't in me. In fact, I've already contacted Planned Parenthood to ask them to fight the amendment.

This isn't over.  The pendulum always swings back.

And if it doesn't, well, there's always the flee option.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My heartrending 20 or so minutes at the park...

Yesterday, I took Little Dude to the park before picking up Baby Dude from day care. I was hoping for a day in the park for the two of us to have a mom and son day. Play on the swings together, chase each other, laugh, etc. (I love both my little dudes, but it's so important to show each one of them their own attention as much as possible.) When we arrived, there were already a few kids there, which of course meant he'd want to play with them, and I'd be relegated to watching him and pushing him on the swings. I was cool with it as long as he was happy.

He happily went to the slides/play set; I hung back a bit and let him do his thing. The other kids were on the swings, but as soon as they saw him, they called out to him and asked his name. He replied, and they started to come over.  I stepped back further to merely watch their interactions. What I witnessed for the next 20 or so minutes gave me thousands of thoughts and took me on a roller coaster of emotions.

There were three little boys and a little sister; the boys appeared to be about 4, 5, and 6 while the sister looked maybe 1.5 or 2. Essentially, stair-step ages. As soon as the older boy found out Little Dude's name, he turned to me and asked his age. I replied for him to ask Little Dude; he did and Little Dude replied. The kid turned back to me and told me his own age: 6. Then he motioned in the air the age of Little Dude.  It seemed like he made the correct marks for Little Dude's age, but I wasn't sure (you can't really identify air writing without visible markings like on cartoons or kids shows), so I sort of waved my hand in the air and mimicked him. He said, "that's not how you make ___." We laughed a bit.
He asked me where Little Dude goes to school; I again told him to ask Little Dude. He did; Little Dude replied. Then the little boy told me where he went to school. I asked did he like it? He hesitated, then said, "yeah, well no." I asked why. He said, "because my teacher is mean." I said, "I'm sorry." 
Then I instantly wished he could change schools; I instantly felt that if he went to Little Dude's school, he'd love it. I instantly felt if I could only wave my magic wand and fix his school situation, things would be better, and therefore, his future would be brighter. And it broke my heart to see a black male at the age of 6 dislike school already. What would his future be like? And of course, seeing that in front of me took me--for just a moment--to all of the black males who continue to be gunned down by cops and/or vigilantes and I feared, just for a moment, that without the proper education and love of knowledge NOW, this kid might be one of those kids 10 or 15 years from now unless we work to improve society.

The little boy went back to playing. Little Dude and the three boys were climbing all over the play set, and the little sister was attempting to do the same. She was WAY too young to be following behind the older kids.
Instantly, I wondered why her parent (who I'd noticed was leaning against his SUV maybe 30 feet away) wasn't right there with her, making sure she didn't hurt herself. When I take both boys to the park, I let Little Dude play while reminding him to be cautious and I'm never more than 10 feet from him, but with Baby Dude, I'm literally climbing all over the play set with him, standing right with him, placing him in his brother's lap and making sure Little Dude wraps his arms around him as they go down the slide, putting him in the baby swing and carefully, gently pushing him. But that's me. I'll admit I'm sometimes too cautious, and I have to fight the urge to be a helicopter mom, but with Baby Dude on a playground, you best believe I am THE helicopter!

So, I'm watching the little sister attempt to climb all over, just like her brothers were doing, and attempt to start down the slide, but she got scared and would only go to the edge of the top of the slide. I called out a few times for the boys to watch their sister. They'd reply, "she's fine." Then I realized I was the only person truly watching her. I encouraged her to climb back away from the top of the slide. She did but soon thereafter, she was right back where she'd been.
Inside, I kept hearing multiple thoughts: "Watch her. She might fall." "But hey, she isn't your kid!" "Where's her damn parent?"
As they were climbing about, I noticed Little Dude had red stains on his shirt. I asked was it ketchup from lunch or paint from art? He barely heard me at first, but the older boy heard and then asked, "art? He's an artist."
My first thought was "No, you don't have to be an artist to do art. Why don't you understand that? You're 6. Don't you do art at school?" Then I realized some schools cut "extra" activities like Art, Music, and PE.
 But I just laughed a bit and said "no, he does art at school."
Then I started thinking deeper, does this mean he doesn't do art at his school? What kind of school is this? Again, I wanted to wave that magic wand and fix his school.

By then, the boys had run over to the swings.  Three regular swings (and one baby swing), four boys. Little Dude and two of the little boys climb in their swings. One little boy waiting his turn. I go to Little Dude and start pushing. Reminding him to pump his legs to get higher: "kick out, pull back. Kick, pull. Kick, pull. There ya go! Good job!"
Then I hear, "Can you push me too?" "Yeah, me too."
I oblige. The older boy knew to kick and pump his legs. The other kid wasn't quite able to  repeat what I was suggesting to do; I figured that might've been due to his age.

Then (from the brother who was waiting his turn) I hear, "my sister wants to swing too." I look over and see a sad sight: the little girl was standing beside the baby swing with her hand touching the bottom of it with the saddest face and pleading eyes.  She never said a word, but her face said it all.
And then I wondered why she wasn't talking. Maybe she was a late bloomer or maybe no one talked to her at home with real words so she could learn real words. Was she ignored at home because she was the youngest, because she was a girl who was merely expected to follow behind her big brothers and learn from them? How would she expect to truly navigate life if her teachers were barely older than her and seemed to be figuring it out as they go too?

I hesitated to pick her up and put her in the swing because it's one thing to give a kid a gentle push on a swing, it's another thing entirely to pick a kid up and put her in a swing and push it. At that point, I had to go from mildly interacting with them to actively monitoring a baby in a swing. I'd become the caretaker--at least for those moments.  I even said to one of the brothers that I don't know if I should because I'm not her parent. The kid replied "well, my dad is over there, but my mom is at work." I looked over at the dad who STILL wasn't really paying much attention to the kids.

I relented and put her in the swing. And she thoroughly enjoyed it. Finally she made sounds--laughter and grunts.
As I picked her up, I noticed dried snot on her face; this bugged me.  I have a serious thing about dried snot on kid's faces. Although it may be more speculation than necessary, but a dried glob of snot means you're not paying attention to your kid's runny nose. It's one thing to be the clear, runny kind that dries as crust. It's another matter all together for it to look like a booger is forming outside of your nose. That's nasty! Wipe your kid's damn face!

So the kids played on the swing a bit more. One of the brothers started pushing the baby in the swing too forcefully (because obviously, he doesn't know better at his age), and she wanted out. I took her back out and off they all went to play on the jungle gym again. As they were climbing around again, Little Dude says "mom, she has snot running down her face." I reply "I know." Then I realize it was actively running down her face--not just dried--and he was standing right beside her pointing to her nose.

At that point, I told Little Dude we had to go. He was annoyed. So was I.

We finally had our race. We raced to the van. He won. 

I took him to the park to play, to enjoy the day, to spend time with mom away from Baby Dude.  I did NOT go to the park to be the temporary nanny of four kids' whose dad didn't bother to actually come into the park with them and play or at least actively watch them play and let the baby enjoy what she could considering her age.

In those 20 or so minutes, I experienced a ton of emotions and thoughts--mostly frustration. I saw four little kids whose dad wasn't really paying attention to them. How'd he know I was kind? Would he have noticed if I'd've enticed them to go off with me some place? People not really paying attention to their kids is how they are taken. There's no way in hell or on God's green earth I'd've let someone I don't know pick my baby up and sit him in a swing without my permission, a nanny-cam on, a copy of their Criminal and Financial Background check, and two forms of ID.

In those 20 or so minutes, I had a heartbreaking conversation with a 6 year old who already dislikes school. Will it get better for him? And if it doesn't get better, where will he be in 10 years? Will he be a statistic? Seems like he's headed down that path, but goodness I hope I'm wrong.
In comparison, Little Dude LOVES school. Loves to go, loves to learn, tries to read things EVERYWHERE we go, enjoys being an artist in Art and enjoys playing and learning in all the little centers of his classroom. He understands so much of the world around him. All kids should be like that. All kids should be given the opportunity to love school.
Maybe that kid just has a shitty teacher, but that's a part of the problem. All schools and all teachers should be good at what they do, esp. if they are teaching young children. I'm so very tired of the problems that plague public education, and I'm even more tired of people saying the solution is to scrap public education in favor of private, charter, or other. All schools should be equally good. The funding model for public education sucks ass. The underfunded NCLB sucks ass! The revamped NCLB--Race to the Top--wasn't much better. The teach to the test shite sucks ass! Ohhh, there are so many things I could rant about here, but I'll stop here before my blood boils.

In those 20 or so minutes, I'd become the watcher for a baby I didn't know and probably will never see again. Why? It's one thing to let three older kids (regardless of gender) run off and play on the playground without monitoring their every single move (well, not really, but ok), but not a baby/toddler. And it isn't fair to them to be expected to watch the toddler. Their kids and want to play--not watch the baby. Watching the baby isn't their responsibility--nor was it mine. What the heck was wrong with that guy? Watch your damn kids!

In those 20 or so minutes, I went from planning to have a cool 30 or so minutes in the park with Little Dude to wanting to shake my fists at the sky for so much shit being wrong with society.

And I accept that in those 20 or so minutes, I probably assumed, speculated, and went off on insane tangents in my head, but how much of it might be true? And how sad for those kids if even only half of it is true?

In those 20 or so minutes, Little Dude had a ton of fun with random kids he didn't know. It didn't go as I'd hope it would for me, but he had fun. So despite all of my mental rantings as I watched and interacted with these stranger kids, I suppose it was a decent day because Little Dude had fun. And that's all that truly matters.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Explaining Michael Brown and Ferguson to a Pre-schooler

I am at a loss for words.  How and when do I explain any of this to my sons?

As the mother of black males, who will one day grow up to be viewed as aggressive by someone who doesn't share their same skin complexion, I have hugged them a bit tighter lately, begun telling them the rules to live by so that their actions don't get misinterpreted and they end up suspended from day care or kinder, and begun to worry how to explain the fuckedupness of this world to such young people.  Of course, the baby is too young to understand (and too young to be mistaken for being aggressive), but the older kid is getting old enough to start learning these hard lessons of life.

I see the way they are treated when we are out together.  Little old (white) ladies and young (white)  moms with other kids in tow goo, gah, and gush all over the baby.  No one hardly says a peep to the older one.  And he's at that age where he's SO damn friendly to everyone he sees, yet doesn't understand why people don't speak back to him.  How do I explain to him, "Sorry, sweetie, they don't speak because they already view you as aggressive, less innocent, and older than your white counterparts.  They already think you're up to no good.  They're already preparing to toss you out because they don't think you'll amount to anything."  Sometimes I want to scream, "I'm college professor.  My kids will graduate with multiple degrees and be productive citizens, so stop thinking otherwise!"

EVERY time I hear a new story of another male black being killed by cops, wanna be cop asshats who shoot kids because they "appear" to be in the wrong neighborhood, or attacked and pepper-sprayed by mall cops for the wrong damn assumptions (despite ALL witnesses pleading with the mall cop that he sprayed the wrong one), or killed by the parents (who happen to be cops) of the girl their dating, or by cops while you were sitting in your car outside of your bachelor party the night before your wedding, or by some ass who is offended by the volume of your music while you're sitting in a truck at a convenience store with your friends, or you fucking name it:  Choked to death for selling loosies, shot to death (too many of those to link), left to bake in a sweltering prison cell, shot for the hell of it... burned, drowned, tortured, left swinging from a tree.
Times haven't changed, but I've still got to explain all of this, all of the weight of history of race in this country, all of the fucked up shit that has been done and is still being done to blacks, esp. black males in this country, so that somehow, by the Grace of the Almighty God, my boys don't end up in boxes below the earth with bullet holes in their corpses.

I'm damn angry.  This is NOT shit I'm supposed to have to explain to a kid.  Not just yet anyway.  I've got to snatch away his sweet innocence just to make sure he begins to understand how to survive.

I remember beginning to learn about slavery around age 6 because of a play I participated in at church.  I was a pica-ninny, and my line was "Momma, Momma, please don't let Massa take us away."
Short line, but I've never forgotten it.  I distinctly remember my mother showing me pictures of slave ships and how the bodies were packed in the ships for transport.  I remember sitting at her feet flipping through those black history books and seeing the whipped and scarred backs of slaves, Marcus Garvey riding in his open-top car, Dr. King behind the podium in D.C., Arthur Ashe in a tennis pose, Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and so many others.  I remember learning all of those things over my life, but my lessons began with those brutal, horrible lessons of slavery.

I didn't fully understand what my lines in the play meant at that time, but I soon came to a fuller understanding.  And as I've studied history (Black American history and history in general), my soul feels that we are not supposed to still be here in 2014, at this place where we haven't moved from at all.  This place where whites, armed to the teeth kill black males indiscriminately and with no consequence.   At this place, where in 2014, I have to begin to explain this stuff to my young children.
Time hasn't changed.  Nothing has fucking changed.
And having a black president certainly hasn't changed anything.  If anything, it has made it worse.  People seem to be more openly racist that before Nov. 2008.  Post racial.  What a joke!

Each time I hear of a new horrifying rape case or hear of some horrible sexist situation, a small part of me say, "phew, glad I don't have daughters."  But every 28 hours, another black male is killed by cops or cop posers, so what am I sighing for.

I understand more fully why people question why anyone would ever bring children into this evil, hateful world.  I just want to hold my babies, pour magic over them so they never age, or better yet send them off to Neverland.

I understand why Peter didn't want to grow up.
I understand Sethe's actions--thought I'd NEVER commit them.
I understand why expats leave.
I understand anger, heartache, fear.

What I don't understand and am still searching for the words for is how to explain why another black male was killed by a cop, why Ferguson is in chaos, and why black males simply existing and breathing their same air is a threat to some.

What I don't understand is why white males can commit FAR worse atrocities than walking down the middle of the street and they "must be taken alive."  But black males jaywalking are killed in the street, then left to lie there--as if on display, as if it were a warning to others watching.

Explaining all of this and all of history of race in this country to young kids... le sigh.
I'll start with the positives  Garret A Morgan, Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Sarah E. Goode, George Alcorn, Lloyd Augustus Hall, Granville Woods, Madame CJ Walker... You know what, there are more names on this list than can be counted too.

We must all learn it all.  We have to know the past in order to understand the present and the future.
The common phrase is "learn history, or be doomed to repeat it."
I'm remixing that: "learn history or it will come back with a vengeance and kick your ass."

Knowledge is always powerful.  You fight and defeat enemies with knowledge.  As I've said from day one, my boys will not become statistics.  That's how I'm going to begin explaining.  (And thank God the boys have a dad, granddad and many uncles around to help them understand.)

Things I’ve Learned from the Shooting of Michael Brown and the Unrest in Ferguson

As a black female and mother of two young black males, I can’t help but watch what’s unfolding in Ferguson since the Michael Brown shooting on Aug. 9.  This shooting death went from an event that sadly, most people of color are no longer shocked by to a situation of unrest as people protest, police over-react to attempt to control crowds, journalists are arrested, citizens are tear-gassed, people (believed to be outsiders) loot and agitate, and AG Eric Holder arrives.

We’re horrified that these things keep happening and nothing ever seems to change.  There are more names of black males (and females) beaten and/or killed by police in the last several years than anyone could remember or count.  But their families remember.  
And though we can’t remember each name, we know that they happened and again, sadly, we’re no longer surprised.

The protests, occasional looting, overly excessive response by the police, and overall unrest in Ferguson following the shooting death make me reflective of life in America as a black person, make me extremely nervous and concerned about the future and life in America for my boys as they grow into young men (who will one day be viewed with suspicious eyes by someone somewhere), and reflective yet concerned about what all of this has revealed.

So, here’s what I’ve learned…

(I wanted to number this, but I'm sure I’ll be returning to this post to update it.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hate the Facebook Messenger App? Ditch it! Here's my Workaround.

Problem: I don't want to add the Facebook Messenger app to my mobile device.  I only occasionally use Facebook Messenger on my mobile device.

Even before all of the articles and complaints about the now required Facebook Messenger app, I'd already decided that I was NOT going to add it to my phone.  I still haven't installed the latest update of the Facebook app, so I certainly wasn't going to add another, separate Facebook Messenger app to my phone.

I use Facebook just as much as the next person, but I'm mostly a computer Facebook user.  I check the Facebook app on my phone occasionally, and I certainly don't use the messenger often enough on my phone that I need to add another app.  It's not worth it.

I've ignored the "install the Messenger app" suggestions for months, but the other day I was banned from accessing a message on my phone.  It ticked me off (like many others), but then I wondered: "if I open Facebook on the phone's browser, can I access my messages?"

Answer: Yes, you can!  I opened my messages and replied from Facebook within the browser the same as I'd always done in the Facebook app.  Easy and effective... until Facebook bans the messenger on the mobile device browsers too, which I doubt they can or will do.  But who knows?!

So, the solution: instead of downloading the Facebook Messenger App, taking up more space on your phones storage, cringing over the privacy concerns, and cursing Facebook for requiring users to have two apps instead of one (and where will that end?), just use your mobile device's browser to access your messages.  See, there is a solution despite some websites suggesting we all just have to do as Facebook commands asks.

Yes, you'll still have to access two different apps on your device just to see Facebook and to check messages in another app (the browser), but you were going to have to use two apps anyway.  At least with this workaround, you won't have to download another app (no matter how small the file size is) since all mobile devices come with browsers--sometimes two.

Alternatively, you could completely unplug from Facebook, delete your account, and find other social media OR go play outside.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Old Wives' Tales and Pregnancy Myths...

When pregnant with my first child, I realized that the television and movie versions of pregnancy and labor and delivery (L&D) are mythologized and have warped our views of what pregnancy actually is. There is a reason pregnancy knowledge books and websites are so popular--women need books and websites with real, medically accurate, scientifically supported information on what happens in pregnancy, what to expect, things to avoid, things to do, etc. so that we don't float along basing all we know on pregnancy on what has been handed down through the family for generations or what we've seen in films or on TV.

During my first pregnancy, armed with medically accurate information, I would attempt to inform people who offered unsolicited (and often erroneous) advice about what to do or not do during pregnancy or what to do to get the baby to come out or whatever.  I'm an information junkie, so I spent my entire pregnancy all over, Kelly',, and all sorts of other baby advice websites.  I also went to every doc appointment with a list of questions to inquire about various things.  I overwhelmed my brain with so much info that I didn't even have many questions this second time around and I can often still rattle off some medically sound piece of advice, which I try to only do when asked.

For about 6 months after my first pregnancy, I would become quite annoyed at how pregnancies and labor are portrayed on TV and in movies.  The main myths that would annoy me were...

1) Myth: pregnancy lasts for 9 months.
Truth: The truth is much more complicated.  First, in the world of obstetrics/gynecology, a month of pregnancy is precisely 4 weeks; however, anyone who knows his/her months knows that some months have 4 weeks and some have 5 weeks. (This was a huge debate between my husband and I during the first pregnancy.  He just would not accept that in pregnancy terms, a "month" is exactly 4 weeks with no accounting for the months that have 5 weeks.)  Next, the human gestational period is 40 weeks; however, a pregnancy is considered term between 37 and 40 weeks. Further, most full term babies are born anywhere between 2 weeks before OR 2 weeks after their

2) Myth: the always water breaks to indicate the start of labor.
Truth: It's quite common for a woman to go into labor and her water not break.  It's also common for a
woman's water to break and indicate the start of labor, but this doesn't happen for every single woman.  The fact that movies and TV shows often portray a woman's water breaking as the start of labor has given this expectation that water must break and then you'll know you're in labor.

3) Myth: babies are born on or very close to their due dates.
Truth: The baby's due date is called the Estimated Due Date--the most important word here "estimated."  Science, technology, and research has made predicting due dates more efficient than back in the day, but it's still just an estimation.  First, here's the best advice I got about due dates during my first pregnancy: "They don't have a clock or calendar in there.  Babies come out when they are ready."  Second, it's all a guestimation because you're technically counted as pregnant before you're ever actually pregnant.  The EDD is determined based on the start date of your last known period.  If you have an irregular period, or you don't recall the exact start date or you were spotting for a few days and then your period started, that date could be a bit off.  And again, babies don't have calendars. They come out when they are ready or when you're body is ready to put them out.  For some women, this is a bit after the EDD.  For some women, it's a little before.  And for other women, it's way before.

In the end, TV and movies help perpetuate these and so many other myths about pregnancy that doesn't help but further confuse people.

As for the old wives tales... geezalou!  Ya know, sometimes, I wonder how people survived considering some of the "home remedies" or "home beliefs" that have been passed down from generation to generation.
We've all heard the baby predictor beliefs:
ring on a string swirling or swinging across the wrist of the pregnant woman
have the mom pee in a toilet with drano in it.  The color of the water after peeing will tell gender.
put a spoon under one cushion and a fork under another.  Wear she sits tells gender.
the sex position when the baby was conceived determines the baby gender.

And other beliefs...
--no caffeine. (It's fine in moderation.  No more than 200 mg per day)
--don't raise your arms above your head. (HA!  I guess I can't shower, do my hair, hang clothes, etc.  The fear is that the raised arms will wrap the umbilical cord around the child's neck.  First, that happens in about 30% of pregnancies anyway.  Second, this happening has to do with baby movement--not momma movement.)
--you can walk the baby out if you're past your due date.  (HAHA!  I tried this.  Didn't work.  To quote my doc, "it won't work, but it's good exercise.  And you can try it.")
--lots of heartburn means a baby born with lots of hair. (Heartburn is a fact of most pregnancies.)
--cats in the house will steal the baby's breath. (WTH!)
--a little beer or liquor in the baby bottle to get them to sleep better. (This is called child abuse.)
--a little cereal in the bottle to help them sleep through the night. (Babies shouldn't have anything but milk until at least 6 months--4 months at the absolute earliest.  Although admittedly, other cultures do it a bit differently.)
--holding them too much will spoil them. (Infants need to be protected and shown love.  No, they shouldn't be held 24 hours a day, but they also need to be comforted too.)
--they need to cry to "strengthen their lungs." (Ignoring a baby's cries for too long creates complexes.)
--castor oil will induce labor. (Again, to quote my doc, "if you want to be cleaned out, do the castor oil because it'll definitely do that, but it's not guaranteed to start labor, but it'll definitely clean you out.)

photo credit: Cosmovisión via photopin cc

photo credit: exo~ ale muñoz via photopin cc