Solo Mama Re: My daughter with brown skin, the police are not our biggest enemies, and racism does exist. There is probably something in this post to piss you off besides having the longest title ever

I really appreciate the responses and thoughtful comments and reachouts from several people who read my last post. My only concern is that I’m not quite sure my message came across.

My message, which was probably tampered in my usual gentle way on these matters, was fueled by outrage. I asked a trusted friend to go back and read it and she said she only saw some anger come through once.

It’s outrage about children growing up in our society that think the color of their skin is less than, embarassing, not beautiful, not celebrated, not valued. Truthfully, long before I had children, I didn’t even dream that I would have a child who was ashamed of their own skin. It wasn’t even on my radar that a child would feel less than beautiful about being brown or black.

The second layer of outrage that was even more well hidden…two things – I am terrified that people will not see that the police are not the biggest issue here AND I’m even more terrified that thousands of people will go back in their houses, close their doors and say “racism doesn’t exist.” THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE REAL CHANGE if we can see through the media and our own biases.

Recent (and past which in a maddening way didn’t seem to blip on mainstream radar-especially where women of color are concerned) events involving some members of law enforcement and people of color are horrific and outraging and we need to take drastic and thoughtful measures for change. But my facebook feed and the media tell me to beg for your careful thought around the idea that the police are the biggest enemies of black and brown people.

The police did not look after my child and prefer little white girls to her when she was little and make her feel alienated. The police do not misdiagnose black people in some healthcare facilities because they are looking at symptoms through the lens of certain health conditions that are more prevalent in Black people. The police are just a fraction of employers who may be looking at resumes and curriculum vitae and setting those aside with “ethnic” sounding names. The police are not making the laws of our land that disenfranchise people based on privilege, money and power. The police are not responsible for the unbalanced tax bases that support community schools that allow some communities to flourish educationally and others (like my neighborhood school) to barely scrape by with poor attendance rates and poor test scores. The police do not prescribe lower doses of or different kinds of medicine based on some notion that people of color don’t feel as much pain as white people (this is a real thing with research behind it). The police do not open up liquor stores, check cashing stores, convenience stores, pawn shops and other “fabulous” businesses in lower income communities to leech off of these communities, which often impact communities of color. My community was really lucky to see a Dunkin Donuts go in. It’s like a little orange and pink slice of heaven sandwiched between 3 knockoffs of Payday Loans, about 5 drive-up liquor stores, 3 tire shops and the local post office.

Racism is a SYSTEMIC, deeply rooted SOCIETAL issue that goes so far beyond where we are resting our attention at the moment.

Oh. Keep reading. Here goes part 2.

Racism exists. If I earned a dollar every time I heard a person (who is not Black) say “racism doesn’t exist,” “I didn’t own slaves, don’t blame me” “(Black) people (of color) need to get over this,” “Well, I experience reverse racism (ie Black people being “racist” against Whites),” or “everyone experiences that, not just Black people,” etc., then I wouldn’t be working because I would be a millionaire. And for every time I hear one of these statements, I also hear explicitly racist comments made: “you’re not like other Black people I know,” “you act whiter than me,” “you don’t like rap music?” “how do you get your hair like that?” or making assumptions that everyone with a Hispanic surname is from Mexico and undocumented or that everyone who has an accent from anywhere doesn’t speak good English.

I’m mad, and I’m sorry, my anger extends far beyond the police. And yours should too.

Solo Mama: My Daughter Doesn’t Like Her Brown Skin

This is not an easy read, nor was it easy to write. I debated about posting it because it’s really not my story to tell. The only way I can share it with peace of mind is to purely tell it from a mother’s point of view, what I observe and experience. It seems like the right time to share it.

My daughter has disliked her brown skin and her black hair since about the time she could start talking. The light-skinned blond haired girls in her class got more attention. When she came home from daycare and told me she wanted “lello hair” and “white skin.” I would observe her following her white girls around in class and wanting to be friends with them, dismissing little girls with brown skin. My beautiful tiny little daughter.

My daughter is half Vietnamese, but no one places her as that. She doesn’t want to know anything about Vietnamese culture, I’ve tried. The closest she gets to Vietnamese culture is loving pho.

She asked me one time why I had to pick a dad for her that has brown skin.

Before my daughter was born, an Indian woman I worked shared a card with me that her young daughter had given her a card on Mother’s Day. Inside, her little daughter had written “Why do you have to be brown? I don’t want to be brown” in her childlike awkward handwriting. Imagine getting that message in your Mother’s Day card. I couldn’t at the time.

It was hard going places with my daughter when she was younger. She would pull close to me when we were around brown and black people and she would whisper “I don’t like their color.” Anger would bubble up inside of me. How could someone I was raising not like brown people? How could she not like her brown skin? Where did she learn that? They say racism is learned. Who taught her to not like her own brown skin?

She doesn’t seem to be so focused these days on her skin color but she still says she is ugly and she hates it when I tell her she’s beautiful. I realize lots of girls might say this no matter how much you tell them different but I can’t shake the fact that this all started with her skin color. I show her pictures of friends with brown skin and say “isn’t she beautiful? Look at how beautiful her black hair is!” and she agrees now when I ask her and it seems genuine.

My daughter never talked about how she wishes her eyes were different, or her smile, or her body. She always wished for different skin. Some children with brown skin wish their skin was white and think they are not beautiful or handsome because of their color.

Reflecting on this story and sharing it is hard because it is deeply personal. I know I’m not the only mother who has a child with brown skin who can tell this story. It’s important to make our stories more widely known, and to repeat them until we find it in ourselves to create and live by a new narrative.

Solo Mama: If You Have Recently Awoken, Please Stay Awake

I’ve been writing posts in advance so I have content to publish regularly. My post for this week was supposed to be about mental health and pandemic environments, but it felt weird to let it post this week.

Everything that has happened over the past couple of weeks, the awakening that started when George Floyd was killed…so many people finally tuning in suddenly realizing how out of whack things are, even though they’ve been out of whack long before any of our lives began. People wearing t-shirts saying “Black Lives Matter” and studying up on white privilege. I’ve been waiting for these past couple of weeks for most of my life. For all this to matter and to finally hit peoples’ radars on a large scale.

I hope this lasts. Personally. Please see the depths of this. It’s not about police brutality. It is about a very broken way of life and a broken society. There are at least two reasons we should not place policing at the focus of all this.

First, when things go wrong, we look for someone to blame so we don’t have to look at ourselves and take accountability for how we have contributed to the issue – oppression, racism, privilege, opportunity (or lack of), etc., and what we can do differently at the most basic level as an individual.

The second reason, from a justice perspective, is that if we only pay attention to the front of the system, then we miss the accumulation of disparity – like a giant snowball of injustice – that occurs once people get past that first gate. Did you know that there are 5 black people for every 1 white person under some type of supervision in our justice system? There are 3 Latinx/Hispanic people for every 1 white person (and that is severely undercounted due to our poor ethnicity data capture in our justice system). People of color are less likely to make bail during the pretrial period. They are less likely to retain adequate defense. More likely to take poor plea deals. More likely to be sentenced more severely than white people accused of the same crime with the same criminal history (sometimes even less of a criminal history than their white counterparts). They are less likely to be diverted to programs the prevent further involvement in the system. Less likely to be sentenced to a treatment court that focus more on treatment of substances or mental health rather than incarceration. More likely to have their probation or parole revoked due to technical violations (as opposed to new crimes).

In our current system, this means that even if a populationally proportionate amount of people of color to white people enter our justice system, they still will experience disparate treatment at every stage of the process.

That’s just one aspect of our society. Looks for stats in every segment of our society, private or public sectors. Look for underrepresentation of people of color in our corporate executive leadership, the number of people who fall out of hiring pools because they have “black” sounding names, look at health indicators (look at who COVID 19 is hitting in disproportionate numbers), morbidity and mortality rates, high school graduation rates…

Oh – there is also intersectionality to consider. What is intersectionality? Think of these as layers of a person’s characteristics that either cause them to be more or less advantaged in society. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression are all examples of characteristics that, when layered on top of each other, can make life easier or harder for an individual in certain circles. Google Kimberlé Crenshaw to learn more about intersectionality. She coined the term more than 30 years ago.

Finishing with my beginning thought. I hope Black Lives Matter is not a trend. I hope people stay grounded and don’t fall into an “us versus them” mentality in regards to any group of people (which seems to be the trend on all issues over the past couple of years).

Finally, I hope people stay awake, stay curious and stay introspective.

Throwback Thursday: Swimming: “F*cking Sh*t” Momma

Here is another oldie but goodie to kick off the summer of 2020 – although we might not see in the inside of a public pool for awhile yet…

I came up out of the water and wiped my eyes off so I could scan the pool. Treading water in the deep end of the rec center pool, I tried to locate my daughter as the waves grew larger. Kids on inner tubes bounced above increasingly larger mountains of water created by the pool’s wave system. It took me a minute to locate her in the shallow end of the pool, bobbing crazily in a red life jacket, her head poking out above a clear, over-inflated inner tube. Our eyes met.

“Fucking shit,” her sweet little mouth formed the words as she glared at me.

Not the last time I would hear those words over the course of the two hours we were at the pool. They have become my daughter’s new favorite way to irk me when I’m not doing what she wants me to do. I’ve discovered that the only ways to reduce her use of these new words is to surprise her with random outbursts of the words in conversation and ignore her when she uses the words. Slowly, their attractiveness as one more way of naughty-making is becoming less appealing.

“Hey Momma! If you don’t come over here and carry me, I’m going to say F-u-c-k,” she announced from the pool stairs.

I swam small laps, as some strange little 6-year old sat on the pool stairs repeating “fuck” over and over. Whose child was that? What a weirdo.

Eventually, the cursing died down and I swam over to her. She hopped on my back and we floated around together. “Momma, I love you more than anything in the world,” she whispered in my ear.

Sigh…

Quarantine is a Great Time to Start Budgeting

I can’t find a lot to laugh about when it comes to personal finances, so you may find this post lacking a little in humor. I am very thankful to be working and I realize not everyone can say that. I will say that budgeting has been at the forefront of my mind now more than ever.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I have found some extra cash in the following areas these days: gas expenses, car maintenance, eating out, fancy coffees, clothing, personal care, and childcare. The only category I’ve seen skyrocket is my grocery expenses, but if I factor in all the eating out and fancy coffees and just shift this over to grocery expenses, it evens out. Here are a few things I’ve done to manage money over the last few months:

  1. Use a budgeting app. I actually started this last fall and it has literally become one of the most important things I do every week. I enter all my expenses for the week into my budgeting app (I was doing it more often when life was normal and I was shopping more) and keep track of what I have left to spend for the month. I also listen regularly to personal finance podcasts.
  2. Pay minimum payments. My job isn’t at risk at the moment but anything seems possible these days. Therefore, I am saving whatever I can (not much), and just paying mimimum payments on debt I have.
  3. Indulge once in awhile, because what else will help me keep my peace? My indulgences over the past few weeks have included good shampoo, a Netflix subscription, gas for long drives, tequila, and coconut protein powder. That last one is weird, I know.

I’ve never been a huge debt person. The first time I experienced really bad debt was when my dog died a few years ago. Her kidneys were failing and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t save her. I visited the vet at $3,000 per visit to help ease her pain and to prolong the inevitable failure of her kidneys. I was ready to spend anything to save her and kept throwing these visits on my credit card because I didn’t have $9,000 in savings. Looking back, I will never regret trying to help her, but being almost $10,000 in credit card debt was pretty devastating to come back from with all my other expenses.

It took me a LONG time before I realized that sticking to a budget was going to be the only thing that would help me improve my financial future. Having a budget has been less restrictive than I thought, and I can’t believe it took me 48 years to follow one…

Reflection: The Statue of Liberty Shows Up at the Drive Through Window of the Liquor Store, Signaling the Apocalypse

I thought I’d dig up something I wrote a couple of years ago and repost it for fun. When scrolling through my previous posts, this title caught my eye. Of this entire post, I only remember the last part about the liquor store cashier because I still see him often. The rest? Not familiar. Maybe I wasn’t sober when I was writing it????????? Enjoy.

Yes I’m sober and I truly expect to write a satire tonight. I will use humor, irony, exaggeration and ridicule to expose my own stupidity and vices. I hope that it serves as some kind of catharsis, that I can just expunge all the bad feelings at once in some ceremonial way by typing the words. Join me on my ridiculous satirical journey for the next few moments, and maybe you too can find some kind of release from any stupidity occurring in your own life, preferably of your own making.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…the homeless, tempest tossed to me…etc.” Sound familiar? Just imagine…what if the Statue of Liberty was actually embodied in several of us walking around on this planet, trying to find life partners? And at the base of our feet is written:

“Send me anyone who doesn’t have a chance with a rational human being who respects herself. I will take anyone who initially shows me some kindness and even if he eventually turns into a raging a$$h*le, I will still give him 40 chances because Jesus hung out in the desert for 40 days before his death and I figure if Jesus can do that, then who am I to demand that he be available (mentally and legally), drug free, honest, employed, kind, or law abiding?”

And no, this is not a story about one choice, one chance encounter, or an individual. This is the norm, a pattern, of one truly impaired human being when it comes to love (can we even call it that given the severe nature of her selection handicap?).

So for now, the drive through liquor store cashier is the love of my life. He smiles and calls me sweetie, knows exactly which wine I love, always asks me how I’m doing and knows that my kids want suckers and they have to be the same color so they don’t fight. He’s married, but heck, if he were single and being that nice to me, it would be a sign of the end times.

Good night❤️

Zoom, Google Meet and WebEx – How Do We Survive Online Meetings for 8 Hours Straight?

One factoid about COVID-19 and the workplace that stuns me: apparently, when you HAVE to work at home, scheduled meetings increase by 150% (neck and neck with the increase in alcohol sales). My first two weeks at home, I had consistent meetings, often scheduled with no time in between, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I had to start scheduling “I’m making my kids lunch” for 15 minutes on top of existing meetings. Thankfully I’ve seen a slight slowdown with meeting scheduling, probably due to the fact that the government realized that the state was still running even while non-essential employees worked at home and ensuring that our days were full with meetings was a bit overkill. Just my conspiracy theory thinking…

THE single most challenging aspect of working at home with tons of meetings is having young children. Half the time I’m on mute, but with video, and I’m sure my co-workers and client sites are wondering “who the hell is she yelling at and what is going on?” There are occasional meeting bombings that occur. Our house is small. Why do my kids insist on standing right next to me and watching my online meetings like they are an exciting YouTube video? Everyone on my calls thinks it’s cute when some random child pops out of the floor into the camera’s view, but I’m on the verge of losing my shit. Some meeting participants flash their cameras over to where their cute cat or dog is lounging on a chair or a couch. When I flash my camera over to my couch, what you will see is a man-child in flood-ready pajama pants (he gets a new pair every 2 years), chewing on his fingers while he screams things like “Noob” and “son of a b*&%$#” and “I have a backpack with a fish in it so MAN UP!” while staring at a device.

Along with children at home, I am really struggling with the technology. We’ve recently moved over to Google everything. No more Microsoft Office. I thought I’d retire before I saw Word disappear from my life. Moving to the Google Suite is an event that has never made me feel older. Sagging body parts, creaky joints, and sketchy memory have got NOTHING on Google Suite. Learning this platform has aged me about 15 years. Luckily, when I’m facilitating meetings or trainings online, I’m usually paired up with someone at least 3 years younger than me, which is like dog years where the technology learning curve is concerned.

Oops! You will have to excuse me – it’s almost 8 p.m. and I have some work to do that didn’t fit between meetings today…

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection: My Breath in the Deep Water

Do you have theme songs for the people in your life?

My theme song for my daughter is Deep Water, by American Authors. The YouTube video can be found here.

When I think about my darkest moments over the past several years – mental health, work, parenting, relationships, questioning self worth – my daughter is my breath in the deep, deep water. When life pulls me under, her presence brings me to the surface with strong, sure strokes. Not in a creepy, dependent, or misplaced reverence kind of way. She is moody, unpredictable, and frustrating but inside that tiny little ball of hot mess is a solid and grounded force that has helped guide me through rough waters since the day I met her.

 

 

 

 

Eating Healthy While Safer at Home!

Your refrigerator makes for a poor roommate when you are stuck at home 24/7. When the whole quarantine thing started, I relished getting out to the grocery store once a week; it was my one act of normalcy. Now I just don’t want to be bothered with it. I can’t use order online and pick it up for two reasons: I can never navigate the apps well enough to even find what I need so it ends up taking me about 2 hours to put together my order, and I really hate when I pick up and they say “We didn’t have regular Oreos in stock so we substituted them with mint Oreos.” Really??? Mint should not be an Oreo flavor, please don’t think it’s a good substitute for regular.

I decided it might be a great idea to do Whole30 again and my sister-in-law and I started it together. I did it last August like a champ. Definite benefits – lost weight, gained energy, never felt bloated, and discovered which foods typically upset my body when I re-introduced them at the end of the 30 days. I liked it so much, I kept my food intake at about 70% compliant, 30% after I was done. I thought doing it during quarantine would give me a little control over something in a healthy way since we don’t have control over much these days. Definitely a little more cheating than before (weekends), but still staying away from the foods that bother me. So not really “Whole30” per se, more guided by it.

Here are 3 things I’ve learned about eating when being locked in most of the time:

  1. Track my water. I never drink enough water. Now I keep a post-it note and hash mark it with each glass. It has helped, not drinking enough in mile-high Denver will definitely take a toll and make quarantine worse.
  2. Track my food intake, again on a post-it note. I don’t do calorie counting but I don’t remember what I ate even 5 minutes ago anymore so keeping a tally helps me put my day in perspective and helps me know if I should eat more or less, and what kind of food I still need for the day.
  3. Have an idea of healthy snacks ahead of time (even writing them down in the morning) so that when I need a snack, I already know what I’m going to eat (snacks are also not really part of Whole30 but I can’t eat just 3 meals a day). My biggest issue: I’m eating all day, but that means I eat during meetings. Your face looks even more horrible on a Zoom call when you are eating and it freezes up and it’s probably not good meeting etiquette anyway.

It’s hard not to eat like a maniac when you have access to food all day (for me, my fridge is about 10 steps away from where I’m working). I do know that if I am not paying attention, gaining weight and being stuck at home will make me even more anxious and depressed than I already feel at times. Most people I know would love to have some other ideas to help with this, so please feel free to share them through messaging (and I will share them in a future post) or responding to this post.

 

Solo Mama: Thought for the Day

“Don’t say anything while we are in the store. Otherwise I will explode into flames with frustration.”

This was directed to me from the back seat as we pulled into Walmart by you know who (the fiesty child). She muttered in all the way into the store while holding my hand, like a horror movie demon. That and the matted hair made it even a bit more frightening. Of course I talked most of the time we were in the store. She’s still the most gorgeous little girl I’ve ever seen.