Tuesday, November 25, 2014

a few thoughts on ferguson, and what you can do to help

I've been reading over updates and postings about the grand jury's decision to not charge Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown, and I don't even know what to say. I see a lot more people speaking out on facebook than I've seen before, so that feels like progress. And yet this whole thing is still so disappointing, so heartbreaking. I've seen comments that make my blood boil.

"What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Wouldn't Mike Brown like to know?
"Those looters are thugs, destroying property like that!" And taking a life doesn't matter?
"The riots just show mob mentality, no one respects your position when you act like that." Yeah well, no one's seemed to respect their position after 3 months of peaceful protests, either. I don't know that violence is the answer, but keeping calm and quiet doesn't seem to be helping much, either.

I look at my boys, my sweet pale-skinned blond-haired boys, and I know I need to talk to them about this. About the racism they will grow up around, the injustices happening all the time, the privilege we enjoy that isolates us from it. I look at D, not quite yet 7 years old, and he seems way too young to hear about these things. And yet I know there are black parents all around the country who have to sit down their boys (and girls) of the same age and have The Talk in hopes of protecting them.

The thing is, I believe that it may very well be the case that Darren Wilson honestly feared for his life and that Mike Brown was not actually a threat. I think Wilson is a product of our racist culture, that teaches us that black people are scary and dangerous and aggressive. The media continues to feed this stereotype by painting peaceful protests as angry riots, and the police by responding to a group of people exercising their right to protest by coming out in full riot gear and sniper rifles and tear gas. And as long as we keep believing in this magically dangerous and hyperaggressive negro, and as long as we keep taking the killer's word for things and not question these murders, we will continue to have white police officers and citizens overreact and harm innocent people.

Chart showing how rare it is for grand juries not to indict

In Defense of Black Rage: Michael Brown, police, and the American dream 
"I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people. I believe racism exists in that sense of mistrust, the extra precautions white people take when they encounter black people. I believe all these emotions have emerged from a lifetime of media consumption subtly communicating that black people are criminal, a lifetime of seeing most people in power look just like you, a lifetime of being the majority population. "

Self-Segregation: Why It's So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson
"But these are not stories most whites are socially positioned to hear. Widespread social separation is the root of divergent reactions along racial lines to events such as the Watts riots, the O.J. Simpson verdict, and, more recently, the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. For most white Americans, #hoodies and #handsupdontshoot and the images that have accompanied these hashtags on social media may feel alien and off-putting given their communal contexts and social networks."
A Black man is killed by the police every 28 hours in the US

21 Things You Can't Do While Black

What Black Parents Tell Their Sons About the Police
"Every black male I've ever met has had this talk, and it's likely that I'll have to give it one day too. There are so many things I need to tell my future son, already, before I've birthed him; so many innocuous, trite thoughts that may not make a single difference. Don't wear a hoodie. Don't try to break up a fight. Don't talk back to cops. Don't ask for help. But they're all variations of a single theme: Don't give them an excuse to kill you."

So, what can you do?

Color of Change's Petition for Mike Brown

12 Things White People Can Do Now for Ferguson

A list of resources, funds, petitions, etc, you can use to help Ferguson

A simple and beautiful take on how to talk to kids about their privilege

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Monterey trip and other stuff we've been up to

This past weekend we drove down to Monterey for a couple days a little family trip, and to take advantage of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Homeschool Days program. The aquarium was awesome, of course, and D enjoyed it though Q may still have been a bit too young or just hit on the wrong day or whatever. But it went ok. We also spent some time at some beaches along the coast. The boys loved climbing up and down rocks along the beaches, and had a grand ole time feeling small crabs to sea anemones and watching what happened. I felt that familiar frustration at having my camera along and wanting to capture so much more, but being divided between that and helping watch the kids and keep them safe. The usual photographer parent dilemma. But, I still got some good stuff, that I will upload at some point...

It was nice to get some good family time together on our trip. It's been rough with Zach's job, he likes it and all but he's been working 80-hour weeks. So I'm solo parenting all week, and at least he's home and usually doesn't have to work on weekends, but then those weekends are crammed with trying to spend time together as a family, me and Zach to get to hang out a bit as a couple, me to get some time on my own, to see any friends we wanna hang out with, etc. Sometimes it feels like we've totally got the hang of this and are doing fine, other times it's like we're all getting so worn out with this current schedule and it feels totally unsustainable. In a few months Zach is supposed to shift to a different group and things should slow down a bit (perhaps working a more manageable 60hrs/week?). And I guess we'll just see how that goes.

The boys are doing ok, they're in a phase where they're fighting/annoying each other more than they used to, which is a bit, um, trying on all of us. We are all (me included) working on controlling our tempers and finding appropriate ways to express and vent our frustrations. It is so maddening to hear them screaming at each other yet again, but then five minutes later they are calmly and politely figuring out a compromise to whatever they were fighting over and I need to hold on to those moments more, remember those, hope for what is developing. We also have some good leads on homeschool groups and park days/activities that have shown promise. For a long time after our move D was being pretty anti-social, not wanting to play with other kids much at all as he dealt with his homesickness. But the past few weeks he's seemed more open, more sociable, actually running off to play with other kids at the park rather than scowling at my side demanding to go home. So, big improvement. We'll see what comes of it.

Monday, November 03, 2014

and then I let a complete stranger poke my skin repeatedly with a needle

I got my first tattoo a couple weeks ago, at the ripe old age of 34.

I've gone back and forth on getting a tattoo since I was... I don't know, somewhere in my teens, whenever everyone started talking about getting tattoos. In theory I wanted one, but never knew what to get, and was too chicken to commit to anything that permanent. I was tempted when I was 20, but instead opted to get my belly button pierced with my friend Danyelle, figuring I could always take it back out one day if I got tired of it (which I did, about 6 years later).

I've spent the past couple years debating off and on about getting something on my wrist (I fell in love with that placement years ago, after Danyelle came back from a visit to Hawaii with a turtle on her wrist), and then debating what to get. The process reminded me of when I was 17 and thinking of chopping all my hair off for the first time, and I agonized about the decision for months, growing ever more tired of my own indecisiveness, and finally one day just said, "To hell with it" and went for the pixie.

And so, similarly, I finally got fed up with my own indecisiveness, and decided to get the damn tattoo once and for all.

I went by myself-- Zach stayed at home with the boys. And that felt fitting. I got this for me, one of the few things I get to do purely for and by myself these days, and I liked that. It's a small heart, which is cliche, I suppose, but I like it. I suppose that's the simplest answer for why I got what I got. I can give a deeper meaning to it-- a reminder to be compassionate and kind with myself and with others, to live my life wearing my heart on my sleeve. But mainly, I just like it. It's simple and cute and stays there, and as the kind of person who wear the same simple jewelry every day for years on end it just kinda feels right. Maybe one day I'll get tired of it, but probably not before I get tired of other permanent marks on my body that I didn't really have a choice over.

Our scars tell stories. I have a scar on my knee from the time that Zach convinced me it would be a good idea to go trail riding with him whenI had hardly been on a bike in years. There's the scar on my stomach, from having surgery a couple years ago. I have two small burn marks, one on my hip and one on my arm, that are cautionary reminders of what a clumsy idiot I can be in the kitchen.  A tattoo is another scar, but one where the bearer gets to choose its shape, placement, and the story it tells, and I think there's something beautiful in that.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

another attempt at a constellation

I read this post over at Renegade Mothering this morning, and I've been thinking about it all day. I think I used to feel what she describes more intensely back when the boys were younger-- my blog archives have many posts, from back when the boys were babies, complaining about my lack of time, lack of sleep, lack of feeling like a human being. A lot of things are so much better now. For example, these days I get to choose my clothes based on what I want to wear vs what provides the easiest access to my boobs-- it's a small but significant thing. But I also think I've gotten better at resigning myself to what life is like with young kids. Which makes it sound bad, when it just is what it is. I get to hang out with my kids all day and really drink in their childhood, which is awesome. I love that, and have chosen it very consciously. But as with everything, there are ups and downs, good stuff and bad stuff, and things that I miss or wish I had more time for.

I miss writing. I like writing. It feels good when I write a post that I'm proud of, even better when it resonates with others. But I can't tell you how many times I sit down at my computer with ideas of something I want to write, and all the thoughts in my head feel so jumbled up and my brain foggy and I stare blankly at the screen trying to make sense of how to say what I want to say, and even what exactly that is to begin with, and eventually give up. One of my favorite lines from The Fault in Our Stars is when Gus says, "My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." That. YES. What he said.

And I feel like I've totally stagnated with photography. You wanna hear something sad? I bought myself Photoshop Elements like a year ago, when it was on sale for half off. I have opened up the program maybe once in that time. ONCE. I keep meaning to look up tutorials for how to use it, wanting to try out ideas and new techniques, but when I get a bit of free time I just can't muster up the energy for it. Zach rarely gets home before the boys' bedtime these days, so I'm solo parenting during the week and frankly I'll say I've gotten pretty good at it, but once the kids are asleep all I wanna do is flop on the couch and just...sit. Maybe with a book, or some tv. And then there's the always-growing list of books I want to read, and the few times I go dancing and suddenly realize how much I've missed it, and on and on it goes.

What's interesting is that usually when parents talk about this stuff there's a yearning for your "former self," a wanting to get back to who you were before having kids. And that, I don't identify with much. I look back on the person I was before having kids, and I don't have much desire to go back to being her. Not that there was anything wrong with me then, but I feel like I've grown to be more ME in the time since then-- not necessarily because of motherhood, but, well, partially, and also because of just other ways in which I've grown or interests I've developed or whatever in that same period of time. So I guess it's more like I do know Me, I'm not yearning for a different self, it would just be nice to have a bit more space for Myself.

And I'm not meaning to complain or make things sound terrible... I am devoting most of my time, energy, attention to my kids, which means other things get less of it, and that's ok. That's the flavor of shit sandwich I'm choosing to eat at this point in all our lives.

(this post made it past the "jumbled mess of thoughts in my head" to published thanks to it being saturday and Zach taking the boys out of the house for a few hours, giving me the time and peace and quiet in the middle of the day for getting this out)


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