Monday, November 6, 2017

Lunch with Fiona

Fiona has been struggling the past few months.  It has been hard negotiating the ups and downs of her mood swings, but last weekend we had a good visit.  She said to me that she finds it hard to visit home right now.  She wants to live here and can't.  To her,visiting here   feels like waving this in her face.  That is of course, not my intention. The goal of coming home to visit was to have healthy loving relationships with the family.  For a long time she has bought into my very genuine belief that what we are working toward is her moving to another less restrictive level of care.  I have repeatedly talked about how as kids get older they don't live with their parents.  They get their own place, or they have a room mate and share expenses etc.  It may help when I actually have one of my kids do this so that she can see I am not making this up!  Rob is close but still in college and not quite there yet.

However, despite her not doing well visiting here I wanted to do something to maintain connections so we went to lunch at a fast food chain of her choice. The food was fairly ghastly but the time together was fun.  There were selfies and laughter -- lots of laughter.  I wish I knew a better way to help Fi.  Her mental health challenges and her cognitive delays are kind of the perfect storm for behavioral challenges.  But since I can't come up with any better model than what I am doing right now, I am  glad we had time together to laugh, love each other and reconnect. This is Fiona and Lissa at the restaurant.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Coming home from church. . .

I've been meaning to write this for a while and time just keeps getting away from me.  A few weeks back we were driving home from church.  As I came up the main street of our city,  I saw a van by the side of the road.  The doors were open and on the side walk was a man with two other men doing something to him.  I could not tell if he was being beaten or if he had fallen and they were trying to assist.

I believe that we are not islands and that we need to work together to help each other in this world.  So unlike all the other cars flying by, I pulled over.  I got my cell phone out and proceeded to get out of the car to see what was up.

As I approached I could tell that the man on the ground was someone who is like my Fiona.  He was raging and the two men were using safe holds to prevent him from running into traffic or harming himself or others.  He was definately not being beaten.  I asked in a quiet friendly voice if everything was okay and they assured me it was.  So I just got in our van and and came home.

Something that surprised me was that my kids were terrified when I got out of the car so we had a long talk afterwards. I reminded them of my martial arts training. I reminded them that I had my cell phone out and on so I could call 911 if I had to. I explained that the cell phone and 911 was not just for my safety but in case authorities were needed.  If the man was having a seizure for instance.  If the staff could not calm him.  If it had been a robbery or an assualt, it is still important not to drive by, turn a head or walk away.

I also pointed out that I tried hard to use my senses calmly when I approached.  For instance, I noticed as I walked closer that the van was not a mini van like we have.  It was one of the full sized vans that many programs for people with disabilities use. Fiona's home has one. Her Great School in the Big City had a number of them. I looked at the postures and made eye contact with the people.

I have always stopped when I have seen someone who might be in trouble.  And as a general rule, people have almost always stopped for me when I have needed assistance.  But I was sad that my kids response (and this included two adult kids) was one of anxiety. We do live in a world where care and alertness is necessary but this must be balanced by our need to live compassionately.

Friday, October 20, 2017


Ever since the recent Hollywood headlines, there has been a Facebook movement called #metoo.  If a woman has been the victim of sexual assault or sexual harrassment, the idea is that one puts the hash tag and words in a status.  My feed is flooded with #metoo by friends coworkers, acquantances and those who I know only via the connections afforded by the internet. The volume of it astounds me.

I too, could place #metoo in a status.  When I was very newly hired by a property management company my equally new boss decided one of my jobs was to take residents down to the basement to access their storage bins.  I was 19 and eager to impress.  I never thought twice about this.  I didn't even think much about the fact that after a while the same GI kept coming to access his storage.  The military folks that lived there back then always had a ton of stuff in storage. They would need to get gear out for when they were going off on a tour etc.  At any rate, my real hash tag should have been color me clueless as I saw no red flags.  Til the day he slammed me up against one of the walls and started kissing me and groping me.

I studied martial arts and had a very instinctive and effective response.  He backed off, feeling very uncomfortable.  I said for him to keep his hands and everything else to himself.  And I was okay with that.  I would be lying if I said I was afraid. during the incident. Startled, yes, and very angry.   I reacted almost without thinking and never felt like I was overpowered. But I remember being furious because the man was married with two young children and what was he doing all over me with that at home?

No, my fear came when I knew I had to tell my boss that I did not want to be alone in the basement any longer.  I was smart enough to realize that what happened once, could obviously happen again. My fear was that I would be seen as a "lesser" employee.  "Gee, can't even send her to storage, have to send a GUY."  My boss to his credit didn't say any of those things.  There was a distinctly awkward feeling to the whole conversation though and for a long time, I was sure that I had damaged my budding career by even mentioning what had happened. In retrospect, for all I know, he might have been inwardly freaking out about what *could* have happened in storage.  Or, as I feared he might have been blaming me, assuming I was sending out sensual signals while I stood in the drafty storage room.

Which brings me to why this movement is important to me.  As women we hide things.  We don't share things that can make us appear diminished or less capable. But we also don't always support those who are brave enough to come forward.  I have heard women I love say "sure, it happened to me too. It was a long time ago.  It is time to move on."  Words that are not that easy for everyone because every situation is so very different.

I have also read women I love and respect speak of the things they do automatically to ensure their safety, checking where they park, making sure their keys are out, being aware of their surroundings.  I do these things as well, but always allayed it to my many years of studying karate . . . until one of my friends pointed out that in most cases male martial artists would not survey the surroundings in this manner every time they go out.

This does not mean i am cowering in fear anywhere.  In fact, I need to write a post soon about an incident that happened on the way home from church at some point soon.  I don't hold back from involving myself if I see someone who needs help.  But I also try to keep myself safe.  It's all about balance and I guess as women we walk that tightrope an awful lot.

Mostly, this campaign has made me realize that this is NOT the world I want for my daughters.  I don't want a flood of me toos.  I want a world where they are safe to be themselves, to walk in normal places without being afraid of undue attention, to know that workplaces can and should be safe for all. And if any of my kids are non hetero this all goes double as I know from sad statistics that things are even worse then. And if the world is not kind, and the gods are harsh, and my kids someday need to write #metoo, I hope that they will be enfolded, loved and given an opportunity to heal.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A House Divided

The NFL has brought the sharp division of beliefs in our country into focus with the many players kneeling during the national anthem.  I support the protest;  I know many who don't.  However I was literally chilled last night to hear that there would be efforts starting at the White House to make standing during the national anthem mandatory.

Regardless of whether one feels this is "disrespectful" or any of the other terms I have heard and seen bandied about, this should frighten all of us.  Compelling us to stand is not the beliefs our country was founded on. Such dictates bring to mind facist governments and dictatorships around the world where terrified citizens stand at rigid attention.

It has also been another learning experience for our family, as my brother in law unfriended both myself and my wife because our profile pictures on Facebook indicate our support of the protest.  I was sad that he did this without dialogue.  That seems emblematic of the divisions within our country now.  I felt worse when my wife texted him privately and he harshly answered in ways that made her deeply sad.  My BIL is  a funny guy much of the time.  He is possessed of biting wit and a facility with words that lends itself to riotious laughter at family meals.  However his belief system is very rigid and I always hoped that our life was just a quiet way to help open his heart to the fact that everything is not that black and white.  He refused to come to our wedding for instance, but was willing to come to our reception at the house. I was okay with that then, although my wife was angry.  "we're good enough to eat our food" she ranted.  I was sure that it was a step toward understanding that opportunities to break bread together would help him see that we are not so very different. 

He has always been a generous uncle to our children, yet I can not overlook the racist tenor of his posts. When I talk to him about kids shot in playgrounds by police, unarmed black men shot when they are doing what the police told them to do--I am always told "my kids are different."  They aren't.  Sure my kids are smart cute and talented.  But they are black.  They always will be black.  And the only reason he can see the other facets of them is because he knows them and has known them all their lives.

He can't accept that.  He can't accept the fact that my kids have been followed in stores, called poop face and worse and other racially based things.  Probably more I don't even know about because as much as i strive for open dialogue I am deeply aware that no kid tells their parents everything.  They have hurts they have chosen not to share, of this I am sure.

And so for the moment, we are a family divided.  Thanksgiving is typically at our home and I am not sure what that will look like this year.  Sometimes I think we should attempt to gather civilly and build on that which is common and good to us--the love that we all share, the memories, the laughter and the pie.  Sometimes I worry that this is just perpetuating a lie and that my kids will see this capitulation as white family being more important. Part of me is sad because I suspect he must have always felt this way, and how could I have not known?  I feel stupid, and duped, angry, afraid and alone. 

And if I feel that way, it is only a fraction of what my kids, my friends who are POC feel.  These are deeply disturbing times.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Great Face Plant

Mostly I write about my kids.  Today I will write about me.  Two days ago I walked out of my office and slipped on the plastic Tr** decking and launched myself airborne down the stairs to the pavement.  I could not time things more badly if I tried.  10  minutes later my new upper level management boss was coming to the property to meet the site staff for the first time.  Her first impression of me consisted of a bloody face and a huge ice pack covering the rest of it.

It is not fun.  My face looks like hamburger but will heal.  Apparently I don't have that instinct most people do to put up their hands when they fall.  I literally face planted.  Not a mark on my hand!  In reality it was just all so fast there was no time to react.  I definately have a small concussion.  I have that mid day killer head ache thing going every day now.  I have had concussions in my long ago misspent youth.  I know that this will just take time to resolve and heal.  My mouth took some damage as one might expect.  It is hopefully not huge repairs. Several chipped teeth and I managed to dislodge a filling in this event! I also pushed back my front teeth somewhat, making it difficult to close my mouth. Kind of like giving myself instant braces. Fun times.  My dentist saw me right away and was able to file my bottom teeth slightly so that I could close my mouth better.  He feels that if I stay off solids for 2 weeks that he will be able to fix the rest of this pretty well.  So that is really good news. 

So I am trying to be positive and upbeat about this.  It could have been much much worse.  My company's workmans compensation seems like it will pay for any associated medical bills for the dental work.  I will likely lose a few pounds on my liquid diet.  (but oh I am missing my salads and fresh fruits fiercely)  It is a long weekend so I am having time to make some soups to put up for next week.  The long weekend may also mean that my face will look more presentable by the time I return to work on Tuesday.  (I was at work the day after the accident but had today all ready scheduled as a vacation day)

You know that song "I Believe I Can Fly?"  News flash.  I can't.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Take a knee, white America

I stand with the protestors.  I stand, or would kneel with those players who are trying to quietly and respectfully say to White America--"Wake Up!  Check your privilege.  Black Lives Matter."  As a mom of children of color I worry for my kids when they are out.  I worry about the young teen who loves hoodies now and is sooooo into the color black.  I worry for my 21 year old who is sure he knows it all and is often walking home from a late shift at the restaurant.  I worry that my young 10 year old daughter will be accused of "asking for it"   Her lovely pre-teen body looks older than her years.  Black girls want it, don't you know?

I am appalled that our country is even in this place.  I am still trying to figure out how we got here--or worse, if we were always here and I was so privileged I didn't know it.  I am so scared by the fact that there seems to be no way to even talk about this issue.  People either support BLM or they don't.  Those that don't, at least in my experience don't want to talk.  From the few I have managed to engage in dialogue this is what I got:

*no one owns slaves these days so this is a non issue. Everyone has the same opportunities.
*football players make millions of dollars and have no right to express their views on the field. aka they are naughty employees
*taking a knee is disrespectful to our flag and our country.  (I find this one particularly interesting as kneeling is a common posture in prayer. Also it is somewhat subservient (such as swearing fealty to a lord or king long ago.)
*if they want to protest they should do it off the field (but they should not block traffic, they should not shout, they should not use violence, they should not. . . the list is endless)
*it should be All Lives Matter
*if they did what the police told them, if they obeyed the laws of our great country, there would be no problems.

The problem is in my eyes, that for there to be a solution, white America has to be prepared to be uncomfortable.  We have to own that we are the problem.  The fact that my extended family can't see that and quietly unfriend me on social media for my views is emblematic of how divisive this is--of how unwilling the empassioned are to hear another view.  The people who did this love my kids, but they see them as somehow "other."  As in, my kids would never get shot by the police because I raised them right.

I hope to all the gods people pray to that the folks who say that are right.  But statistics show that they may not be. And is it even reasonable to assume that EVERY single unarmed black person who was shot was not raised correctly.  It just surpasses the bounds of reason.

I won't let my 13 year old son play outside with a cosplay decorated water gun.  I won't let him wear a Halloween costume that looks threatening and is dark colors.  Being seen by traffic is only part of it.  He could also be seen by a nervous home owner, or a rookie police officer who views the world through a skewed lens.  He will be out with friends on his own for the first time.  What if they do something silly?  They are 13 and I didn't always make the best choice at that age.  But I didn't worry about getting killed either. My son will go as a vampire rabbit.  His choice when I nixed all the others and it is funny.  It is white. It is safe.

But that situation is part of the dialogue of life for black America.  How to stay safe.  How to be heard. May we somehow hear what is really being said.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Precious moments

Image may contain: flower and plant

I am increasingly aware that life is so very precious and that joy is often found most in the smallest of things.  Like the gladioli in the picture above.  We planted them last year and they did nothing.  Literally.  Nada.  We forgot about them.  And for whatever reason, a few of them decided to bloom this year.  Well, two to be exact. But they are stunning.  One is a deep fuschia and one is a paler softer pink. My grandmother loved glads.  Looking at these two on our kitchen altar makes me smile and feel her spirit close to me again.

Yoga class renews my spirit weekly.  I don't love yoga as much as I love zumba but at least it is an hour that I can give to my body.  To stretch, to bend and to take an hours pause in our busy life.

Laughter.  The silly jokes the kids make up these days. Some "cringy" as KC puts it; some surprisingly witty.  I cherish the time together as a family. As the kids have gotten older and involved in a wide array of different activities, time for all of us to be together is even more cherished.  I know that time comes ever closer when it will be just Chet, Kirsty and I again at the table.  This is how it should be and I am proud of their confidence-their friendships and their passions.

Fiona has been struggling greatly lately.  The outward symbol of her anger is my refusal to let her pierce her navel.  The reality is that a peer left the house and this is the deepest cause of her unhappiness. To her it is another example of someone succeeding in a way she has not yet.  It is hard to face that, so it is easier to find something to be angry about and someone to pin it on.  I did not actually say no to the piercing, but I did say we needed an okay from her doctor. But it wasn't a "yes, jump in the car, we gotta do this NOW!" kind of answer so she became enraged.

This is always the hard part with Fi. She goes from happy to enraged in a nanosecond.  She had literally had a wonderful time at home and called me when she got back to the group residence asking about the piercing.  Fi is prediabetic which makes her more prone to infection. She has also some issues surrounding self care and is not reliable about keeping a wound clean. So the lack of a yes has been the catalyst to spiral her into a very angry state.

I am not sure how to best help her with this.  She has decided that I am the root of all that is unsatisfactory in her life.  I am not willing to wear that cloak and have told her so.  Loving her and caring for her does not mean I can or will agree with everything she wants to do. She is entitled to her anger, entitled to her feelings of frustration.  I get that. I am trying to give her some space and hope that at some point, she will be in a place where we can talk things through but so far, nothing close to that is happening.

So I will look at my glads, listen to music that I love and breathe deeply.