Monthly Archives: November 2009

A World Where Skin Color Is Of No Consequence

Just a few months after my daughter arrived we were pushing her in a carriage around campus. We lived in faculty housing and happened to run into one of the other instructors at the school. He was an elderly gentleman. Professor of History. He oooed and ahhhed appropriately over our new baby. And then he asked in hushed tones, “Are you going to tell her she’s adopted?”

I had to fight back a smile. My husband stood there looking stunned. The professor waited patiently for an answer.

“I think she’s going to figure that one out,” my husband said.

Our daughter is Asian. We are Caucasian. Yes, it will be obvious to her soon enough.

Privately, my husband commented on what a silly question that was. But I didn’t think so. I think it was a beautiful question. An amazingly beautiful, wonderful question. It meant that he didn’t see color of skin. He saw a precious baby girl. And from his generation, a generation that often didn’t discuss adoption, he wondered if we would. Her skin color was of no consequence. It wasn’t even apparent to him.

THAT’s the kind of world I want to live in. Where skin color is of no consequence. Where we don’t distinguish between brown, black, pink, olive, or white. OR where skin color is mentioned simply as another physical identifier, like eye color or hair color. When my boys were about 3 and 4 years old they would comment, “The boy with the brown skin” or “My skin is lighter than Mommy’s skin.” At first I bristled. How do I tell my boys it’s impolite to point out someone’s skin color? But then I thought, if they said “The girl with the red hair” do I tell them that it’s impolite to notice hair color? So, I let it go. And it became a non-issue.

But what about when we are forced to label ourselves? On a form for college, I was asked to check a box that described my race. The choices were: Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, African-American, other. I choose ‘other.’ It asked me to explain. I wrote: Irish-Scottish-German-French-American but I prefer to be called ‘Euro-American.’ And never mind that there wasn’t a choice to appropriately categorize MY ethnicity – little American mutt that I am – what about the other black cultures out there? Not every black American is from Africa. What about Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, the Middle East? And as my husband pointed out, maybe we should ALL check African-American because, after all, mankind originated from a region in Africa.

How about when we celebrate our skin color publically? African-American Bloggers Conference, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, The Billboard Latin Music Awards, Ku Klux Klan Parade. Oops. That was a bit politically incorrect. Yes, I know the KKK is a hate group. But they are celebrating their skin color. And think about it. If a group of white people get together, excluding all other skin colors – it’s racist. If another skin color group gets together – it’s a celebration. How is that promoting acceptance? It’s exclusionary. It’s preferential. It’s cliquish. It’s wrong.

I’m not perfect. I’ve made judgements based on skin color. I try very hard not to. I fight stereotypes and try to block the thoughts as soon as I notice them. But then there are times when I just don’t like the person. A professor friend of my husband’s once said, “Racism denies me my God-given right to detest the individual.” Sometimes it’s simply the inside of a person we don’t like.

If we are going to preach that ‘what is important is on the inside’ than we have got to stop noticing the outside. Appearances must be a non-issue. And you can’t exclude yourself to celebrate the color of your skin and then come back to the real world and expect to be noticed and valued for your abilities and character only. If you join groups that focus on skin color then expect to be defined by your skin color.  

I want to live in a colorblind world. I want to be valued for my insides. I want my children to simply be noticed as brother and sister, not adopted one and biological one. A world where skin color is just another physical characteristic like short or tall. Racism will simply be an archaic term to describe an unhappier time. No labels. No celebrations based on looks. Please tell me we’re not that far off.

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Black Friday Is Worth Every Penny And Then Some

I grew up a bit of a tomboy. I’ve always lacked some very typical “girly” genes. Much to my daughter’s chagrin I’m not much into jewelry and lots of make-up. I don’t like to talk long on the phone. I’m soooo like a guy when it comes to talking (or not talking, as the case may be) about my feelings or arguing or even just communicating in a relationship. (I know, nothing to be proud of. I’m working on it.) I played softball but wanted to play baseball as a kid. I love camping out under the stars. I wore garter snakes around my wrists much to the delight of the boys in the neighborhood. And I’ve never liked to shop. Ever.

Still don’t. So when my 17 yr. old daughter asked if we could shop on Black Friday I laughed. Out loud. When she told me she was serious, I eyed her suspiciously.

“Only if we go at 5am,” I said, confident that she would back down immediately. You see, I’m a morning person. She’s a night person. A very late night person. She sleeps ’till noon every chance she gets. I knew I was safe.

“Ok!” she said enthusiastically.

Huh? What the…? How did that happen? I then tried to weasel out of it.

“Seriously? You’ll get up at 4:30? I don’t think so. Besides, I don’t think the stores you’ll want to shop even open up that early.”

Remember? I don’t like to shop. So in my forty-something years I’ve never shopped on Black Friday. I’ve avoided it like the plague. I thought only large discount stores and appliance stores were open at that un-godly hour the day after Thanksgiving. 

“No, I already checked,” she said, “The mall opens at 5am.”

Rats. I was stymied. I had no idea where to go from there to get out of it.

“Ok…….” I said, voice trailing. I still had 5 more days to figure out how to get out of it. Surely, something would come to me.

But Thanksgiving Day arrived and I still didn’t have a way out. And she was so excited. Sharing this story with my sister on the phone she chastised my lack of enthusiasm.

“You set that alarm for 4:30am and enjoy yourselves. You’re creating memories,” she said, “Just don’t forget your helmet and elbow pads.”

Yikes. That got me. Especially since my stomach sinks every time my daughter receives a letter from a college trying to recruit her. I’m trying to cherish every moment she wants to spend with me. What was my problem?

So on Friday morning, we woke up before the crack of dawn and set out. We drove past our local Wal-Mart at 5:15am. Every, and I mean EVERY parking spot was taken. People were parking on the grass, off the curb. I’ve never seen it so busy. What was I getting myself into?

We arrived at the mall by 5:30am. It was busy but not unbearable. We shopped. We laughed. We waited in lines. I had to go check out the deals at the Disney Store (of course) and she reluctantly tagged along. The line was about 10 people deep and she rolled her eyes. “This is just like waiting in line for the rides, ” she groaned. But when we went to Hollister (her favorite store) the line for the cash register winded, weaved and wove through the store. “This must be SOME roller coaster!” I said excitedly. She pretended not to know me.

We chatted on the way to other stores. We chatted over coffee. We chatted in lines. We chatted in the car on the way to lunch. We observed people and talked about that. She shared with me things that were going on with school and with her friends. We reminisced. Mostly light things but some heavy things came up, too. And when the heavy things surfaced it slipped into our conversation easy, calm. I was able to share things I’ve always wanted to say – things every parent should say. She shared with me her feelings with little awkwardness. (She is a teenager, after all.)

It was an amazing day.

I remember hearing Dr. Phil impart his wisdom on teenagers once. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that if you want your kids to talk to you about the big things then you’d better listen to the little things. In theory, I wholeheartedly agreed. But then, I was able to see it in motion.

I’ve always felt I was a pretty involved parent. But days like this remind me I can always do more. Listening to those little things – how many sisters we could tell were shopping together, who her friends were dating, the latest fashion must-haves, how awful school lunches were – turned into conversations and snippets of some really big things. (And since I’d like to preserve some of her privacy I’m just going to let you guess what those were.) I heard her thoughts. She heard mine. It was amazing conversation with a little shopping thrown in. We enjoyed ourselves so much we’ve decided to make it a yearly tradition.

I saved a good bit of money on Black Friday. I lost a little sleep. Looking back, it was a simple gesture that became grand. And I can’t believe I tried to get out of it. What a shame that would have been.

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The ‘I Can’t Believe I Said That’ Post

I don’t know what it is about turning 5 years old, starting school and suddenly not enjoying the foods you used to love. #2son no longer likes broccoli, anything with a sauce, dark leafy greens, pineapple and hot cereal. The same thing happened to my daughter when she started school. #1son went through a similar episode but thank goodness it was only a phase for him. Because I honestly think he’s going to be a famous chef one day. He loves food. He loves preparing food. And if he can’t help me prepare the meal (tricky knife work or a hot stove) he’s happy to sit and watch me cook. But back to #2son…..

A few nights ago I prepared a new dish for dinner. Something that I thought would be very kid friendly. Meatballs in a BBQ sauce (that has grape jelly in the mix for goodness sake) over egg noodles with string beans. He devoured the green beans. And asked for more. He ate two helpings of green beans but wouldn’t touch the meatball dish.

“It looks yucky,” he said.

“Try it. It has grape jelly in it, your favorite,” I pleaded.

He fussed. He pushed things around. He stalled. Meanwhile, his brother was finished and on to dessert.

“Can I have that for dessert, too?” #2son asked.

“Yes, after you finish your dinner.”

“But I don’t like it,” he said.

“You haven’t even tried it yet. You like noodles. Try some noodles.”

He tasted the noodles. Not bad. So he ate all his noodles.

“Now can I have dessert?”

“No,” I said, “You still haven’t finished your dinner.”

He eyed the meatballs. He looked at me.

“But the meat has too much sauce on it and I don’t like the sauce and I still want dessert,” #2son explained.

“You have to eat the meatballs, too. It’s part of your dinner and if you want dessert you have to eat ALL of your dinner.”

“But I don’t like the meat!” he cried.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “You can’t have dessert if you don’t eat your meat. How can you have any dessert if you don’t eat your meat?”

And then I burst out laughing. And ran to go put on my Pink Floyd CD.

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Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

I was born in the north, but the south is where I call home. I’ve now lived more than half of my life here. I love everything about where I live: the weather, the people, the sweet lilting accent, sweet tea, collards and cornbread.

And I’m here to tell you, Southern Hospitality is NOT dead. My dear mother-in-law is from Boston. It drives her crazy with how friendly people are here. We’ll go to the grocery store and everyone smiles and nods a hello. The cashier will strike up a conversation with you. The young man bagging the groceries helps you to your car and won’t accept a tip. She’s all like, “What do they want from you?” I just laugh.

Along with the friendliness there’s a delightful mix of craziness. I’ve met my fair share of characters. Which makes this story, Alice’s Restaurant, totally believeable.

No Thanksgiving is complete without listening to Alice’s Restaurant by American folk singer Arlo Guthrie. It’s a bit long but if you don’t have your own copy or a radio station that plays this on Thanksgiving Day I saved you the trouble of finding it. Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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Wordless Wednesday – Do You Know What It Is?

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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

  • Quote: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Drink: Coca Cola – elixir of the gods
  • Book: Can’t name just one. Besides, in WordPress I can’t underline them properly so just on principle I refuse to name them. 
  • People (besides you all, of course!) I would read anything they wrote: Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, Barbara Kingsolver, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, (I always feel a bit guilty not adding Hemingway but frankly, I don’t enjoy him. I’m terribly un-American that way.) Amy Tan, Ayn Rand, John Irving, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Margaret Atwood, C.S. Lewis, D.H. Lawrence, Kaye Gibbons, Bill Bryson
  • Play that many other people don’t like: Waiting for Godot
  • Smells: fresh laundry, after a rain shower, bread baking, my children after their bath.
  • Way to unwind: curled up with a good book
  • Way I should unwind: Yoga
  •  Memories from childhood: baseball games with my dad, giggling long into the night with my sister, swimming and swimming and swimming, Walt Disney World trips, being at school (yes, I was one of those nerds).
  • Past times: people watching, hiking, sight-seeing, listening to stories from my grandparents, reading, writing and (yes, even) arithmetic, television and movies
  • Foods: ice cream, vegetables, filet mignon, McDonald’s french fries, chocolate, raspberries, greek yogurt
  • Seasons: autumn, winter, spring, summer
  • Fictional characters: Mickey Mouse, Owen Meany, Holly Golightly, Charlie Brown, Atticus Finch, Santa Claus, The Grinch, Huckleberry Finn (hence our dog’s name), Uncle Remus, The Little Prince, Ellen Foster, Holden Caulfield, Maria Von Trapp from The Sound of Music (yes, I know she was a real person but I’ve read the movie version departs from her true personality so I’m going with the fictional version)

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Sid Gets The Flu Shot

When my daughter reached a certain level in gymnastics we decided to homeschool her. It made sense. The gym was an hour from our home and practice was 4 hours a day. And many of her gym friends were homeschooled for the very same reasons.

My boys were toddlers at the time and they would watch Sesame Street. I was suddenly very aware how many “skits” were centered around organized school and how the school classroom was the best place to learn. It was a little too preachy for my tastes. And certainly, a little too preachy for a children’s television program.

Now granted, Sesame Street receives finding from the U.S. Department of Education. Homeschooling is certainly not mainstream but it sure would be nice if when they’re showing all the different ways to go to school (walk, ride bus, ride bikes, etc.) that they would acknowledge different ways to be schooled.

My daughter laughed at the skit about how to get to school because they showed how you had to get up early, remember all your things to bring, pack your lunch, pack your backpack, etc. She said, “With homeschool I just have to roll out of bed and walk a few steps to the dining room table! I can even stay in my pj’s!”

Now, I wrote about our decision to vaccinate for H1N1. It was a decision I agonized over. We don’t typically do the regular flu vaccine and we feel we have very good reasons for opting out. From what my husband (practices Traditional Chinese Medicine)  knows of a healthy immune system and the need adapt, fight and strengthen we don’t feel it’s best to immunize our otherwise healthy children for the flu. That doesn’t mean we feel everyone should feel as we do or that everyone should not be vaccinated.

But I very strongly feel that my children should not be preached to by puppets on a public television show about this controversial topic.

So, when I received a link to this little tidbit from a friend I was appalled.

But take a gander and let me know what you think.

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Filed under Be-Causes, Soapbox