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I Need to Talk about the US Open…

I grew up watching tennis in the hometown of the late, great Arthur Ashe (#RVArepresent!). I love tennis.

ASHE

Via Google

I loved Billy Jean, Chris Everett, Martina, Monica and so many others. I remember John McEnroe showing his entire arse every time he stepped onto the court. Calling refs and opponents out, tossing and smashing racquets, and just being *free* to be an complete arsehole with little to no consequence. I thought he was crazy, but I loved it.

When the Williams sisters came on the scene it was like one of the ultimate #BlackfacesinWhiteSpaces chapters of all time. And to that end, they were reminded that this wasn’t their space all of the damn time. They were ostracized on so many fronts–being from the ‘hood,’ being coached by their dad who gave zero effs about White folks, wearing braids with beads that swung and made noise when they played, ‘crip walking’ on the courts and clothing choices and so on. They were characterized as the antithesis of White girl tennis gentility.

As Serena went onto straight DOMINATE (this is not debatable, she’s #GOAT) we also saw how the officials and the media treated her. Extra drug testing and ridiculous media questions. Tomfoolery abounds when it comes to how she’s treated. Just last month, folks were asking if she felt some kinda way about Sharapova’s “beauty” and banned from wearing a body suit because it wasn’t respectful to the “space” (again, a presumably White space). Chile…

Kimmy2

Via Giphy

So, here we go during the final of the US Open. Yeah, she was losing anyway; we could all see where things were likely heading. Yeah, she went in on that referee after she was cited for receiving coaching (that she apparently didn’t even see). And now, here we are watching the world be purposefully obtuse about her overall treatment and seeing what it looks like when she got *sick and tired* of that ref’s shyt. Oh, sure, as an elite athlete she should keep her cool (#didMcEnroeevertho, and as much as I loved Ashe he was about some respectability shyt too), but that was a bogus initial call, one that has not even KINDA been applied equitably for other players, male or female. That call straight questioned her integrity, which frankly has been questioned her entire career. #thisaintnew And in her own words on the court, she knew she was losing, but she wanted to lose fairly. The referee’s calls regarding her “tantrum” were precipitated by the accusatory call concerning her integrity. #poisonoustreefruit

But all of that is beside the point, right? She lost to a lovely young upstart, Naomi Osaka, who has her own narrative of battling some media bull-shyt. How many times has she had to remind the media that she is in fact, biracial: both Japanese and black Haitian? #BecauseAsianisWhiteAdjacent

Peep this clip where she gets this reporter together right quick! I love her.

Oh and how does institutional “rules are rules” messiness (euphemism for misogynoir) work? Naomi Osaka’s legit win over Serena will forever be tainted, and that’s soooo not fair to her; she’s a badass in her own right.

And if you needed a bullcrap image that characterizes the whole mess, it’s this one.

Rage

Via Google

Eff you Mark Knight.

Let’s take a quickie inventory, shall we?

  • Serena portrayed with exaggerated Black features.
  • Serena portrayed as ‘heavy,’ or you know “thick, big boned” as we Black women are presumed to be.
  • The tightly pulled back hair that has ALL curl patterns (otherwise and often characterized as nappy), but appears literally snatched on her head giving the appearance of being nearly bald, cause you know “bald-headed b’s” are a thing we get called.
  • Nod to the tutu that she deliberately sported as a poke in the eye of the recently banned French Open “disrespectful to the White space” Wakandan cat suit.
  • The random pacifier rounds out this angry Black woman tableau.
  • Meanwhile, the ref is shown asking Naomi to throw the game to end the presumably unwarranted “tantrum.”
  • Naomi is absurdly shown as a diminutive, lithe, blonde, White woman, #damsel, which she is most certainly not.

Again, this is the lovely, US Open champ, Naomi Osaka:

Rage.jpg

Via Google

Now I could continue on with the venting but I want to talk about what this kinda stuff means for parents of Black and Brown children, and specifically Black and Brown girls.

I posted on my personal social media streams this weekend that women, and women of color in particular, are long accustomed to having our very existence policed. (Wanna debate this? Fight me).

We can’t be too emotional, but we can’t be stoic either. Are we right for this kind of work? Where is your husband and how does he feel about your education/work/housekeeping/sexual activity/reproductive and medical choices/parenting approach/religious observations? We need to have our bathrooms monitored and legislated. Our hair has to be socially acceptable. Our skin has to be socially desirable, but really primarily for sexual proclivities because, we are loose and wanton by nature. Our clothing and shoe choices may make us responsible for male dominance behaviors. Staying out late gives us a bad reputation. Having personal and professional goals may make us men haters and *that* is really damaging to egos. Infertility is almost always our fault, but you know there’s limited access to adequate and appropriate health care has to be pre-approved by men because…see wantonness above. We don’t get to be sexually liberated unless we’re ok with being called sluts or whores. We are blamed for our singleness, but men’s desire is wholly based on our behaviors and presentation. Do we really have the temperament to be in positions of decision and power? Our outrage always has to be muted, especially if it’s emanating from Black and Brown bodies, because it’s often too detrimental and dangerous for it to be fully on display. We are downright disrespectful and scary.

For my Black daughter…my Black daughter with a trauma background who has trouble navigating this life socially, all of this is a crushing reality. I’m teaching her to be strong, to speak her mind, to be free. But for her safety, I also have to teach her how to display that strength in non-threatening ways, how to bite her tongue damn near off because she might be characterized as too sassy and how to choose her places to demonstrate her freedom, which is to say, not be free at all. In fact, I’m teaching her to put her authentic self in packaging that is palatable for folks who don’t look like us and that really does make me simmer all the time. #itsnotright

She already sees that while she can be at the top of her game, she will still just be seen as an uppity, angry Black woman, throwing a tantrum if she deigns to be a vocal self-advocate. And she will be punished for it. And other women of color close by would do well to learn the lesson to not display similar behaviors. As a reward, they will be awarded White proximity, even if it means erasing visual characteristics that otherwise differentiate them. Their Browness and their Blackness will be erased, and we’ll all walk around acting like that’s a good thing! #effthat

My daughter struggles with confrontation. She has a strong sense of integrity (as long as it doesn’t pertain to keeping the laptop too long or eating candy in the middle of the night). Hope simmers for a long time but trust when she blows, she blows! I’ve had to go down to the school many times after she has finally blown a gasket. I’ve had to explain what happens behind the scenes and bring copies of previous emails regarding situations that were never addressed that led to this very moment. I’ve had to reasonably discuss, cajole, sweet talk and finally legally threaten folks to both meet her where she is *and* provide appropriate consequences for behavior. I also know that if it weren’t for the DR that I insist on using in front of my name and the resources available at my fingertips, that my efforts to be her advocate and protector would not be as successful as they have been as a woman of color without the DR juice. I tell people often that I thought I went to get a doctorate to be an educational researcher; now I know that the true reason is to have enough gravitas to roll into the school making demands I otherwise would not have been even allowed to make on behalf of a daughter whose special needs demand that I do just that on the regular.

We talk about girl power. We talk about #BlackGirlMagic. We talk about feminism. We talk about womanism. We talk about equality, equity, fairness. We talk about the future for girls and women. We talk about what we want for them.

And then we see this shyt and get the clear reminder that our behavior and our identities (especially those in relation to Whiteness) continue to be policed in a manner as to remind us of our place.

Be genteel.

Be polite.

Be nice.

Be happy you’re here.

Be not whatever else it is you are.

I’m so over this ish. My heart breaks for both Serena and Naomi. Parents, especially White parents of children of color, check this shyt. This is why that colorblind stuff is some bullshyt. This is what we mean about persistent misogynoir. This what we mean when it’s so institutionalized that shyt is casually at play in front of our faces.

Not doing comments on this post…it’s just…nah, I just can’t. If you’re not feeling it, go not feel it somewhere else. I can’t today.

 

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What about the Children

I’m traveling this week and trying to keep up with the horrors of the day in bits and pieces. I’m struggling emotionally with all I’m seeing, so bear with me in this post.

I’m heartbroken and I’m angry. And I’m really having a hard time with the frequent defenses I’m seeing that “these are criminals, and we remove kids from criminals in the US” narrative.

Ok, there are legitimate reasons why children may, and sometimes should be, at least temporarily, removed from parents care. Without question, there are criminal acts for which removal of a child is expected and assumed. This is done for the *child’s* safety and interests, not as a punitive action against the parent. Why? Because we recognize that the biological family bond is important. This is why foster care and adoption is *supposed* to be child-focused, child-centered.

Personally, I’m having a hard time believing that parents who are bringing their children when seeking asylum or simply risking illegal border crossing and residency for a better life are the types of ‘criminals’ we think of when considering immediate child removal. This is not child-focused or child-centered. This is punitive for everyone involved, and this does not center the health, care or well-being of children. Yes, I recognize that there is an adult that needs to be processed/dealt with (preferably in a humane and respectful way), but the children…how families are handled should prioritize the needs of the children. Children should be with their families of origin, whenever, possible: full stop.

When layering on other demographic features like color and poverty, it becomes easier for Americans’ latent, but often overt, racist tendencies to embrace child removal, since the US has always been quick to consider punitive measures when those race and poverty come into play. Don’t even get me listing all the ways this country…my country that I still love…has purposefully broken up families of color. White supremacy is a helluva drug.

I am not in favor of open borders; yes, I do think that we can and should do something humane about immigration—some of that has to do with our global work and positioning in the global economy and less to do with the building of a wall. But we are failing kids. We have become incredibly good, sickeningly so, at failing Black and brown kids in this country; we now seem to be willing to spread that failure, triggering more trauma, more mental health issues, more problems.

Prioritize the needs of kids. They should always be at the center of the discussion and the decision-making. When we do that we will make better decisions.

Can we do that? Will we do that?


Gazes

Greetings from Finland! What an awesome trip it’s been so far. Finland is really quite lovely. My mother and I’ve have figured out the public transit system, ventured to Tallinn, Estonia, and tried very hard to learn a few Finnish words.  I gotta say the language is different than anything I’ve ever heard, and I thought I’d really heard a lot. I’m not a neophyte traveler, but I have been this far north east in Europe. It’s definitely worth the trip, but the language is not an easy one to pick up. That said, the people have been very nice and generally a accommodating.

But then there is the gaze. 

I mean, in the US, we talk about the White Gaze a lot in terms of race. I’m not going to go into a full on explanation about White Gaze here. In a nutshell, the white gaze is white privilege and supremacy on full on display in such a manner that everything not white is wholly defined as and by its non-whiteness. Everything and everyone else is other.

As a black woman in America, I often feel subjected to this gaze, sometimes at work, sometimes when shopping, at church—where it’s diverse almost more so because Hope and I show up sometimes—at the condo board meeting…you know; it can just happen anywhere. But that particular form of white gaze, the American tradition of white gaze, I’m used to, if not annoyed by. 

My usual experience of traveling abroad involves white gaze, but usually a kinder, gentler gaze. In some countries, my experience with the gaze has been more exocticized—the affluent black American who likes to travel. I get hit on a lot, and bevies have been known to be sent from the other end of the bar with a raised glass, a wink and compliment.

But Finland. Oh Finland. This white gaze is so damn strong. 

My very being is other here. 

So Finland is super homogenous—Finnish folk, Swedish folk, Russian folk, Roma folk (who are admittedly a little more tan than the others, but still…white) and a really small smattering of Asian and north African immigrant folk. So, it’s like whiter than your average white. It’s seriously Clorox white here. Now Helsinki is a very cosmopolitan city with lots of tourists and a huge convention center, so there are lots of folks coming through here. That said, I’m guessing that your average Fin can go a long damn time without seeing someone like me anywhere around other than on a tv or movie screen. So, to see me on the street? Well that’s just an anomaly of huge proportions. 

Apparently, I’m like a leprechaun, but I’m not sure that I bring good luck. In fact the overt clutching and moving of some purses suggest that mayhaps I do not bring luck at all. 

I saw a child walk into a door while staring at me. Ok, I’ll give the kid a break, but the grown women and men who openly gape. Ugh. 

Immigration control acted like someone like me shouldn’t  or maybe couldn’t possibly be attending an international education meeting. The limo driver acted as though he were mute the 20 minute drive to my hotel, prompting my mother to tell me to give him a big tip to prove that we black folks know how to act. (It was he who needed a lesson in how to act.)The least he deserved was a tip, and it annoyed the hell out of me to give him that cash after he ignored us. But that’s what we do—people of color are always trying to prove belong in a world that was not intended for us. 

Things have eased up in the last couple of days. Our trip to Estonia was lovely, with low levels of gaze. Either the gaze was so low key it wasn’t bothersome or the engagement felt so genuine that it was easy to answer questions and to share how we ended up shopping in the town square. During our ferry ride, I decided to meet white gaze with black gaze for the rest of the trip. Open air, direct eye contact lessens the gaze. It makes folks aware that they are staring. It reverses the issues of comfort. It triggers the acknowledgement that being defined and subjected to another’s gaze doesn’t feel all that great. 

For me it allows me to take some of my comfort and my power back. It allows me to resist being a curiosity, no matter how innocently. 

No, I don’t think any of this behavior is intrinsically malicious, and the Finns are, apparently, known for being reserved. But the behavior does inherently reinforce a system of white supremacy that I openly resist. 

With every person of color, especially black folks, we exchange a small smile and the universal nod of acknowledgement. There is no gaze, but there is acknowledgement. It feels nice. 

I am not sure how Hope would cope with this experience. I know she doesn’t like to be gazed upon. I know she sometimes struggles with finding her own beauty in her brown skin. Because she lives with me, understands what I do and is exposed to things designed to embrace her blackness, I think like me, she might be hyper aware of her being a novelty in this setting. In some ways, I am sad about that for both of us—It’s like James Baldwin suggested that to be black and to be conscious of your blackness is to be aware and reactive all the time. 

It is exhausting. I kind of wish we were sometimes ignorant about what it is to wear this skin and to be this person. But that’s not even a realistic desire. 

My mother, having grown up in a different era also is hyper aware of the gaze we have experienced on this trip. She seems to experience a wider range of emotions: disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration and fear. She chastised me about meeting the white gaze with a black one. She worried that it might trigger “them.” She doesn’t like it when they are triggered. She was raised in an era where knowing your place and choosing forms of resistance were the difference between literal life and death. I don’t pretend to know what that kind of emotional confinement feels like. But I see it in her; I hear her when she talks about how things are returning to how that period felt for her so many years ago. 

I don’t mean to make this trip sound miserable. It is far from it. It has been a grand experience and experiment. Most of the people we have met are kind. We have shopped. We’ve ventured to places that weren’t even on our bucket list. We are wiser from our time here. 

We have a day left in Helsinki before we head back to the states. After a week under the glare of this gaze, I will be happy to return to the gaze I know. It still sucks, but I know it. I’ve studied it. I get it. I know how to push back on it. 

I know this because…it’s home. 


Happy New Year

It has been a challenging year for me, but I’ve learned a lot about myself, my daughter and parenting. I’m grateful for Hope’s patience and love through all of my missteps this year.

Hope and I have had a good year; we have had a lot of great experiences.  We’ve tried new things, gone new places, achieved new heights.

She might have grunted most of the way, but I know from Hope’s sly smiles that she has enjoyed our adventures.

I’ve encouraged her to set some goals for 2017; she resisted.

Then she relented.

She just wants to do better in school.

I’m glad (and relieved) that she wants that for herself. I want it too.

I am setting my own goals for 2017.

There are cool things to look forward to professionally and personally.  I’m eager and excited for myself and for Hope.

I am hopeful.

So, to new beginnings!

Happy New Year and thank you for following and reading this blog in 2016!


Learning to Win Differently

Never say that parenting won’t show you ish about yourself. I swear…these “real life” lessons just don’t stop.

I like to win. I like to win arguments. I like to win with better research. I like to win with good food and wine. I just like to win. It makes me feel better about myself.

Like most people, I worry about how I’m perceived. I fret about being “good.” I fret about being smart. I fret about liking myself. I worry about feeling whole. I aspire to self actualization, despite probably being nowhere near it.

And that’s all ok. I’m guessing in the grand scheme of things, I’m normal, right?

This drive has propelled me to achieve some pretty cool stuff in my life. I’ve done well for myself, but there are certainly still things to achieve.

In comes Hope, my daughter, my sweet girl. Hope is a kid who is a survivor, but has a hollow sense of self, who needs building up in a big way and who has no idea what or who she really aspires to be.

Why, oh why, does my own internal competitive drive and intrinsic need to win, need to win against Hope?

I mean, really? How lame is that? As if this kid doesn’t have enough ish to contend with, she has a mom who just HAS to have the last effing word all the time.

And, why do I feel like I need to win…against Hope? How is it that this is my default setting? How is it that we aren’t always on the same team? And, really, what are we competing for?

Being a mother has totally changed my sense of self. It makes me feel like I have to fight and scrap to be a “good mother.” I’m probably not even really competing against Hope; I’m really competing against my views on motherhood and what I’m supposed to be, rather than what I am—a Black adoptive mom with a teenaged daughter who needs quite a bit of help getting herself together.

My need to win arguments with Hope is really about this underlying belief that Hope is preventing me from being a magazine cover mom.

Ain’t that some messed up ish?

Yeah, it is. I’m horrified that this is really what is below my surface. #shame

I spent some time watching Brené Brown videos (because my dyslexia is making it increasingly hard to read books) and yeah, that shame monster is a beotch. #moreonthatlater

So, I’m working on just letting Hope win—she’s ironically a lot like me. She needs to win to feel good. I hardly ever let her win because my own ego is so bruised and needy. This week, I’m committed to just saying “Ok…” during some of our bicker-fests. It’s ok to just let her win. It’s ok to just stand down. It’s ok to let her feel good, and let her get one over on me.

In fact, it’s essential to heal her own bruised and needy ego. She needs to win.

And if we’re on the same team, then her win, is my win. There are no losers. I just need to learn to win differently.

I’m working on this lesson. It’s important. I’ve had a lifetime of wins, and truth be told, I don’t have anything to prove. I really don’t.

Hope needs some wins to fill her tank. A full tank for her is really a win for both of us.


Boss Behavior

We are struggling with Executive Function (Boss Behavior), and when I say we, I mean we—though our struggles with boss behavior are quite different.

From my perception of Hope’s view of things (we’ve talked about this so I think I’m being fair in my interpretation) goes a bit like this:

  • Most homework gets done when I remember it.
  • Hey I manage to do about a third of my chores each week.
  • I know that there’s a test coming up in one of my classes, but I don’t know which class or when the test actually is.
  • I manage to take my meds most days of the week when mom reminds me.
  • On a day home from school, I’ll still be cramming to do my homework at 9pm at night.
  • I just don’t like school, or chores, or the lists that mom makes me or well, anything that requires much organization.

Here’s my take on things:

  • Holy HeyZeus, according to ParentVUE, Hope didn’t do her French homework for a week.
  • Holy Batcrap, Hope didn’t do her math homework for two weeks.
  • I wrote her a list of things to do on her day home, one thing got done today in 8 hours.
  • Good gawd, I have to tell her to do EVERY. SINGLE. THING, will she ever function independently?
  • I’m so glad she’s cooking dinner, but whycome did she need a recipe to make a grilled cheese and her sudden need to follow details has resulted in an ice cold sandwich—I mean really, why does it take 2 hours to make a sandwich with a side of apple sauce????
  • But I told her to tidy her room and now I’m yelling and she’s pouting because this joint is messier than when she started because she is overwhelmed.
  • Impulse control and freak out = $7-$8 school lunches with pizza, a couple of chicken sandwiches, fruit snacks, candy and a stop at the 7-11 for more candy after school.
  • WTH????
  • WTF????
  • WT??????????????????

Yeah, so…all of that.

I flipped out again yesterday because I had provided my lovely daughter a list of things to do, and she accomplished 2 things on the list and could not for the life of her describe how she spent her day. I had forgotten how she struggles with organization, following lists, following directions. I seethed.

I worried.

We are in a dangerous spiral at school, which also has me freaking out. Her teachers are struggling with the right thing to say to me about her behavior in class, that is until I said, “so are you trying to tell me that she’s just checked out?” They all sigh and say, yeah.

We’ve tried tools. We’ve tried different kinds of lists. We’ve tried memorization techniques. We’ve tried all kinds of things: meds, apps, cognitive strategies, etc, etc.

Yesterday I finally popped off emails to the school counselor, the Absurdly Hot Therapist (who is looking mighty fine) and the psychiatrist.

We need help. I have done all I can do and I can’t drag her to the next level of development. I just can’t.

This is tough. I’ve gotten better about asking for help since Hope has come into my life. I see so much return on my work with her. I’ve marshaled all kinds of resources for her.

But figuring out this Boss Behavior thing has just got us stuck. I only recognized that it was really an issue a few months ago. I have read copiously. I have tried to figure out where the boundaries of her limitations are. I’ve tried to help her manage her stress so that she can better cope with her areas of functional difficulty. But I finally concluded this week, that I can’t do this.

Heck, half the time I shoot first, think about it later, meaning, I nag and needle her about what she didn’t do and later remember the pattern of the behavior that triggers one of those limited boundaries. It’s like when you see where the surveyor uses those little sticks with the flags on them to mark the boundaries, but you don’t really know where the boundaries are?

Yeah, that. That’s what it’s like.

So, I’m tired of wandering across the boundary and then kicking, screaming and cursing because I hit a tripwire. It hurts, and it makes me sad. It makes us sad.

This journey sucks sometimes.

I’m hopeful that I can get Hope the support she needs. I’m hoping I can build her confidence and that as a team we can help her be her best self. I am hopeful that I can inspire hope in her.

I totally want her to grow up to be a Boss Chick.


February Tries

Hope actually groans every time I say, “Hey, we’re going to *try* something…”

It’s going to be a long year. That said, the fruits of this trying labor are totally paying off. I can’t say we tried as much this month—we’ll see when I make the list below, but what we did try, we did it with flair.

So, without further ado:

  • We both signed up for Duolingo. Hope is taking French (which she takes in school) and Spanish. I have finally (6 years later) resumed my Portuguese lessons with a side of French.
  • We try to write each other short emails in French.
  • We tried new vegetarian recipes.
  • We tried a couple of new restaurants.
  • We continued to try to find other adoptive families to hang out with periodically.
  • I took Hope roller skating.
  • Hope served as a teen service leader during the recent youth service at our church.
  • Hope also spent her first afternoon at a band friend’s house, which meant that I got to try some of the new found freedom that comes with Hope having something like a social life.
  • Hope went on an out of state band trip without me—again with FRIENDS! I got to try a new vineyard and go wine tasting with fellow blogger, Polly of KnitMeForALoop.
  • Hope tried to use her new debit card—I’d like to say “responsibly” but we’ll get there.
  • Hope does her own hair exclusively now, and as I wrote recently, she rocks her glorious fro on the regular.

It was a successful month. Our March tries will get under way soon; I’ve got a bit work thing going on and I need to plan somethings for us. But, so far, so good! Trying things has been fun and has broadened both of our horizons in meaningful ways.

Stay tuned!

 


Good and Scary

I loathe doing trigger warnings on a space that I created for myself, but well, I rarely bring politics into this space and today I will. So, if you’re not down with reading this perspective, you might want to move on right about 5ish paragraphs in.

Surprisingly, Hope and I are doing well. Things are good. Things are so good that last weekend, I took Hope and a family friend (also an adoptee) roller skating, then on Saturday Hope went to a church event (alone), that was followed by lunch with the church friends (sans me), led part of the teen service at the church we attend (I was the geeky parent taking pictures proudly) and then hung out for 4—that’s FOUR—amazeballs hours at the home of a friend from school (that’s right, she finally got an invite to go hang) AND said friend even brought her home for me.

All of this meant that I got to become one with my new magic couch…alone. I snuggled on my couch with Yappy in a state of ecstatic glee.

Last weekend was nothing short of epic.

I’m hopeful again. I’m feeling better; I finally named the new car—Polished Polly. The couch…oooohh the couch, seriously, I can’t rave about the couch enough.

I’m on a business trip, which means I get a bit of time away. Hope gets a bit of time from me. Tonight when I get home, things will be all lovely for a day or two.

Things ae good.

And things are scary. Like, seriously boogey man scary. Trump? Really? Really? I west coast woke up this morning to find that this dude has now won the Nevada caucus.

As a Black woman, this dude’s misogynism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia…it sickens me and makes me very afraid. What actually scares me more is that followers pride themselves in having found a candidate who says all the awful things they haven’t the balls to say out loud in pleasant, mixed company. The fact that he has struck a chord with so many people helps me understand even more why I must be vigilant about my daughter’s safety.

I already worry about the police—who are jumping on the bandwagon by boycotting Beyonce because she has hot sauce in her bag (swag), slays and had the audacity to include a video shoot that asked cops to stop killing us.

I worry about how easily policy decisions that result in unpotable water and massive amounts childhood lead poisoning. #Flint

I was working yesterday, doing a meeting about diversity in professional schools. Someone asked me if I thought there was really more racial incidents occurring or if they just got more attention? I replied that I thought it was both.

What I really wanted to say is, “Does it really matter?” If there aren’t as many, but there is more attention, that only shows what people like me live through every day. If there are more events and less attention why the hell wouldn’t I be afraid of an uptick in hate crimes, especially with no more attention because no one cares?

Seriously, WTF? It kinda sucks all the way around, right?

So to have a candidate whose hate is being legitimized with each primary or caucus scares me and it makes me wary of my fellow citizens.

This doesn’t let many of the other GOP candidates off the hook; but few of them scare me as much as Trump. And while I am a self-avowed Democrat; I’m not really all that thrilled with my choices there either. I don’t believe in dynasties, even if it would mean breaking the gender ceiling and I love idealism, but there’s a reason it’s not practical—because it’s simply not.

Super Tuesday is next week and it could really serve to lock  down our choices for November. I am hopeful, prayerful even, that my country cares about my safety and the safety of my family as African Americans. I am hopeful that other choices are made. I am hopeful that the articulation of fears like mine don’t just echo in the darkness, but that they mean something.

My fear of a Trump presidency is real. My fear that an increasing number of people buy into his rhetoric and his “I know I am but what are you?” routines have a gut check about kindness, humanity, compassion and true American ideals and not our faux exceptionalism. I hope that we all have moments of awakening that allow us to transcend the political rubbish and allow us to make real decisions about our fellow citizens.

There’s no endorsement in this post, just a lot of questions and a lot of fears for our country’s future. Please remember people like me. Remember Hope. Think about us as we all make our decisions.

Things are good and scary these days.


I Must Look Amazing

It’s hard to believe that me and Hope have been together for 2 years now. Sometimes it feels like forever, and other times it feels like the blink of an eye.

I was so excited when she came to live with me that her hair was natural. I also remember the first time I took her braids out and did her hair. It took me 5 hours. Detangling it was like grooming a Yeti. As the months passed, Hope and I relished the routine and the ritual of doing hair on the weekends. It was a time of the week when I wholly and completely took care of her. It was primal, really. It was an experience that she had rarely enjoyed before I became her mother, so she really relished the time and attention.

Until I suggested wearing her hair out, natural, in a regular old twistout done on wet hair.

Until this week.

Now, keep in mind that I had encouraged her to embrace her curly mane. She has gorgeous, thick curly hair. It’s grown a lot in the last two years under my care and attention.

Last month, I made her *try* to care for it herself, with little to no assistance from me.

Well, she blew it out most weeks, because she likes the stretched look.

Cool. I gave her a few bottles of heat protectant and told her to have at it.

She complained that doing a twist out on wet hair was just too much shrinkage. Too nappy. Too this, too that.

Ok. Rock on.

But leave it to laziness to be the mother of invention and trying.

Running out of time this weekend, she decided to try a twistout on wet hair.

It was glorious, but I only told her it looked nice because I knew if I gushed too much then she would bail on it.

We visited my parents, and Sister K visited with her sons; Hope’s cousins told her that her hair look fantastic.

And well, they are boys, Hope’s prime focus group.

She commented that her cousins liked her hair on the drive back to NoVa, and I knew that this was a vital piece of data.

And contrary to my loquacious nature, I kept my comments to myself and my piehole shut.

After two extra days home (Presidents’ Day and a snow day) Hope returned to school today rocking this ridiculously fly, curly, parted afro. Frederick Douglass would be proud.

She glammed out with jewelry and makeup with her flannel shirt, skinny jeans and sneakers.

When she got home, she casually commented that her classmates inquired about her hair—who did it, the name of the salon, why did she look so fly today, why hadn’t she wore her hair like this before…and on and on.

I raised one eyebrow to show I was intrigued by the line of inquiry, but I kept my mouth shut.

She went on about how the kids loved her hair and that it MUST be the coconut oil she used, because she really didn’t do anything different.

#eyeroll #chileplease

I simply nodded.

We went to her band concert. Again, on the drive home, she regaled me with stories about how her band mates loved her hair.

She concluded, “Huh, I must look amazing today.”

I smiled and nodded, “Yeah, you look good.”

Never mind two years of prodding, coaxing, product purchasing…two years after moving in, my daughter is rocking her mane of hair in all its fabulous, awesome glory.

Inside I am beaming.

I am also grateful for the cosign of the male cousins who validated Hope in a safe way. Kudos.

I can’t wait to see what she does next, and how she will embrace herself next.

I know that I will be sure to remain supportive but patient in getting Hope to love herself, as she is, with no filter.

In the midst of a lot of crazy today, my afro wearing kid totally made my day.


January Try

So, we got through January in the Year of the Try, and well, we did try a number of things.

  • We tried several new restaurants.
  • We tried a new nail salon.
  • Hope did her own hair (and now is flat twisting like a champ and I am nearly hair-doing-free).
  • I tried a new way of managing Hope’s chore situation with moderate success.
  • Hope tried Grammerly and wrote a *boss* essay for school that had NO grammatical errors.
  • I tried—with some success—to cut Yappy’s nails.
  • Hope tried her fingers at composing some electronica on her tablet thanks to apps.
  • She also tried to color a bit more and found it soothing.
  • I tried to get snazzier with my own coloring efforts, broadening my portfolio of pencils to include markers and gel pens.
  • I actually tried to win more of my Fitbit weekly challenges.
  • I got our meals mostly meat free.
  • I tried a lot of new recipes.
  • I took Hope to a Dominican salon for the first time.
  • We tried to spend more quality time together exercising.
  • We tried to cook together more.
  • Hope tried to cook solo a few times.
  • We tried to establish a regular meditation schedule—still really working on this one.
  • I really tried to get into the Unitarian thing since it seems like we’ll be at this church for a while.
  • We started trying to “family date” other adoptive families in hopes of building our own community of similar families.
  • Thanks to Groupon we tried some new activities in the area.
  • I tried to be in bed by 10pm (more realistically 10:30…).
  • Hope is trying to read for at least 30 minutes most days of week.
  • Hope tried to learn how to play checkers.

We did make progress last month. I see that Hope is already more willing to try new foods. The fact that she’s doing her own hair is a huge win. Our flexitarian lifestyle has been easier to embrace and maintain since we’re committed to hunting for new recipes. Being meat “light” has made me feel better and has moderated Hope’s hyperactivity—as has adding a day or two of deliberate exercise with me. I saved some money doing Yappy’s nails. Hope is searching for tools to independently help with school. She is reading at least a few pages a day of grade level reading.

It was a successful effort. We’re halfway through February and it’s been a bit slower because of the weather and the various life activities we’ve got going on, but I do plan to finish off strong this month. It’s been good for us and I only see us going up from here!


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