Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sometimes it takes me a while

I think my friends would agree I'm a smart cookie. They'd also probably agree I have my spacey moments. Today was one. 

When grading, I watch TV at the same time. Eye doc said the refocusing may keep me from blindness before 60. I like the show Cash Cab, because if I miss something, it's not crucial. I found the show on the guide and settled in. 

After an HOUR, I realized commercials were being played in Spanish. It wasn't until then I realized I'd turned NUVO TV, where shows and commercials are sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. 

So even with commercial breaks occurring every 10-15 minutes, it still took me an hour to clue in. That's right, I can see a misplaced apostrophe at thirty paces, but it takes me an hour to figure out the show I was watching included large stretches in which things were being said in a language I only have Sesame Street level skills. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Opportunity to Change Perspectives

My local hometown newspaper is daily shazaamed to my inbox, and I alternately find it informative, amusing, and worthy of head shaking.  Today, it was provocative! A young Muslim woman wrote in her blog about how these polar temps have caused her to cover the hijab she normally wears with even more layers, thereby allowing her to see the world from a different perspective. If you don't have time to follow the link, she comments that we Westerners, when her signature Muslim head dress wasn't on display treated her in a more friendly and open manner, and she had far more conversations with non-Muslim strangers than she had ever experienced. She also commented that treatment from Muslims changed too.  People who would have normally engaged her in conversation, perhaps simply because they connected to her openly Muslim attire, looked past her and did not interact.

What a blessing this young woman experienced. As we age, we all fall more into who we truly are.  So much of that, whether we realize it or not, is based on really a reflection of others. We define ourselves not only in how we think, feel, and present ourselves to the world, but that definition is tempered in how others react to us--both positively and negatively--when we put ourselves into the world. As young people, we often experiment with that visage, and based on how comfortable we feel with those reactions, we adjust ourselves. Our reasons may be to hold and keep a job, to fit in with a way of life or a political movement, or it may have to do with climate and environment, but we're constantly finding our balance, until whatever we've come to simply works for us. How many of us have the opportunity to still be exactly who we are, but to completely change how people envision us? I can't think of any opportunities I have to do that anymore.

Far back in time, over 20 years ago, when I really was a different person, I used to challenge my students' perspectives. Then I was an early 20-something in graduate school, teaching developmental students with vague interaction from a mentor (who thought THAT was a solid plan?!). On the first day, I used to wear my ripped up jeans, my best concert t-shirt, sling my Jansport backpack over one shoulder, enter my classroom, and take a seat with the students. I'd wait until almost ten minutes after class was supposed to start (the time when people can leave without penalty), listening to the increasingly agitated and often off color commentary about this bleepity bleep bleep late professor. At the 10 minute mark, I'd get up, take a stack of syllabi out of my backpack, and start the class.  Since when I'd gotten up, many others started to as well, because who wants to be the first one, there was usually a scramble to sit back down. Often, there would be pulling down of baseball caps, hunkering into heavy coats if it were winter, and a generally stellar quietness. But that was a method, and I knew ahead of time I was observing things. This young lady didn't, and I found her even handed introspect interesting.

If you do follow the link, I have to say, don't read the comments.  While there are a fair amount of people who are engaging in an ongoing dialogue, and Leena the author is part of that dialogue, there are an equal number of idiotic comments. Some tell the American-born Muslim to "go back where she came from" if she doesn't like the treatment she gets, and others tell her she's oppressed and should throw off her oppression, but I don't see her blog post as a political or even religious statement, and I think the author would agree.  It's far more a statement that we need to stop letting the unfamiliar keep us from connecting with one another.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dude is obviously single

I'm watching Sunday news show, which I accept is more relaxed and has a bit more fluff. Of course they've got a guy from AT&T hawking Valentine's Day gifts. 

Dude classified his items into those for "new relationships," "long term relationships," and "serious relationships." How the last two don't overlap is a mystery, but that's not my big giggle today. 

In the "new relationships" category Dude had placed something called a "Fit Bit" to wear and communicate all your physical activity to your smart phone or computer. 

Let's think about that. Dude is saying it would be an awesome gift for your new maybe love to open up a device that might as well say out loud "hey, you could stand to lose a few pounds." I don't know who this dude has dated, but I'm fairly certain he's single. In fact, I'm betting he's one of those guys who breaks up with his significant other before any gift giving holiday. The women I know, if given that gift in a new relationship, let's just say Dude might be missing a limb. 

This has been your gift-giving PSA. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Apparently, we found the local KKK chapter

Something happened to my husband and I a few months ago that has prompted me to identify my actual location and use actual names here, which I'd avoided for those who don't actually know me in real life and are just internet noodlers.  But something has me so overwhelmed, ashamed, saddened, I feel I have to.

In September, my husband, Scott, and I found ourselves with a rare situation--a kid free weekend.  We NEVER have these, but my son was at a Boy Scout event, and my daughter had a sleepover. We RAN with it, dropping the girl off, then heading for a movie and dinner. After those blissful kidless activities, I decided I wanted to karaoke.  I know, it's lame, it is, but occasionally, I need a stress release.  Some people run, some people turn to art, me, I like to belt out a Melissa Etheridge song.  Don't judge, I rock. On a Friday night, there aren't too many places that serve up karaoke, but there is one only a few minutes away. It's called Dan D Jack's, and it's a dive bar sometimes listed in Tinley Park, sometimes Orland Hills, IL, as it's on the boarder. I'm no stranger to dive bars and their usually blue collar, often rough around the edges clientele.  But we'd been there a few times, and nothing seemed out of sorts.

We arrived and were informed there was no karaoke going on that night, because there was a band. Knowing the clientele, we figured we'd stay for the band, thinking it would probably fall into a classic rock or blues genre, which we both like. For an hour, until the band started, we watched a man we figured to be the front man greeting every single person in the bar VERY warmly, including a table of bikers and their ladies, all wearing distinct and worn colors on their jackets.  Listening to conversation, we surmised he pretty much personally knew everyone but us. Weird, but it's a small place, we enjoyed our beers and continued observing.

Then the first song started. It was a song that bashed gays and women, openly and loudly. I let out a loooooong breath, thinking we finish our beers, and we're gone.  That was the silent communication that Scott and I had. In the interim between songs, when the lead singer "welcomed" everyone, he said at the end, "oh, and I'm glad there's no *iggers in the audience tonight, so I don't have to explain the next song." My face went about 80 shades of red, and I could feel my pulse in my ears.  Scott put his hand on my leg and said "we can't leave yet." Scott, as my husband, knows I am a mouthy, mouthy woman, and it only gets worse as I age. His single best quality is that he ALWAYS has my back, even when I'm mouthy. He looked around at the near familial to the lead singer crowd, and bikers, and quickly gleaned that my mouthy nature could get us into very serious trouble, even though he knew we needed out, and quickly.

See, we had no idea what would really happen.  While I'm sure some will say "oh, but the bikers I know are really NICE" and that may be true, but Scott's cousin was literally killed by a band of bikers, so we don't mess.  Add to that a bunch of obviously like minded individuals all. around. us. and if I said one word, it could have erupted into ugliness, because like I said, my husband always has. my. back. Scott decided I should leave first, acting like I was stepping out for a cigarette or something, and he would follow me in a few minutes. His fear was if we left together, the lead singer might say something from the stage, small place, could happen, and again, things would erupt. I just hoped the doorman wouldn't say anything either to me on my way out.  But by that point, the garbage I'd heard, I wanted to puke, so I might have a believable reason to go anyway.

I made it to the car, where I came close to bursting into tears, and Scott followed after us.  We were parked further down from the bar, near a gas station, and we could still hear the "music" being played.  Scott called the police department that night and said, watch for trouble. We were both so shaken, it was difficult to settle down. This incident has stayed with me, near the front of my mind for months.

Why did it stay with me so? I don't have my head in the clouds, I know racism exists. But in my backyard? So open and careless? I couldn't believe that. It stayed with me, because for 20 years I've made it my mission to educate mostly minorities, helping them to find their way along a difficult educational terrain.  I've helped many be the first to graduate from college.  This evening was a slap in the face to everything I've done professionally. It stayed with me because I pictured in my mind my godchildren, my children's friends, my friends of color and how all of them were reduced to a nasty little lyric in some sick, twisted person's mind. It stayed with me because I love music.  Music has gotten me through difficult times in my life, and it's better than that shit it was turned into. But I think most of all it stayed with me because I'm ashamed.  Ashamed I didn't stand up, without concern for my safety, as so many have in the past, and said "this isn't right." I apologize openly and unreservedly for that.

It might be from a point of safety I say this, but I want it to be clear now, even if I couldn't make it clear that night, and I want it to be clear to everyone I know, not just some dive bar:

1. If you are a racist/misogynistic/homophobe, get off my page, unfriend me, don't make contact with me in any way.  I don't have the patience or the stomach for it.
2. If you judge someone based on the color of their skin, their gender, or who they love, see #1.
3. If you think someone is or isn't capable of doing a job because of the above, you ARE #1.
4. If you have preconceptions of people based on the above criteria, you are an asshole of epic proportions, and I want nothing to do with you.

So there we go, let the unfriending begin.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February 4th

Today my mom would have been 70. Even after 12 years gone, it's rare I don't want to ask her a question. How did you do this working parent thing by yourself? Did I give you that same lip the girl gives me so early? Did you want to ship me off to another planet like I want to do with the tween these days? Do you see me in my kids? Those are just the ones I can remember from this week.

Every day I hate that she was cheated out of being a grandmother. Even worse, I hate that my kids were cheated out of a grandparent who would hang on their every word and think they were the center of the universe. 

We happened to be talking about family structure today and what affects it in my Critical Strategies class. That meant we talked about parents, extended families, single parents, etc. I almost lost it in front of my class thinking about my mom. 

It just never gets easier. Miss you always, Mom.