A Lovely Shade of Brown

It’s my wonderful husband’s birthday. Since the days of long ago when I homeschooled my two oldest daughters, I have done them the disservice of teaching them that all family birthdays are national holidays. We took those days off from school, started the morning with a special breakfast complete with a birthday crown, a decorated chair, flowers and a special balloon. We’d then venture out to explore the world in the fashion the celebrated one chose.

Our homeschooling adventure lasted three years, and two months  into our life in “regular” school my daughter reported to her second grade “regular” teacher that she would not be there the following day—it was her mother’s birthday. Suffice it to say she did attend school the following day, but neither one of us was very happy that our tradition had been broken by the calls of, “the right thing to do.”

But school days are long over for our family and we’ve returned to the lovely birthday routine of days gone by. This morning I fixed a breakfast to be cringed at by any calorie-counting, carb-watching, fat-shaming adult and we headed out to see where the day would take us.

It was 88 degrees before noon, so we opted for an indoor, people-watching, coffee-sipping, Apple-store-drooling trip to the mall. As we drove the 5, we tuned in to NPR. We listened to an interview with a lovely, courageous woman at the helm of some city in the mid-west as she declared her city a safe place and her disdain for the hate that had been incited by a racist campaign. We listened to a report on the history of Steve Bannon until my husband turned it off with the gentle words, “It’s my birthday.” By the time we parked at the mall the lump in my throat was the size of a softball and I choked on my words to my beautiful soul of a husband.

“I want to be wrong, I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m the one apologizing one day because I’d overreacted and no one was hurt by the terrifying ideas that have been let loose.” I lost the battle with tears for a time, and he held my hand and quieted my heart with words that only love can manufacture.

When the skincare Kiosk guy offered to “fix” my eyes with his miracle cream, I politely refused and gave in to the idea that I was destined to walk around like a red-nosed raccoon for the rest of our day out. As they began to clear, not in small part from my husband’s generous humor, I took in the mall patrons. There were moms with baby strollers, wanderers, girlfriends on lunch breaks, ladies and men hurriedly hauling shopping bags of that last minute gift, that early holiday purchase, or that “had to have” item. What I noticed was the color of their skin, it was mostly a lovely shade of brown; black-brown, dark brown, light brown, golden. Their eyes were all kinds of shapes and shades, their hair was straight, curly, black, blonde, brown, pink, green, blue and sometimes I couldn’t tell, because it was covered.

I never had cause to notice the color of my country. This past week has brought it to the forefront, but today I was comforted by the many shades of America.

The Electoral College failed America. The idea of hate is doing exactly what we feared, it’s spurning incredibly scary times, but the thought that we’re still a beautiful melting pot of human consciousness gives me hope—I’m good with that, I look good in brown.

I noticed I take time off from writing here when all is well, it’s like one long birthday where I have nothing to do but celebrate life. Tuesday changed that—my tears are real, but so is my resolve to elevate my voice along with the rest who find the only truly intolerable thing is exclusion.

Silence nets us nothing.

 

 

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NMP Spells Angry!

Yesterday I was sad. Like so many of us, I couldn’t stop the tears from randomly rolling down my face.

Today I’m angry.

America did not elect Donald Trump. America elected Hillary Clinton. The outdated, two-hundred year old Electoral College elected Donald Trump; a dangerous, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, ticking time-bomb buffoon. That same Electoral College, created back in a time when only white men who owned property were allowed to vote, is now on the list of necessary change.

Regardless, he will be the next president. He is not my president.

However, I have an open mind.

Mr. Trump: If you would like to be my president, do not repeal Obamacare until you have the program you claim will be superior in place. Do not screw with the environment and cause our earth greater pain than we all experienced yesterday. You don’t think climate change is real?  It’s unusually hot in many areas around our nation this season, and not because we’ve just entered hell.  Respect the hard-fought rights of those who wish to love and marry the person of their choice…you did–three times.   Respect and ensure a woman’s right to choice when it comes to her own body, and while on the subject of respect…lose the gross, unappealing, sophomoric, sickening misogyny.  Work to get all equal pay for equal work. Don’t take us to war. You want to be the leader of this country? A country of mixed races, skin-tones, religions and sexual orientations – embrace them all. Quit threatening to take our country back nearly 60 years to a time of fear and tyranny. If you can’t do these things, then please step off.

If you do step off there is only more to fear.

Mr. Pence: How many friends, family members, acquaintances, staff members have you shoved into closets, locked the door and threw away the key?  Get with the 21st century – you think you can “pray away the gay”, the only thing we can hope is that we can pray away those that would even suggest such a thing. Why are you so afraid to accept people who only want to love? You don’t believe in “gay” love and marriage? Don’t sleep with or marry a man. It’s really quite simple.

To you both: You have succeeded in obtaining your red Senate, red House, red White House, soon-to-be red Supreme Court; you cannot blame Obama for the messes you will make, so be very careful how you proceed.

Speaking of Barack Obama; he is the epitome of grace. He has dealt with the most ignorant racism, your ridiculous accusations, gridlock, stonewalling, disrespect and stupidity by elected officials, all while reducing unemployment, creating jobs, getting our economy under control, mending relations with countries we were at odds with and still managed to be the classiest president we’ve ever had. He will be my president long after January 20th, 2017. DO NOT MENTION HIS NAME UNLESS YOUR TONE IS DRIPPING WITH THE UTMOST RESPECT! Seriously!

You want to be our president? Act like one. That’s all I have to say to you right now. You’ve got enough repair work on your plate. Good luck.

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Today, I’m angry. By now you’ve read a lot of rants like this one, and I do appreciate your indulging me while I complete my meltdown. But, it’s not really over. I’m not going to be quiet from here on. Social media makes it far too easy to write our Senators and Congress-women and men every day if necessary.

Speak up, shout out, make your voice heard. We spoke by voting Hillary Clinton into office, only to be told our voices don’t matter. I guess that means we get a little louder. Creating noise? Maybe…but silence gets us nowhere.

Roll up your sleeves comrades – we’ve got work to do.

 

 

 

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“Just Alright” Friday

I always enjoyed this one. Happy Easter everyone!

Several Stories High

This has always been a tough week for me.  In grade school it was customary to have Good Friday off, and the ABC affiliate usually ran “The Greatest Story Ever Told” at 3:30pm.

I wasn’t crazy about that movie.  Even my third grade self found it violent and just plain mean to Jesus who seemed to me a very nice guy — complete with Breck shiny hair and an extremely enviable BMI.

Not even the thrill of  dying eggs and the smell of hidden chocolate could take the edge off the heavy gray, usually drizzly, not necessarily “Good” Friday.

It gets chilly here in Southern California.  On one particularly brisk-breeze-off-the-ocean day, I was scheduled to meet Mr. Two-Day for a little rendezvous complete with a movie and make-out take-out.

I figured I would find him in a warm and welcoming flannel shirt, smelling of Old-Spice or Irish Spring and smouldering kindling — you know — those manly, man by the…

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Built from Snow

In case you’ve missed it, it’s snowing in the east.

I remember snow days. I remember they were few and far between just outside Chicago when I was a kid, in fact there would have to be more than a foot on the ground for school to be called. We’d wait patiently for Ray Rayner to rattle off our school at 7am and when he did, he was the local hero, and when he didn’t—we called for his show to be cancelled and vowed to hold Cuddly Dudley hostage until he came through.

School kids in suburban Illinois learned early how to navigate three foot drifts—in skirts, in order to board the 7:40am bus that showed up at 7:39am, even with a fresh 12 inches having fallen between dinner the night before and six a.m. It built character.

Then we moved to Virginia.

All grown up and with three daughters of my own, we’d watch the five o’clock news the night before an anticipated 3″ dusting and our school would be among those listed as closed. The girls would cheer and head to the basement to dig out sleds, boots, snow pants, hats, gloves and scarves.

Sometimes the three inches came, sometimes not, but the trip to the sled hill, the beauty of untouched white and the breathless climbs up the sled-hill after a good run were memories in the making. Memories we could pocket—and keep.

Today they got upwards of three feet. We only had a few that were close to that during the girls’ school years in Virginia, and they were magical. Our street became an army of shovelers helping one another, pushing cars for one more trip to the grocery store and showing the kids how to build a real igloo, one they vowed to spend the night in, but never got the chance. Crackling fires, warm beds and hot chocolate trumped a night in ice.

I remember one winter storm in 2010 when I donned my boots and gloves to head out to shovel the walk after a 15 inch dump of the white stuff. I was single again and the girls were grown and their interests had shifted from snow forts to friends and boys, so only dog paws across our yard indicated that anyone was home. I opened the front door and there were six men with snowblowers and shovels in our driveway. Six men who saw to it that me and my daughters were taken care of.

Snow angels had a whole new meaning from then on.

We watched today from the opposite coast and found the excitement from the east had spread all the way here. It wasn’t memories of wet foyer floors, boots in the middle of the hall or dozens of trips to the dryer to toss in wet clothes to be ready for the next venture outdoors—it was thoughts of fun and beauty, of crimson Cardinals and bright Bluejays on the back deck taking advantage of the bread crumbs we tossed to them—and sharing with the less vibrant, but equally hungry sparrows. It was thoughts of mulled wine and hot cocoa, tomato soup and grilled cheese lunches to nourish the young creators of snow families and sturdy forts. It was thoughts of neighbors and friends who didn’t go to work, but stayed home and played with their families, and the world didn’t end because of it.

My forever friend, who still lives in Chicago, once told me that Californians rob themselves of the joy of emerging from winter. That surviving storms was essential in building character. She told me this as we took in the shores of California during her visit to see me and remind me who I am. I find her statement to be true and I’m glad I had my share of storms, that showed themselves in many forms.

Storms do build character.

I felt a little guilty today, we live at the beach and it was chilly today, which we mentioned more than once. I thought of why warmer climates are necessary for some; the homeless, the elderly—I thought about the homeless and elderly back east, this type of storm isn’t fun, it’s life threatening, but I also thought of those who extended a meal, or a hand, or a couch, or a clear driveway—proving once again, that storms build character.

I remember waking up to the perfect snowday, where the children slept late and the flakes fell silently. Chimneys spewed smoke that melted the rooftops and made me certain the occupants were warm and safe.

A perfect snowday.

The inevitable will happen, cabin fever will set in, the thaw will come, the roads will be messy and the empty fridge will require a good trip to Costco—but for now, it’s magic.

Good for the soul kind of magic—the kind you put in your pocket and keep.

 

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Grace – Fully

My parents were married on October 15th, 1955. Four days later my father would return home to their Chicago apartment with half a cake from the local bakery and reveal to my mother that it was his 24th birthday.  From that day, October 19th was always special in our household.

My father has been gone ten months and twelve days now and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of him. I’ve collected countless pennies in a penniless world, I have dreamed of him, heard his voice and more times than I care to share, I’ve had to remind myself that he’s no longer here. At least not physically.

The gifts that he gave us were plentiful; his examples of love, loyalty and his ability to treat every stranger as the friend he hadn’t yet met were traits we came to take for granted – kindness was his way.

The lessons he taught me were plentiful, but one that resonates is when I was just 16 years old.  We lived by the Arabian Sea and my brother and I returned from our strict Kuwaiti school, traded our school uniforms for bathing suits and headed to the pier where my cousin and her boyfriend, who happened to be a Kuwaiti prince, would pick us up in his speedboat for an after-school treat of waterskiing.

An envious neighbor, who had witnessed our clandestined boarding of the boat, sent her little brother to my parents’ front door to tattle that we had left the grounds and were now waterborne.

We returned to see my father waiting on the pier. One of the more frightening sights of my short 16 years.

He scolded the prince and was not at all impressed when his bodyguard asked, “Do you know who this is?”  My cousin had opted to remain at sea on yet another royal vessel, so it appeared to my father that my brother and I were hitching rides from random princes with flashy speed boats.

A few days later the prince called our home and was granted permission by my father to stop by. I was on pins and needles, unsure what sort of rumble was to take place when the prince showed up.

The knock on the door meant the prince had arrived. My father opened the door to said prince holding a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates for my mother.

“Welcome,” my father said. His smile was genuine as he opened the door wide and waved him in.

The prince sat with him for some time, apologized profusely for taking us out on the seas without his permission and left our home with an invitation to return anytime.  I was confused.

Later that evening as I said my goodnights, I braved the question, “Why were you so nice to him? I thought you’d be angry.”

His response was this, “When someone comes to your home to apologize, you have no choice but to be gracious.”

That was all he said.

Lesson learned.

I miss him.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

What a fortunate daughter I was and will be forever thanks to the fact that you were my kind, gracious and loving dad.

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Forgive the Rant ~

I’m a little tired of the hate ~

I’ve been quiet for a long time. Primarily because it’s hard to write when you’re shaking your head at the unthinkable—the unbelievable.

I feel a bit of a rant coming on, so I ask that you indulge me while I purge.

The inflammatory remarks by presidential hopefuls about women, gays, Muslims, immigrants—both legal and illegal—and our current president are peppered with so much hate and misinformation that I can’t decide if I find it shocking, embarrassing or just plain scary.

Let’s start with women, shall we? Donald Trump is a buffoon with an unkempt squirrel atop his head, yet his misogynistic remarks toward his female opposition, commentators and anyone lacking the ability to pee standing up, continue.  While I’m not a fan of Carly Fiorina and do my best to avoid anything on Fox News, his remarks about these women were ridiculous and uncalled for.

Build a wall—really? What happened to the country we were so proud to be? What happened to the sentiments inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. ~ Emma Lazarus

What happened to our ability to embrace those whose situation is so desperate that they will risk life and limb to begin again in the land of the free? Each and every one of us is the result of an immigrant braving the journey to this great country.  If we are going to adopt the thinking of those against lawful and obtainable immigration, then surely we must take down the inscription and return the statue to its rightful owners who speak a foreign language and therefore aren’t welcome here.

Kim Davis – if you don’t believe in the rights of gays to marry, don’t marry a woman. I would not choose to marry a redneck and yet I respect your right to spend the rest of your life with one. Stop (illegally) shoving your personal beliefs down the throats of people who just want to spend their lives with the person they love the most. If you can’t do your job, then do the right thing and step away. In doing so you will relieve yourself of the task of issuing legal marriage licenses to same sex couples and you will relieve us of the hate and intolerance you spread.

Muslims are people. Like Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Lutheran and every other religion known to man, there are the good and the bad. ISIS is not a reflection of Islam in the least. They are insane radicals with no regard for life, liberty, history or religion. For Ben Carson to suggest that a person’s faith should determine whether they should become president or not takes racism to a whole new level. It seems we have taken so many steps backward.

The “All lives matter” movement isn’t just based on the color of skin, it is our responsibility to respect one another on so many levels—ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexual preference to name just a few.

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Upside Down—Inside Out

It’s Father’s Day and if there’s anything my Palestinian father taught me it’s that prejudice is pain.

I find it ironic that the movie “Inside Out” came out the week of one of the worst hate crimes in our history. Not because the theme is relevant, from what I understand “Inside Out” is about emotions, wearing them on our sleeves, saving them a place at the table, validating their need to make themselves known—then again, maybe the theme is relevant.

I’ve been quiet during these turbulent times of recent. I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around senseless killings, bullets to the backs, lives snuffed out more like some video game than the harsh reality that the trigger happy world we live in leaves behind.

Inside out. What if that were our reality? I can’t imagine a world where one would say “Her bones aren’t white enough.” “His blood’s not red enough.” “Those lungs aren’t pink enough, and therefore, he can’t stay.”

Turn us inside out and we all look the same.

My insides ache for those who sent their loved ones off to worship on that fateful Wednesday. My insides ache for the young man who allowed hate to take hold of the course of his life, setting him on a path of jailbird jumpsuits, painful hearings and the knowledge that he turned lives upside down. My insides ache for the fact that the powers that be in South Carolina can’t see the confederate flag for what it is, a symbol of prejudice. A symbol whose time has long passed. A symbol that, like floral wallpaper and trans fats, has to go.

I take refuge in the display of compassion from those who lost and those who embrace them. They are focused on the inside, the broken hearts, the frail attempt to look toward a future that no longer sees difference—only what makes us the same. Today the emotion that longs for a place at the table is grief. Grief in that we haven’t ventured very far from the days of 1963 when four young girls were killed for no reason other than the color of their skin. Grief that we have revisited hate, yet again.

We all bleed red. Our common color. Perhaps we should focus on that.

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