Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inescapable, Inexplicable. History.

In my lunch time travels yesterday, I came across the above graffito spray painted across someone’s garage. When I shared it with the family later, Viva said:  “Los Angeles? I don’t think so. I think probably Birmingham.”

 Whew, Black History Month, you are kicking my ass. You are giving my baby headaches, and stomach aches, and nausea, and trembly legs. You are interrupting her sleep.  For it appears that in 4th grade, the gloves have come off, and the reality of slavery is being presented to my child in class.

 (“Not the worst parts though,” she says. “Mr. B____ skips over the really bad parts.”)

They covered the Civil Rights Movement earlier, and that, she could get behind – of course, it is empowering to hear about taking a stand and forcing a change  – but slavery knocked her down.  My kid is super-sensitive to violence of any kind and she is also hyper-vigilant to any kind of injustice, so learning about the details of the slave trade literally makes her ill. We talked about the Middle Passage yesterday, and of how mind-bogglingly inhumane it must have been, beyond what we can imagine.

 “I hate history,” Viva said, her sweet eyes clouded. “Why do we have to learn history?”

 “Because those that don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it*,” I said. “And because it still influences who you are today. You are descended from slaves. Do you realize how strong your ancestors had to be, physically and emotionally, spiritually – to survive that? That blood is in your veins.”

 “That’s true. But still, I can’t wait until this month is over,” Viva said.

“It’s not easy,” I said. “I know, it’s tough.”

 “I still can’t understand how people could be so mean to other people just based on the color of their skin – how they thought we were inferior,” Viva said. “I mean, they thought slaves were stupid, but how would they do if they got stolen away from their families and taken somewhere they didn’t speak the language?”

 “They had to think that way to justify it,” I said. “They had to see slaves as animals, as less than human, to justify what they were doing to them.”

 “That’s messed up,” said Viva. “Especially because you take someone like Frederick Douglass – he was a slave, and he was super smart. When his master found out that the master’s wife was teaching him to read, he got beaten. Who does that?!”

 “You see what they were willing to go through to get an education?” I said. “It was a big deal just to be able to read and write. Slaves weren’t supposed to be educated. We are really lucky to live in the age we do, as far as that goes.”

 "Yeah, I see what you mean. If they could see what we know now, it would blow their minds,” Viva said.

 Yes, indeed. I honestly love these conversations as Viva begins to see the world in all its messy complications. I think it is important for her to learn the journey of this country and how it is part of a larger global journey and that our struggles with bias and prejudice are far from over, here and across the world.  

I love that girl. What an honor to be along for the ride.

* Which I knew I was paraphrasing, but naturally I mis-quoted. What George Santayana wrote (in The Life of Reason, 1905) was: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” On par with, “You can’t understand where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Back to Bidness

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is today.

Oh my GAWRSH, I have badly neglected this blog. Here is what has been happening:

(1) Work (you know the story there)
(2) Kids (lovely but exhausting)
(3) Husband working part-time some evenings, which means at times I am single momming it at the worst time of day - see #4
(4) After working all day, coming home and doing dinner/homework/baths and bedtime/cleaning up the kitchen, etc. = nuffin left.

I am rusty with teh writing thang. Need to flex my muscles. What is funny is that when I was writing regularly, I would always have things to write about.When I don't write regularly, I draw a blank when I sit down to do so.

I will not lie to myself that I will get up 30 minutes earlier to write. I am not a morning person. However, I am also not a night owl. God, I love sleep. Isn't it great?

Anyhoo, I am just going to set reminders on my phone to write for 15 minutes every other day for my own sanity. And I am going to kick-start this blog and get it to what I want it to be.

YEARGH!! (Doing my best Howard Dean.)

Blah Blah over and out.

Friday, February 01, 2013


Here's a time suck for you, if you haven't seen already:

We've all seen the classic Myers-Briggs personality inventory which breaks down how people perceive the world and provides you with a four letter personality type - for example, ESTJ or INFP. 

On The Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin came up with a different type of personality categorization, and here I quote her extensively: 

To see if you spot yourself in these categories, ask yourself:
How do I respond to an outer rule? A law, a traffic sign, a “request” from a spouse; a work deadline, an admonition from your doctor, an appointment with a trainer, social protocol?
How do I respond to an inner rule? A New Year’s resolution; a decision to exercise more; putting in work on a self-generated project (writing a novel, planting a garden).
With that in mind, consider whether any of these types rings a bell:
Upholder— accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution. I am an Upholder, 100%.
Questioner—questions rules and accepts them only if they make sense. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment.
Rebel—flouts rules, from outside or inside. They resist control. Give a rebel a rule, and the rebel will want to do the very opposite thing.
Obliger—accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.
I discovered that I am very much an Obliger/Questioner.  I accept some outside rules, while questioning those that don't make sense to me.  I don't respond all that strongly to inner rules. I am not self-motivated to make it to the gym, for example. I put in work on a self-generated project when I damn well feel like it.

What about you? Where would you fall in this categorization, and why?