What Do I Do About the Racism?

I don’t know how to write this post.

I thought about it all day. I thought about it in the early shower I took tonight, specifically early so I could try to process what occurred today. How to process what is haunting me in a way that I’m unsure how to handle it at all.

I haven’t brushed my hair yet, haven’t put lotion on my winter-dry-skin face because I’m trying to process the blatant racism exhibited at a meeting I attended earlier today.

I told my husband, my parents, my co-workers what happened. And I haven’t figured out what I ought to have done. So, in the hopes that I can tag this post properly and use the right hashtags in tweeting it to get some ideas, here goes…

I’m involved with an organization and today was my first meeting as a member of its Board of Directors. I have a deep affinity for the organization and the community it serves.

There are, of course, other Board members. And I understand that just like the every day life I lead, everyone on the Board brings different perspective to the table. Which is perfect, of course. It’s what we want.

But today…

A fellow Board member began talking politics in the middle of the meeting, entirely off topic, specifically commenting on how Michigan’s Governor, Republican Rick Snyder, was doing a really good job. And while I’m from the complete opposite school of thought with regard to Mr. Snyder and the job he’s doing on a variety of fronts, I have learned JUST enough in my big-mouthed experience to not engage in political discussion in groups of people who I don’t know terribly well. It’s better for all of us, in times like these, to hold our beliefs close and work towards the common goals that bring us together. Political discussion works fine around our dinner table at home, on our back patio, over drinks, or where that is the point of bringing people together. But not in this setting.

So, I bit my tongue.

I even kept my eyes and face down so that no one could see my reaction – I’m an open book when it comes to my emotions.

I’d done well, I thought, in avoiding confrontation and making a scene.

And then, the same individual who had commented on Governor Snyder’s really good job, segued into a discussion about Detroit, about how he couldn’t understand how all these blacks had been elected mayor and driven the city to bankruptcy all those years, and then had to elect a white guy to get them out of bankruptcy.

So…

To say I was shocked was an understatement. I don’t THINK like that, let alone speak in public like that.

But here was this guy, saying these things.

And — I averted my eyes, bulging out of my skull though they were, avoided confrontation and avoided making a scene.

I. Said. Nothing.

Nothing.

And it’s haunting me tonight, 12 hours later. Having said nothing.

I feel as though my silence, in this rural Michigan town, somehow could be construed that I AGREE.

And I do not.

But, how does a white woman like me speak up, in a room of all white men and women, in a community of almost entirely white men, women and children? What words could I have used? What could I have said?

Honestly – I’m asking HONESTLY. What could I have said that wouldn’t jeopardize all the things I’ve worked toward personally and professionally?

I live in this community. I work in this community. I LIKE the community.

I DISLIKE people speaking this way.

Part of it is naivete – it’s not like I don’t know there are people in the world who feel that way about other demographic groups – but I didn’t…

I don’t…

I don’t know.

I could have made a statement, of course. I could have used my words – which can be sharper than knives – and could have stood up for how these words and the discussion made me feel. I could have said that it made me feel uncomfortable. But that would have put this person on the defensive, I fear, and it would have been confrontational. It could affect my work. It could affect my livelihood.

I guess what I am searching for are words – for the next time I find myself in a scenario where the discussion makes me feel uncomfortable and how I can deflect the topic while making it clear I do NOT agree with the views.

Sharing memes on facebook doesn’t change the way racism affects me, affects the community my family lives within. But the way I react and the words I use — maybe they can.

So what can I do? And how do I do it?

 

Daycare Is No Place For Politics

I had a troubling thing happen this afternoon, Election Eve.

Quite remarkably, I’ve avoided heated confrontation this election cycle. This is partially due to Jon’s calming influence on me (“it’s not worth it” he says) and partially due to age and perspective. Either way, I sort of stayed the course this afternoon (to use election-ease on you) and stayed true to myself at the same time. I am able to rest easy tonight.

I had today off, after working the weekend. I enjoyed my day, with Elle at school, truly doing mainly nothing. Jon heads to work at 6 p.m., so at about 4:15, I was off to pick her up from ‘school’ aka daycare.

Let me intercede and say that I chose Elle’s daycare because of its location – convenient – and my knowledge of its owner, who I went to high school with. I chose the daycare because the teachers, manager and owner seemed (and still do) truly invested in the care of my child. It was all run on the up-and-up. I’ve never really thought twice about Elle’s care there – other than the fact that they often call her Ellie (which I’ve asked them not to) and that it’s quite religious-oriented, which I am not comfortable with at all. But I ignore my misgivings about the praying before eating, the religious songs playing daily, the Christian rock station in the entry way, because I understand that no child care locale is perfect, and this is what I have to reconcile. These are my problems – not Elle’s, not the teachers or anyone else.

I didn’t know when I was looking at the daycare that it was so religious-based. Didn’t even know it while I toured it and spoke with the manager and owner. Only when I began the paperwork process did it allude to the Christian influences of my child’s care.

And despite my own beliefs, I chose to enroll my child there, because I wanted to begin building friendships with kids her age and with parents of kids her same age. I have envisioned my child sharing time and space and ‘we’ve known each other since pre-school’ stories with her peers as she’s graduating high school. I did not make my child’s daycare decision lightly.

But today…today my gut told me to look elsewhere. And all because of this $2 billion election and because men and women who normally agree on the majority of things have singled out the minority of things to disagree upon.

Today’s event: I got to Elle’s school at 4:15ish and followed another Dad into the room. Elle was thrilled to see me and me her. Her teachers told her they loved her, rubbed her back, updated me on her day. It was everything I would hope for my child’s care.

Everything.

And then, I went to the touch screen computer where I punch Elle in and out everyday (kind of like work, right?!). And there, attached to the counter, directly below the screen, was a print out.

This print out.

And my stomach turned.

In fact, ironically, it flip-flopped.

I was absolutely sickened by what I had seen. And I didn’t know how to react. I took a breath, I walked to the car with Elle in my arms, conscious of not embarrassing her or myself or Jon or our families who have to come in and out everyday.

I wanted to leave and drive home and let it go.

I truly did.

But I couldn’t.

I’ve felt silenced in this election, felt ostracized, felt sometimes as though my views should be hushed because it’s not worth the controversy.

And today was the straw.

I was sick that the employees of the SCHOOL where I send my child may be being bullied into thinking one way or another. I was sickened that the owners and management should be so absolutely biased – outwardly so – regarding their personal and business preferences. I was terrified that the views of the owners and managers – and thereby the school’s employees – would be transferred onto my child.

I felt as though school were a safe place.

I turned around, I punched my security code into the door and walked into the manager’s office.

“Ummm…” I started, unsure of what was going to come out next.

Rather ungracefully, I continued,”I’m really bothered by that list you’ve got at the computer…I’m just uncomfortable with it…”

The manager looks at me like a deer in headlights, as though she perhaps had never thought that there were people in the world who thought differently than her.

“I don’t know,” I say, throwing up my hands. “It just bothers me.”

And I walk out.

I didn’t have a tone. I wasn’t upset. I just wanted MY VOICE TO BE HEARD. Which is something that I don’t know will happen anywhere else this election season. It was that I considered Elle’s daycare a safe place — and today it wasn’t. It became just as ugly a battleground as Ohio.

I was upset. I was shaken. I came home and woke Jon and told him what had happened, and he told me that this is what we can expect, when political groups are encouraging employers to sway the votes of their employees. That this is the new normal. That Jon wasn’t upset I’d woken him attests to the fact that the situation merited being bothered.

I tell my Dad and my Uncle Bill. They shake their heads. But there is nothing to say.

I go to Jon’s parents, looking for guidance and insight I’m sure they can offer.

And there really isn’t any.

This is the climate of politics in our world today.

I decided I would sleep on it, I would decide in the morning if it warranted a note to the school’s owner. I didn’t want to react on emotion alone, I wanted experience, education and insight to guide my way. I did not want to embarrass anyone – my daughter, my fiancee, or the rest of our families.

And I returned home tonight, checked my email, already having the blog begun and the title of this blog post in mind.

And then, from the owner:

“I wanted to personally apologize for the front desk posting. I completely agree with you and I am thankful you voiced your concern to Bxxxxx. It was removed immediately.
Although we may want to support ending abortion that is simply not the time or place.

My apologies, “

I was heartened by her truly heartfelt and quick response. I was glad to have spoken up.

But that last sentence.

…although…support ending abortion…not the time or place…

I had actually hoped that I had been reading more into it being posted from “Right to Life” than was necessary. I had hoped that it was ignorance, where that posting came from, that it was just the website they happened upon. I was hoping it was complete naivete. I sort of hoped that they had simply printed any old email they’d gotten…but it seems it was on purpose. It was thoughtful, purposeful.

And it makes my body ache – almost more now, after reading the response. I believe that they love the children they care for. I believe they have the best in mind for the families they serve.

But what – what – do they hope to accomplish for the women raising and rearing the children they entrust to them the large part of most days? By forcing their views (in my opinion, by even HAVING those views on women’s reproductive rights) what do they do for the women they watch struggle to pay the daycare bill on time, get to drop-off and pick-up on time? Where does the absence of options get us in any situation, especially this one?

It’s not simply about me – it’s about respect for WOMEN – all women that walk through the door of your business. It is about understanding your role as a touchpoint of your local community. It is about having faith – true faith – in more than god and religion, but in the human condition and its resilience in the face of adversity – whether that is parenting or NOT parenting.

Out of curiosity, I looked it up. You can too, here.

There is no reason for this to be an issue that divides us, that triggers participation in your democratic duty to vote.

There is no reason for this to keep us up at night, for this to be the reason that an individual votes one way or another. But it should absolutely be the reason that you maintain your voice, so that if you encounter a situation like I did today, that you can speak up, you can voice your opinion diplomatically, and move on. And live to work and play together another day.

Perhaps Congress should take note.

And the politics should stay out of daycare.

Wait, THIS Is My Life?

I was supposed to have a baby named something like Payne (after Payne Stewart, the late, great, knicker-wearing professional golfer). Or maybe a Peyton (played out, by the time my time came around). Or Maddox (after Ford Maddox Ford, because, you know, I WAS an English major) but then Angelina and Brad started their family-building initiative and that name went off the list.

I figured I’d have a dog named Comma, or maybe Fitzgerald (F. Scott, anyone?). Again, I’m an English-major-dweeb.

I was going to host dinner parties with placecards and over-planned menus.

I thought I’d take cooking classes and be a wine snob.

I was sure I’d be married and have birthed all my children (all five of them) by age 27 because, well, that’s OLD.

I’d be one of those annoying, slender, skinny Pilates-doing women with a perky ass, perky tits and arms that Michelle Obama would want.

My house would be my dream house, all the rooms ready for their photography moments and set to be featured on the pages of Pottery Barn-House Beautiful-Restoration Hardware.

I’d be THAT neighbor who had a plate full of sugar cookie cutouts because, as everyone would know, I have an ever-expanding cookie cutter collection. Said neighbors would thoughtfully pick-up obscure cookie cutters on their respective travels and I’d send nice thank you’s on personalized stationery.

And then, last night, I realized, I named my child a name that was NEVER on the short – or the long – list of names I had selected for my children two decades ago.

It was weird. This flash of recognition that my life is different because I didn’t end up choosing a name for my baby that was on my original list (yes, gentlemen, lots of us gals have lists of names we are intent on naming our children years before we cross your path).

Turns out, I still have never had my own dog because, unlike children, you NEVER have to stop picking up their poop.

I haven’t hosted a legitimate dinner party with placecards in my life — though I’ve had parties and I’ve had dinners. I don’t even know anyone who wouldn’t find me incredibly stuffy if I actually thought to make a seating arrangement for a dinner. I have good friends and smart friends and I’m pretty sure they’re capable of choosing their own spot at the table (or in front of the tv, as the case may be).

I’ve wanted to be a wine snob. I know enough about wine glasses to know what is allegedly a good glass (when they’re one piece instead of having a ridge at the bottom and/or top of the stem). But, I drink less-than-$10-a-botttle wine. Michigan wines, wines purchased at Meijer and various grocery stores. Domestic wines. What can I say – just one more way this isn’t the life I envisioned at some random point in my history.

And, as far as having my FIVE children (HA – RIGHT!) by the time I was 27. Well, I didn’t even meet Jon until I was 27 and we’re not approaching marriage any time soon, so…I don’t know exactly WHEN I thought this one up, but at some point before I was 27, I assume.

The last time I did Pilates was, well, I can’t even remember. The last time I did something truly aerobic with a nice, solid sweat was too, too long ago. My arms are flabby and the thing standing between me and being a jogger is that I don’t have a ponytail that swings. Seriously, I’m growing my hair out so I have a better jogging ponytail.

I can’t make this stuff up, folks. This is who I am.

I have the house I loved when I was small. It needs a lot of work. Parts of it I love. Parts of it I abhor. Parts of it I can see coming together. But one – ONE – room in the house is complete and that’s Elle’s room. Ugh.

I haven’t had the energy to make cookie dough, create the mess and clean it up, let alone decorate cookies, and then willingly walk to the neighbors to deliver cookies. Which means, no thank you notes to write for cookie cutter gifts that never arrive. But at least I’ve got boxes full of thank you notes at the ready – just in case. Heck, I can barely get the dishwasher unloaded and don’t get me started on how many times, on average, I wash a load of laundry. I put it in, it’s clean, and then I forget to move it to the dryer. So, it gets re-washed. Current average: 2.1 washes per load. NICE and environmentally friendly.

So, this is my life. My kitchen counters constantly need to be wiped down and Jon and I leave our coats anywhere that’s convenient throughout the house. I haven’t done more than dust-mop the wood floors in way too long. The vacuum is sitting out in the basement, but it hasn’t been run. The laundry is probably still in the wash, waiting for the day, some day in the future, when I finally remember to transfer it to the dryer. Folding it before it’s wrinkled is another story all together.

I have a lived-in house that’s been full of friends and family. I have a PHENOMENAL daughter and a wonderful partner who’s an awesome dad. I have 800+ cookie cutters that I can brag up as a collection of my own. Jon’s painting the bedroom this week — so maybe it’ll be ready for its close-up soon!!

So yeah, THIS is my life.

Not what I planned – but the one I prefer.

Except, I’d still like a perky ass and a good jogging ponytail.

Just Pencil Her In…

I’ve brought this on myself, I realize.

And I”m ok with that…

But tonight, I contemplated penciling in time with Elle tomorrow before the checklist of things to accomplish for hosting Jon’s Dad’s side of the family at our house at 2 p.m.

Yes, penciling in time with my daughter.

I felt like that was too Manhattan-ish for me, so I didn’t actually write it “Cuddle Elle” but I thought about it, which made me mad. But then I wondered, am I actually on to something that I’ll have to do in the future??

~~~~~~~~~

One of my oldest (longest…she’s not my oldest friend by number of years…) friends, Katie, is back in town from London with her husband Paul and their six-month-old son, Carter. Seeing Carter today at Elle’s second-try with Santa was TOO CUTE (Katie’s parents and my parents are members at the same golf course, and the course hosted a Breakfast with Santa this morning). It’s so awful some times when your best girls live far away, and these HUGE life things happen and you can’t share some of the day-to-day frustrations and triumphs of it all. But, anyway, it was so great to hug my old friend today and to meet her baby. Carter and Elle seemed to enjoy one another, too.

~~~~~~~~~

Santa came to the golf course breakfast this morning and Elle was awake (only because we practically pinched her) to meet him. She didn’t feel one way or another about Santa, which I didn’t figure she would. She’s not at a point where strangers freak her out.

However, Santa did come bearing gifts and Elle received a Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk jersey! Datsyuk scored a few goals for the Wings tonight, so I feel like it’s a good sign.

Weird, she now matches her Grandma and her Grandma’s Datsyuk jersey.

Hmmm.

~~~~~~~~~~

This post is a little random, so bear with me. I’m trying to get out all the things I’ve thought I should get into my diary-as-blog.

My Mom was given up for adoption (as a sidenote, I just struggled to classify adoption as being ‘given up’ as, in some cases, that is not an adequate description). Anyway, my Mom was adopted when she was three months old. Between the time she was born and the time she went to live with her Mother & Dad, there was maybe three months (give or take…I’m not exact on the numbers off the top of my head).

Elle is nine weeks old.

It occurred to me last night, as I was cuddling her and we were laying in bed before she went to sleep, that my Mom was in a foster care home at that point in her life.There was no “mumma” to love on her, no one who had seen her idiosyncracies since day one, no one that necessarily understood what which cry meant, who knew how to soothe her in the ways she liked to be soothed. I have a line that I’ve said to Elle over and over again since she was born; I sing her the same song at night when we’re in the rocking chair (for point of reference, it’s “Corey’s Coming” by Harry Chapin which, I know, is TOTALLY not a lullaby or anything close to it, but I like the story of it and the line that goes, “…that’s when he smiled and said ‘reality is only just a word’. I digress.).

Anyway, my Mom didn’t have that from day one. And not to say that she didn’t get it when she got to my Grandma and Grandpa who adopted her…but those early days, well, were different.

I’ve found myself, a time or two, contemplating what it had to have been like for my Mom’s birthmother (Judy, who my Mom found later in life and got to have a great relationship with) at 17 to have had a baby and then given her up for adoption.

I realized I don’t know the particulars. I don’t know if my Grandma got to hold her at all, for a day, for three days, before she had to go back to her life in an era when it was absolutely NOT ok to have a baby out of wedlock. How hard it must have been, to take that huge chunk of your heart and send it out into the world without your protection. I know that 17 is young, but you have to imagine that it would rip parts of you to shreds regardless of your age.

So, I held my nine week old girl and felt in most ways closer to my Grandma, who died in 2006, than I have before and in some ways I felt more removed. Because I appreciate even more now how hard it would be to have a child and let her go – whatever the circumstances. And because it’s hard, I feel like it would be impossible for me, so I don’t know how she did it. I felt sorry for my Grandma, that the era she was born into didn’t really allow for her to keep her baby – my mother. And yet, if she had, her life – and the lives of countless others – would have been indelibly different.

Actually, you think about all the people whose lives have been positively affected by my Mom being in them…my grandparents who adopted my Mom and all their relatives and family and friends; my Grandma Judy and the family that she built for herself and then welcomed my Mom and our family back into 26 years after giving birth to my Mom; my Dad’s family who know all of the sides of my Mom’s family and story; friends, friends of friends, my friends…I come with a lot of familial baggage to be certain, but I think it’s all positive and most people are better for having come in to contact with me and the craziness that is my family.

And to think, it centers around my Mom because of a decision her mother was forced to make in 1954.

I also found myself wondering if this is something that my Mom’s sisters (Judy’s four daughters with her husband, my Grandpa Jerry) had these feelings after they had their children. And how that felt, when it’s your Mom – not your Grandma – who you’re trying to relate to and understand through this new lens of motherhood.

A decision I can’t fathom being forced to make and that I wish I would’ve had the chance to discuss more with my Grandma, about what it was like, the emotions…because I feel like the empathy I have now for what that must have been like…

Anyway, I’ve just been thinking about this a lot lately…definitely helps to shape my view of how lucky I am to have my girl.

Ok…

~~~~~~~~~~

That’s all tonight. More soon.

Driving Away

Yesterday I paid the registration at day care and, as I was driving away, I got a little misty-eyed. And I didn’t have the baby with me, didn’t leave her at ‘school’ and don’t have to face that down until January 9.

But I still cried a few tears.

And then, there I was tonight, putting Elle in bed (her bed, by the way, which is where she is currently resting peacefully. I’m listening on the monitor. Sometimes, she doesn’t go down this easy, but it was a big day for her at Aunt Jill’s house!).

Anyway, tonight I put her to bed and was sitting on the floor next to her bed, staring at her through the slats in her crib (yup, I do that some nights) and it hit me (once again) how amazing she is, and how I know all her favorite things and how she likes to be held to fall asleep.

And I know that that doesn’t end just because she’s going to school three days a week…but, well…wait. Do I know that?

So, I cried again staring through the slats in the crib.

And I’m doing it again now.

What. The. Hell.

I’m struggling with – I need to be a strong, feminine, smart role model for my daughter so that she, too, will be all those things and more. And yet, how can I be that role model and IMPART the importance of that to her, when she’s with OTHER PEOPLE all day long?!

When I got to Aunt Jill’s today to pick Elle up, she was crabby. As I drove home, I realized that I saw her in the morning, got her ready to go, headed out the door, dropped her off, and then did what I had planned for the day. I picked her up in the afternoon, and headed home.

On the drive, it struck me that when we got home, she would be ready for a bath and a bottle and bed. And I realized that my life will soon be a string of days like that, when I see my baby girl for all of an hour or two each day before she sleeps again.

So, I relished bath time and dragged it out awhile longer. I took a longer time drying her off and rubbing some smell-good into her feet.

And then, I held her and fed her and rocked her good night.

So now, I have time for me. But I don’t want it right now, not when I missed a whole DAY of her little life.

In some ways, having the time off at the holidays has been great. It has allowed me to do all the things that I want to do and get ready for the holidays without the stress of having to worry about work…but yet, I feel like we’re overwhelmed with holiday plans (which I made, keep in mind, before I had this epiphany hit me in the last two days) and as a result I’m sacrificing my one-on-one time with my girl.

So, tomorrow, it’s all day.

And I’m already in my head thinking about all the ways I can spend Saturday with her without the distractions of other ‘stuff’.

This is what having a Baby Brain (hence, the blog title) does to a woman. Driving away on a random Tuesday afternoon in tears, the mere thought of getting left behind by the details of my daughter’s life choking me.

Little Socks

Another quick thought I wanted to be sure to capture…

 

I made it my goal to catch up on laundry yesterday. I have pretty much accomplished this feat and have been carting folded laundry and matched socks up from the laundry room throughout the day yesterday.

As Jon and I were preparing to head out for drinks last night, I saw something on the floor, out of the corner of my eye.

It was a pair of Elle’s socks that must have fell off the top of the pile of clean clothes, balled up into their one-inch diameter size, with little bows to boot.

And once I realized what they were, and that they weren’t doing any harm, I left them there for a few more trips up and down the stairs…and every time I saw them let myself smile a little bit, because it feels so good to have a home where little socks can be found on the floor.

So today, I’m thankful for little socks and for the little girl who wears them.

First Love

My brother used to date this girl, April. He was going to school at Central Michigan and so was she, and they seemed to have all the ups and downs that you have when you’re a freshman in college and off on your own for the first time.

April and Trevor dated on and off for, well, I don’t even know how long. She was around on random weekends and stayed at my parents’ house when Trevor was there, too.

I tried really hard (ok, not THAT hard, but pretty hard) to make friends. I wanted her to like me and think I was funny. I don’t think she did. Trevor wanted me to like her, too.

And I watched how toxic they became, after awhile, for each other.

But honestly, it was drama that I’d had myself and I think more than anything I just was trying to save my little brother from going through the same heartaches that I had gone through.

Alas, friends, you cannot stop heartache any more than I could stop a train by standing in its tracks.

April and Trevor stopped officially dating a long time ago. They’d see each other every now and then, meet for a drink, meet for lunch. It always bothered me, quite honestly, when Trevor would sheepishly admit he’d been ‘to Novi’ (where April was) or when he wouldn’t tell me who he was spending time with. I always knew it was April.

A few years ago, Trevor began dating Ashley and they’ve been on and off for awhile now. April has remained a looming remembrance in Trevor’s life – if for no other reason than she is, looking back, his first real love.

I tell you all of this because…

Well, because April died on Thursday. She had a brain aneurysm at the age of 23 and died.

My brother told me she was in the hospital after having a brain aneurysm. Now, I am not a doctor, but I knew enough to know that there are a miraculous few who may have an aneurysm in their brain and survive. I also knew enough by the look on the face and the slouch of his shoulders that she was not the miracle we look for.

I won’t pretend now that this tragedy has hit her family and friends that she was the top of my Christmas card list — but my heart aches for her family. My heart aches for the people that knew her — truly knew her. But more than all of that, my heart aches for my brother.

My Mom’s comment to me was, “There’s something with my children and losing their first loves.”

Unfortunately, there is.

So, I told Trevor what I’d been told.

This is something you will get around, you will not ever get over this. This will remain a huge boulder in your life.

Deal with this in inches, not in miles.

April’s memorial service is tomorrow and I’m unable to go. Quite honestly, I don’t know how her parents can handle this. I’ve not wrapped my mind around the enormity of it all…the fragility of life. The fact that her mother could not have done anything to stop her death, even if she’d tried.

That terrifies me.

Like I said, you can’t stop heartache, no matter how hard you try.