The Hardest Entry I’ve Ever Had To Write

I get embarrassed SUPER-easily. And that embarrassment haunts me for DECADES. I was trying to impress a guy in high school once with my smoking and lit the cigarette wrong looking like a dumbass and IT STILL BOTHERS ME. I honest-to-god DO NOT even remember the guy’s name, but I remember the moment and the shame and I wanted to die 1000 deaths.

So, please know, if I am openly drawing attention to something embarrassing I’ve done then I am REALLY STRUGGLING WITH IT.

But today I’m motivated by a few things.

1) Maybe other people can be brave and be open about similar hard lessons and
2) Maybe my embarrassment can save someone else from making the same mistake

I was very politely and kindly corrected about my post yesterday that using “illegal” immigrant instead of “undocumented” was problematic to the people to which I was referring.

The funny thing is that I considered the phrase “undocumented worker” which I had heard before but since I was not writing about these people in my community in their “worker” capacity, I wrote it off. And it’s not that the term “illegal immigrant” is wrong – but when I really sat down and thought about it – it is a harsh phrasing in reference to another human. “Undocumented” is much kinder if I really sit back and think about it. And in a post trying to write about kindness to humans? DUDE. I SHOULD HAVE USED THE KINDER PHRASING. DUH.

But damn, y’all. I’ll be honest. I cried. I’m so grateful that I was corrected BUT IT IS STILL VERY DIFFICULT. I was so embarrassed and worried I might have upset or offended someone that I spontaneously started sobbing in shame.

I will say this – the fact that I only had a flicker of defensiveness means I’ve really grown as a human. 10+ years ago when someone politely called me out for casually using the word “retarded” I got A LOT DEFENSIVE. It was not pretty. Eventually I sat with that and corrected my behavior but I WAS SUPER DEFENSIVE AT FIRST. And last night? When I read that very kind comment? I only had one teeny tiny flicker of defensiveness. The rest was shame and embarrassment and concern that I might have upset someone.

So, I’m learning. Still. Forgive me for any missteps along the way.

Bringing Humanity Back

I don’t argue with the idea that maybe we need better ways to monitor/protect our southern border to prevent undocumented immigrants from coming over. I get that, I really do. Especially living in Alabama. That’s not a debate I jump in on unless it involves building a wall, because I will NOT stand for that ridiculous expense. No way.

BUT.

I do feel like I need to bring the humanity back to the people living here illegally. I cringe at discussions of people in my community like they’re vicious animals or hopeless criminals. Some of the discussions I’m seeing indicate people have stopped thinking deeper than the surface “CRIMINAL!” label of their undocumented neighbors.

I keep seeing phrases like, “Just come over here the right way like millions of others do.” Or, “There are legal ways to become citizens, do that.” And I just feel like it demonstrates a lack of understanding out our undocumented immigrants from South of our border end up here.

First of all, many are uneducated and poor and living in crime-riddled communities or in war-torn countries. The “right channels” that people from other countries use to get here, usually involve college admissions or job applications. Or maybe travel visas. There is no way our poorest neighbors to the South can find any foothold that “right channel” way. But many are desperate, many have family already here, many know FOR A FACT that if they can get here and get to a community of Mexicans or Latinos (depending on their country of origin) they will be exponentially safer. And many have chosen that path instead of the “legal” path of just staying in put where they’ll die crime or in poverty. Across our border they see hope. They see safety. They see a future.

So of course they come over illegally.

You would too.

So that’s how many have gotten here…a decade ago in some cases. Many have had children here who are citizens. Or, many came over with small babies in tow, babies who are now in high school and know no other culture but ours. Many fear being deported (or worse, stuck indefinitely in some sort of ICE detention center) so they stay hidden. They don’t seek medical assistance if they’re sick and they don’t report crimes.

These are the undocument immigrants that people are thinking of when creating Sanctuary Cities. They are basically saying, “We know you’re here and you’re undocumented but – for the sake of our community as a whole – we want you to seek medical assistance and report crime. So, we won’t come after you simply for being undocumented.” And despite accusations people like #45, There’s no evidence that sanctuary cities see an increase in crime. Sanctuary cities are simply a way of saying, “We have more important things to do right now that waste resources on hunting down people who have committed no other crime than just coming here illegally to try to find a better/safer life.”

Looking at undocumented immigrants like they are criminals is being pragmatic, sure. I mean, they are, right?

But let’s look at them as HUMANS. Imagine what you would do in their shoes? If you knew someone already here who could help you get set up with a job, wouldn’t you rather come here than stay in the crime-riddled, poverty-filled, dead-end situation you’re in before? I just feel like we’ve lost our empathy when discussing undocumented immigrants in this country like they’re animals.

This is not about keeping people out, like I said, that’s a different debate. But people who have been law-abiding while they’ve been here, why are we using resources to get them out? I guess if you really wanted them to leave, the more humane thing would be to punish the people who hire them so that they don’t settle into our country as easily. But, just sending out raids to hunt them down and send them to ICE detention facilities – some who will stay there for SIX YEARS before being deported – seems contrary to the good of the community or of humanity in general.

I just think we forget to look at actual stories. Just like with “Welfare Queens” we tend to take the worst example and paint with a broad brush and assume everyone is like that worst example. And they’re not. I’m not saying there aren’t criminals and there is valid debate on what to do with undocumented immigrants – even in sanctuary cities – who commit minor crimes like driving without a license. In some states, profit was being made by jailing these people in cases of racial profiling. Others became burdens on an already burdened immigration court.

I don’t think this topic has any easy solutions, but I do think it’s important not to forget that something like 60% of undocumented immigrants have been here over a decade. They’ve escaped crime and war and poverty for 10 years and then we’re making it a priority to kick them out even if they’ve done nothing illegal after entering our country? Or at least nothing illegal not connected with being here illegally? They’re not voting no matter what #45 tells you. They’re just trying to keep their families safe and enjoy a better quality of life than they were previously destined for.

Which is really what we’re all trying to do, right?

I just don’t like humanity being ignore in any conversation. I don’t like personal stories being overlooked. Most of the people here illegally were just screwed by being born into poverty in a war or crime-riddled community. And they saw a way out. I can’t imagine a way we wouldn’t all have done the same. So I have a hard time with the judgement of these people as criminals who need to be banished when I see them more as people quietly looking for safety. I just don’t like the conversations like these people had other options to do it the “legal way” – because our “legal way” of being here legally caters to the educated and to people with money. Most of the people here illegally come here so their kids could be educated, and if their kids being a classroom with my kids teaches my children about empathy and diversity? We’re all better for it.

A Smorgasbord Of Topics

The one bad thing about not writing on Tuesday mornings (to work on my newsletter) is that I typically have a whole 48 hours worth of blog topic ideas to contend with Wednesday morning. I keep starting writing, stopping, and starting over. Since the “One Topic” thing isn’t working, we’re going to do this one several parts today. WHEEEEE!

Part 1: Toxic Stubbornness

We’ve made progress with Wesley and his anger and the types and levels of his outburst have gotten very manageable. There’s no more destruction in physical or emotional categories, there’s just some short quick outbursts we need to contend with. And he still gets irrationally pissed off, but it doesn’t present itself in such catastrophic ways anymore. BUT – we have entered the world of Toxic Stubbornness. Where he is just REFUSING to abide by things that ARE NOT A BIG DEAL AT ALL – like brushing his teeth. I mean: REFUSING. Like he has to stick to his guns or die trying. AND IT IS KILLING ME. I think I miss the days of him screaming that he hates me, this simple REFUSAL to do something when asked has sent me to my bedroom in tears of frustration multiple times the last few weeks. This is new to us, anyone out there have a kid who just sticks to his/her guns for no other reason other than to be RIGHT or to be IN CHARGE or to just MAKE THEIR MOTHERS CRAZY?

Part 2: Fighting Discrimination Outside Of Protect Classes

We’ve got a law in our State being proposed that would allow faith-based Adoption/Foster agencies to deny LGBTQ families. It’s being defended as “free speech” similar to the “I won’t make a cake for that gay couple” situation. I have a hard time arguing this successfully because we still don’t have legislation or federal amendments protecting the LGBTQ community as a “protected class” so it can be rationalized as simply a refusal to do business with someone like you would an asshole who walked into your store. But, as we all know, the government doesn’t just wake up one day and create a protected class before laws like this ever get enacted. Jim Crow laws allowed discrimination to happen legally until the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing all in the 60s. So, just because something is “legal” doesn’t mean it’s “moral” and until we have federal level protections, the best we can do is fight this type of legalized discrimination. If Hillary had been elected, LGBTQ groups would have started pushing for legislation to created a protected class for the LGBTQ community. Since we can’t be optimistic about that for awhile, we are on the defense and simply trying to protect people in the LGBTQ community from being legally discriminated against.

There’s no other point other than to put this in perspective and in context for past battles of discrimination against groups of people. I’m frustrated with this because the “First Amendment” argument has power until the LGBTQ community becomes a protected class and – especially in the South – that’s a hard power to go up against.

Part 3: Things I Can’t Ignore

I’m learning I have limits to what I can and can not work with when it comes to discussing things with people on the other side of the political aisle. And those limits relate to – what I think – is underlying feelings that people are not recognizing about their fellow humans. For example, when people start defending bathroom bills to protect the children, I really believe deep down inside they’re scared of people in the Trans community, or people who don’t fall into a specific end of the gender binary. Because there is nothing to back up predatory behavior occurring in a manner that this bathroom legislation would defend against. And if someone would just say to me, “I find transgender people to be creepy and scary and there’s something wrong with them,” then I could direct them to documentaries or YouTube channels (Skylar is my favorite) or something to help them instead of arguing about bathroom bills. But no one does that, no one looks deep down at what makes them REALLY uncomfortable.

It’s similar with racism. I can usually hit home with those as my transition from “Unaware Racist” to “Aware Racist Trying to Learn” has been well-documented. But still, there are many issues in which I feel like the underlying problem is someone’s refusal to acknowledge their own privilege (“But my life has been hard!” “Dude. Me too. But not as hard as if I did not have white skin.”) or the existence of systemic racism. When I know those are the underlying conflicts I want to do things like recommend reading of The New Jim Crow or watching of 13th.

But then we hit the point: What if they refuse to watch Skylar’s YouTube videos and see him as a human instead of as a “freaK”, what if they refuse to watch the documentary on our prison system? Or worse – what if they watch it all and STILL refuse to budge on issues?

I think it’s just I have an easier time when my disagreements are economic or religious. I disagree with a lot of people on abortion because I don’t believe in a soul so I don’t have this method of assigning value to a life that can’t live outside of the Mother. That I can accept. I don’t believe trickle-down economics works. I’m pro-tax. People who DO believe it works and who are anti-tax, I can accept because there’s not a lot of human factor. You can find economic reports to support your view and I can find some to support mine.

But human issues – human issues are the ones I really struggle with. I feel like you can’t ignore systemic racism if you open yourself up to some of these books and documentaries. I feel like you can’t judge a gay person or a non-gender conforming person if you just get to know them. I feel like you can’t want to send away illegal immigrants who have been law-abiding members of our community for 20 years, if you would just take a minute to realize that they’re just trying to take care of their family. I feel like you can’t turn away refugees if you remove politics from the issue.

I’m just struggling to realize I have limits. On human issues I want to push…I really want to convert the non-believer. I guess it’s like religion? I feel like, “If you just meet the right person, or hear the right story, your heart will change.” ACCEPT JESUS INTO YOUR HEART!

Anyway. No point, really, just something I’ve been thinking about.

Part 4: I Need A Reset

I can’t get on track with food and exercise lately. I think I need to start some sort of tracking program or something. That stuff has never really worked for long for me, but it usually helps get me focused for a few weeks. Like maybe I need to photograph my food. Or log my calories or something just to force me to think about what I’m eating (and why) because I have gained 20+ lbs in the last year, 10+ just since November, and I feel TERRIBLE. Like, SO SO TERRIBLE. I hate running because this body is heavier, I hate putting on clothes because nothing fits, I hate looking in the mirror because I can see the change. And it would be one thing if it was just from age or something but I know it’s because I’m stress eating and drinking more than I used to. I know I’m making bad choices. I JUST CAN’T STOP. And a lot of it is because my anxiety and depression have been rising up again since the election and my default treatment is: FOOD AND BEER.

So I need a reset. I need a new therapist. (We’ve had insurance changes AND I think I need to find one who can give prescriptions as we’re out of manageable territory.) I need to stop drinking beer every night to help me sleep. I need to stop eating potato wedges and candy. RESET. How do I reboot my health? I need to force a restart.

Conclusion

My head’s a mess.
Politics are exhausting.
Parenting is killing me.

A Reluctant Monday

Eight years ago this past weekend I was heading on a blog-related trip to Chicago and I wrote a super-benign entry about mousse and the liquid ban at airport security. I read that entry 100 times in the following weeks because the girl who wrote that seemed so surreal and magical. She didn’t know her Dad was dying, I guess neither did he, maybe. But she would get a phone call as the plane was boarding from her Dad’s doctor that would start a whirlwind of chaos until his eventual death 6 weeks later.

So this is always a weird time of year for me. I tend to spend these 6 weeks in a weird permanent state of grief as the calendar just serves as a constant reminder of what these weeks meant in 2009. The days in ICU, the angry days still at the hospital, the somber trip home, and the eventual first out-of hospital dialysis that would be the final straw to help him decide he didn’t want to continue dialysis or pursue treatment, then hospice and then the tidying of affairs and the waiting to die.

I was able to try to ignore all of that this weekend in the chaos of our trip with Eliah but today I can feel it settling in.

I don’t want the memories.

And that trip with Eliah – it was amazing – but it didn’t end how we wanted. While the show was superb (I saw it THREE TIMES) and the basketball game was won in the final seconds (I screamed like a crazy person), they didn’t actually come out the College Night victor. I saw so many of his friends just sobbing while he stayed strong and gave out hugs and told everyone to be proud. Watching him this weekend was a gift of stepping into his world and seeing his friend who love him and watching him lead in a way I could never do…it was an amazing experience making me even more reluctant to embrace today. I don’t know when the next time we’ll spend a long weekend with him will be as he graduates in a few months. I didn’t want the weekend to end with him or with my brother and sister-in-law. Seeing them always fills my heart and starting this Monday means I have to officially end our wonderful weekend together.

I don’t wanna.

And then there’s the fact that I haven’t really kept up with the news since Thursday. I posted some actions on Facebook for a bill we have in the Alabama legislature this week that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ families in the foster care system, but other than that? Completely out of touch. And I’ll be honest…I kinda liked it. I know that’s a sign of my privilege. My white skin protects me from people questioning my citizenship when I travel or assuming my intentions if I’m dressed a certain way, my middle-class status protects me from removal of free health care funding, my husband’s job-provided healthcare protects me from losing ACA, my lack of religion protects me from questions about my Faith and terrorist ties…I’m safe. My heterosexual relationship and my age keeps me out of concern of who is allowed to foster or adopt in my state. My privilege allows me to turn off the world for a weekend, and I am aware of that and I promise I’ll tune back in today.

But I’m reluctant.

If you struggle with mental health issues like I do, the dark days are happen. I felt this weight on me as I made my coffee this morning. I chose my Practice Reckless Optimism mug because I have weird spiritual relationships with my coffee mugs and I only drink out of a few because they all have the power to lift my spirit.

[Previous paragraph edited from version my blog sent in email. Casual references of a past mental health issue seemed to be misinterpreted.]

But even as I picked it up I felt burdened by dread for the day. The day that ends my sheltered weekend and forces me back into the real world where I have to stay alert about politics and legislation, where I have to relive the terrible days of 2009, where I have to start to accept my son is about to leave college and move on to his future, where I have to deal with the chaos of our home sale (still delayed) and work chaos after taking two days off and catching up on volunteer obligations and…and…AND.

Most Mondays bring me joy as I love the feeling of the start of a new week, a clean slate. But today? I just want to curl up in my bed and listen to some podcasts that make me laugh all day.

Is that too much to ask?

Let’s be kind to each other. Maybe your kindness to people you encounter today will create ripples of love that reach me on this reluctant Monday.

PMFV

Several people have asked me to explain this tradition at the University of Montevallo that I reference a lot this time of year on instagram and Twitter and Facebook. It’s called College Night and there’s usually official coverage of it randomly that I’ll share out as an explanation. Here’s one from 2015.

But I’ll break it down for you now as the Mom of the Male Purple Leader.

(In some circles, that sentence gets me MAJOR cool points.)

So, first. As a freshmen students are invited to join a family/side. Since Eliah chose Purple, that’s where all of my knowledge lies. You don’t have to, obviously, and people on the SGA can’t officially, but if you want to be involved with all of the School Spirit/Homecoming TYPE things associated with College Night, you choose a color. There are athletic teams but there’s no Football team so this is their Homecoming. You want to choose a side so you can be part of the festivities. And there’s a recruitment process and spirit events and I got reports almost daily this year. In the end, you find your family. And a family it truly is.

Purple has a few “things” – their animal is a cow and their “greeting” is the peace sign. It’s almost a tic that they all have this time of year. They “PV” each other with the peace sign everywhere they go. They throw it up in photos and use that emoji constantly. PV means “Purple Victory” and sometimes you throw an MF in there if you want to REALLY mean it.

They do things like have Purple Weddings. There are small ceremonies officiated by the Purple Leaders of that year. Then, all Freshmen are “adopted” by an older Purple so you have Purple Babies. They even have a cabinet position for someone kinda in charge of the Purple Babies.

Oh, yeah, there’s a cabinet, I’ll get back to that.

While being a Purple is a year-round thing, it mostly exists for College Night. College Night has being going since 1919 is is something like the “oldest Homecoming tradition in Alabama” or something like that. Basically Purple and Gold sides write, cast, costume, set dress, direct MUSICALS to compete against each other.

YES. IT IS A BATTLE OF THE MUSICALS.

It’s amazing.

There is a point tally involved and there are other ways besides the musical to earn points, but for the most part, the best musical wins College Night. But – there are tons of other ways to earn points. There’s several athletic events (as of right now, Purple won Volleyball and Women’s Basketball but lost Ultimate Frisbee) and there are several things they won’t know who won until after they see the point totals at the end of the entire thing.

One of those things is the SIGN competition.

This is kinda the “start” of the festivities and I went to see it 2 weeks ago.

Wait. Let me back up.

Eliah of course loves Purple Side and has been on the cabinet every year he could and in the show 3 years. He desperately wanted to be Purple Leader his Senior Year but it’s an election process and he had to campaign. As a Mom? THIS WAS SO HARD. I wanted him to win so bad because he wanted it so bad. Obviously, since my intro, he got it – but it was tough and I contributed to his campaign so he could buy buttons and stickers and such. He had to give speeches and win hearts. It was crazy and awesome. This was his campaign cover photo. (There’s a Purple Side Cheer that goes: Moo Psi Moo, Milk it, Milk it, Milk it!)

He got Male Purple Leader and the Female Leader is lovely and they’ll probably always be connected on a deep spiritual level after surviving this together. It’s a LOT, guys. I never knew until I went down there.

SO! I was there for the Sign Reveal/Pep Rally. The two sides build these signs (by someone on their cabinet) and it’s supposed to relate to the show in some way. Up until this point (this was late January) everything is TOP SECRET. While the show has been rehearsing for months, the cast is secret, the topic is secret, even the Purple Cabinet is secret. This sign reveal is the FIRST glimpse of what each side is doing. And this is Eliah and I standing in front of the MOST AMAZING SIGN IN THE WORLD. I’m hoping to take better pictures today in the daylight.

As soon as the signs are revealed, everyone goes to the gym for the pep rally. This is where each side takes turns “Circling Up” and the leaders give a pep talk and then they sing their side song. It’s a real song with harmonies and movies and it’s such a cool thing to watch. I watched Eliah and Giselle get everyone pumped up and it was this HUGE spirited family and I was just IN AWE. There are songs and cheers and then they reveal the cast and the cabinet.

And this weekend? Is when we find out who wins.

The show opened last night and here’s the kicker: Not only is my kid the purple leader but HE ALSO WROTE THE SHOW.

I wasn’t really allowed to talk about that until after it opened.

To say Eliah needs to win College Night is an understatement. His entire heart is in this event both as the leader and as the writer of the musical. I mean, one glance at his Facebook page and it’s basically taken over his entire life for the last year.

And it comes to an end this weekend.

Nikki and I are going tonight to see the show, then we’ll come back up to Huntsville tomorrow to get Donnie and Wesley to head back down again. I will see the show Friday night by myself. Then my brother and his wife are coming in all the way from Colorado and we’re going to see the final sporting event (Men’s Basketball) and then the final show Saturday night. Then, after both shows have performed, we stay in the auditorium and cheer and sing and wait until someone comes out and then both cabinets get on stage in their formal attire and stand holding hands while the person (SGA President? Maybe? I CAN’T REMEMBER.) reads SOMETHING. One year it was a passage from Harry Potter. But what both sides have done is given them their “token line” from their own show. And they are listening intently because the reader works that line into whatever they’re reading. That’s how they reveal the College Night winner. And so you know because the side reacts INSTANTLY and it’s like you’re knocked over by the wave of emotion/screaming/crying that rolls off the stage.

Purple side has to win, y’all.

So think all of your Purple thoughts this weekend. The show is AMAZING. I want a cast recording of it, I love it so much. (I got to see some rehearsals and Eliah has been sending me audio recordings as they work on the songs.) There’s a jailbreak song with some amazeballs choreography and I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I’m not biased or anything.

When I was there for the pep rally I got to shadow Eliah as he went to watch rehearsal and cheer them on, and then watched Volleyball practice and we cheered them on, and then we went to watch the cheer team and they showed us their dance routine as they were practicing. Eliah’s job is to be a part of ALL of it. He looks at all of these teams like they’re his children. He’s so proud of all of them. He can tell you something special about every person on every team and it’s BANANAS. I’ve never seen anything like it.

So throw your PVs in the air and wear your purple and know you’ve been adopted by me – Grandma Purple – into the most amazing family on any college campus. The Purple Side Family at the University of Montevallo. Because as their saying goes: A UNITED CIRCLE, IS A UNITED SIDE.