On Racism and Fires

Wesley’s mysterious asymptomatic fever that popped up on Thanksgiving returned last night, I made a bad food choice and had some stomach cramps (I eat plant-based but am also super-sensitive to vegetables so that makes life interesting), and my childhood playground in the Smokies started burning…all three of which gave me a very restless night and this morning I feel all sorts of terrible.

Not only did my family like hiking and camping in the Smokies as I grew up in nearby Knoxville, but I spent many years attending a summer daycare that gave us season passes to Dollywood (except I went when it was still called Silver Dollar City) and Ogle’s Water Park. The daycare took us to each place once a week all summer. We didn’t take many beach trips going up but I have a lifetime of memories associated with the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. Watching the footage from the fires last night sent me into a low mental state missing my Dad who tortured us with hikes through the Smokies our whole childhood.

(I didn’t look back fondly on those hikes until I was well into my 20s. As I child I found them terrible. I’d rather be at home reading Baby Sitters Club and thinking about boys.)

So today will be a sleepless day. Hopefully Wesley wakes up feeling okay, and hopefully I can function on minimal sleep.

I did want to pop in and share reading material with you guys. I share out tons of stuff on Twitter and Facebook but I want to be better about sharing stuff out here. Jodi Picoult (who I’ve never read but will now) wrote this great piece for Time and this quote really jumped out at me as it reflects the most concrete change in my life since I woke up to systemic racism.

A woman of color my age asked me how often I talked about racism with my kids at the dinner table. “Occasionally,” I replied, which—to be honest—was an overestimation. I asked her how often she talked about racism at the dinner table. “Every night,” she said. It is no surprise that the voice of the protagonist in my novel was woven directly from the words and stories these women generously offered to me; or that I turned to them to vet that voice for its authenticity before publication. Source

We talk about race ALL OF THE TIME in our house now. We talk about challenges and awkwardness and pain and microaggressions. We talk about how and why people of color use the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and I tell them how our poorly managed criminal justice system has taught them their lives don’t matter. This is probably the thing I can put my finger on the easiest in our house: We See Color. I used to do what Picoult did, try to teach “colorblindness” – but that’s easy for me because I’m white. My skin color does not play into my every day life. People of color can’t make teach colorblindness to their kids, so why should I?

No wonder we actively avoid discussing racism—it requires us to completely restructure the fictional narrative we’ve created of our lives. But then again, unlike people of color, we don’t have to talk about race. For us, it’s not omnipresent and it’s not a matter of life or death. We avoid the topic because we can. Ignorance is a privilege, too.

I’m the queen of social awkwardness and yet I’m trying to talk about race and racism the best I can because it’s a privilege to choose NOT to. This has conditioned me to now look at bigger pictures in my life. Not just with race but with poverty and religion. The fires in Gatlinburg are a great example. What about the poor people? Remember the terrible scene in Post-Katrina New Orleans? That was back when I was NOT woke to systemic racism and I naively thought, “Their own fault for not heeding the evacuation orders.”

I know. I know. That’s terrible.

But I didn’t see the big picture. I only looked at the world through my personal experiences. If someone told me to evacuate I would have savings to allow me to miss the day at work, I would have a working car to load up with my family and valuables, I would have money for a hotel or family in other areas capable of taking me in. OF COURSE I would evacuate. That’s an easy call for me. But not for everyone. And that’s something that is now a habit – but I had to learn – to think outside my scope of experience. What if you can’t really evacuate so you do the best you can do and go to a shelter of sorts but then you lose your possessions. My insurance would replace my house, but if you can’t even pay the bills every month you probably don’t have insurance.

I have a wider lens in my heart now…I see more around me. I had my heart permanently mounted with a 50mm prime lens before. That lens was great for close-up portraits of my life and my family, but everything outside of that scope was blurry. Now I’m trying to rock the fish-eye lens. It makes my family distorted and sometimes ugly, but it allows me to see the world around us in better detail and that trade-off is what waking up to racism is all about.

Simplifications are not Distractions.

I did a Facebook post yesterday referencing DT’s tweet that said there were “millions of people who voted illegally” and I looked at it as the PERFECT opportunity to remind my DT supporting friends and family that they don’t have to support the man they elected 100% of the time. I even referenced some of my complaints about the Obama administration as examples. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but I guess the rest of the world was screaming “STOP BEING DISTRACTED!” and so now I feel like I need to break things down a little bit because I sometimes feel like people on my side of the political spectrum are unaware of how the other side thinks.

First of all – I’m totally not supportive of our new president and yet…YET…even I get intimidated and confused by some of the pieces written about his business dealings and his Russian connections. Even typing that I feel embarrassed. Are people going to think I’m dumb? If I say some of it is hard to follow do I look ignorant? Am I ignorant?

So me…two degree holding, non-fiction reading, documentary watching, progressive liberal woke white woman sometimes feels intimidated by the anti-Trump press pieces because I have trouble following along.

How in the hell does a Trump supporter feel?

I’ll tell you how they DON’T feel. They don’t see the headlines and think, “Sure. I’ll read that.” And if they do, they’ll get to paragraph 3 and get frustrated (like I do) but because they support the subject of the article they just walk away and refuse to trust the person who shared it or the source that wrote it. Most of them hate all mainstream media already, repeatedly sharing out this stuff is not changing minds.

And do you know what my goal is? To open up the possibility that DT might have faults.

Do I think I can turn my Trump supporting friends and family into haters? No. And honestly? I’m not sure that’s what the country needs. What I want is for his supporters in my life who have doubled down now, I just want them to loosen their grip. I want them to be willing to see his faults. I’m not looking big picture, I’m just looking at my small circle of influence. I want people who voted for him to be willing to see that sometimes – just maybe – he’s not behaving in a way they can support. And am I going to do that sharing out articles about his Russian ties or Conflict of interests? No. Because they’re not reading it.

But maybe…just maybe…if I share out a tweet of 140 characters of his own words that are undeniably WRONG…maybe they’ll be willing to see he has faults? I’m not talking about changing the shift of the Republican party, I’m just talking about the few people in my life maybe being willing to at least admit he has faults. Then maybe we can communicate again. Now it’s very “us v/s them” and in my personal life I’m not looking forward to four years of that attitude. On a national level I’m joining political groups in town and creating action items, but personally? I just want to open up dialog on the possibility that maybe – just maybe – DT does stuff they don’t like sometimes.

Some days I get yelled at by people on MY side. I’ve actually been yelled at a lot. They think now is NOT the time to use kid gloves. We have to call out the misogyny and the racism! And on my public twitter platform? I do. And on my blog I talk about it a lot. But on my personal Facebook page? I’m thinking about the REAL faces reading my words. The REAL people. The people who would bring me food if a family member died. They people who would mow my grass if I was sick or injured. The people who would contribute to my kid’s fundraiser or help me pay a bill if I was jobless. THOSE people also voted for Trump and in your world maybe you can just dismiss all of those people, but in my world? I’d like to find a way to work WITH them. But I can’t while they’re nursing bruised egos from voting AGAINST Hillary. That’s all most of them did, voted AGAINST her. And now they’re having to support DT and they’re scrambling. I’m hoping to reach out to them and just remind them that I had problems with my guy too. It’s okay. Let’s start there.

A Simple Thanksgiving.

I would like to say that I forgot to post yesterday (DAMN YOU, NABLOPOMO!) because we were traveling or had tons of family in. But the truth is – we had the most simple and laid back Thanksgiving in the history of all Thanksgivings.

This is the year of the BIG family gathering (they do it every other year) with Donnie’s family in Louisiana but we decided several months ago we wouldn’t make the trip. We had several other travel plans in November and early December and we weren’t looking forward to more. But, we also knew we might get one day with E as he works retail and our chances were better to eat with him, if we stayed home.

So! E came in after work Wednesday night and then left Thursday night so he could work Black Friday.

We went out about 10am Thursday morning to do a few casual and quick family pictures with a tripod. Nothing fancy, it only took about 20 minutes, just enough so that we’ll have some pics for the Christmas card and so I’ll have a recent group shot in case E’s dreams come true and he gets a job offer as soon as he graduates in May.

(Let me know if you have any job openings for a Mass Communication major! Preferably NOT in Alabama!)

(Preferably to HIM, not to ME, of course.)

Since the majority of our family doesn’t eat meat, and since Donnie decreed he doesn’t even like us buying it (I’ve always kinda felt the same way, honestly) then we had no Turkey to fret about. I try to eat mostly vegan but I didn’t want that to eliminate things like Mac-n-cheese or creamy mashed potatoes from the meal, so I basically cooked TWO dinners, one for me and one for them. I did order two of the “THEM” dishes from my friend, but the rest I did myself! And it turned out lovely.

I also achieved my goal since we only had 5 people at our 8 person table – of getting all of the food on the table with us! I’ve never done that before, we usually serve in the kitchen. But this was nice! The food was all right there and it made a killer pre-meal photo.

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I even timed everything but the saffron rice perfectly. That was not ready in time but I made so much other stuff I didn’t worry about it. Everything else was hot and ready all at the same time! Score!

We chilled out for a bit after the meal and then headed to see Fantastic Beasts as a family at our favorite theater in town – the one with the full recliners. It was LOVELY. The guy next to me fell asleep and snored a bit, but other than that? LOVELY. It was just a sweet movie with some amazing glimpses into the different magical world in the USA. I loved it. It was exactly what I wanted – more to love. And it felt much more like JKRowling creation than Cursed Child did – not that I didn’t like Cursed Child – but this movie just felt like a seamless part of the her world. I felt HER in the movie, you know?

So we didn’t travel. We didn’t have any out-of-town guests (E doens’t count as he has a room here) and we didn’t cook a turkey. It was the simplest Thanksgiving ever and it was also just lovely. I love my family dearly and one of you mentioned in an email discussion about our problems with Wesley that sometimes you have to “circle the wagons” to protect your own. I’ve been feeling that more and more lately, that we are building our own safe places in our family and it’s just a great feeling to have a day full of just that.

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Faith.

The night of the election (this is actually not about politics, believe it or not) we were driving a friend home who we had given a ride to an election night event. We were all discussing empathy and Donnie casually mentioned not having much and I heartily disagreed. To which he replied sincerely to my friend, “What empathy I have, I learned from Kim.” He continued with something else along the same lines and I did my best to hold my shit together and not start sobbing in the back seat of the car.

It wasn’t just that he paid me such a sincere and wonderful compliment, but he did it to a friend and in front of our kids. My friend knew how special that was, she even brought it up a few days later. It was one of those moments that really broke the daily grind of our life and reminded me: Oh yea, we really do love each other.

I’ve tried to keep that moment in mind lately and when I think wonderful things about my husband, I share them. He was talking about something from work yesterday and I told him that I’m so in awe of him, even more than when we first met, and I was pretty in awe of him then. He responded that he’s in awe of me and that he doesn’t see how I do it all some days. It was a lovely moment of us giving each other truly heart-felt and sincere compliments and I was reminded yet again – I would not survive without him.

We’ve had our share of challenges over the past year. And while it seems like I dump all of my personal shit all over the interwebs, I truly don’t. I only share MY shit, but our family, our kids especially, the challenges around those people I simply dance around. Some of you have reached out to me when I’ve asked for guidance with Wesley, so you have some extra insight, but just know that my husband and I have had to be each other’s rocks in ways we never were prepared for when we exchanged vows.

I remember thinking a lot about that when I kept having miscarriages, and when my Dad got sick. You know – in theory – that you’re going to have to be there for each other on the dark days too – but you don’t know how that’s going to look. While I struggled this last year with my depression and anxiety and when I finally got help, Donnie rose to the challenge. And every challenge along the way (as there have been many in the last year) he has risen with me. On the days I am weak, he steps forward and grabs the reigns. And now that I’m stronger…on the days he feels week, he let’s me take control. We recognize each other’s limits and help each other when we can.

2016 has sucked for everyone, it seems. And our suckage is not any more than anyone else’s. But the beautiful, sparkling, silver lining is that we’ve both really awaken to how much we need each other. We’ve stopped the chaos and set aside time for each other even when we had so many other things that needed our attention. We’ve recognized that if things are crumbling around us, we can weather the storm if we have each other and so we’ve doubled down on our relationship and put more into it than we ever have before.

The last month has been really challenging and I think of all of my Christian friends who face trying times and have Faith that God has a plan and sometimes I’m jealous about that. I’m jealous that they can calm their worries with scripture and prayer. But I’m not jealous for long. Because I remember my faith in humanity and my love for my husband. I have faith that he and I can survive anything as long as we have each other.

And for that, I’m the most Thankful.

When All Else Fails – Talk Dumb Movies.

It’s another night before bed and I realized I hadn’t written my blog post for the day yet. This is the blessing and the curse of NaBloPoMo. I have to force myself to write but sometimes I’m just not focused enough to write anything coherent.

This is one of those days.

I’ve been really busy trying to catch up at work and try to organize a calendar and newsletter for our local Progressives (I know?! RIGHT!) and I’ve been trying to think a lot about faith and religion and how it relates to the future and fear (I had a good lunch with a friend today which got my brain traveling down that path) and I’ve been thinking about activism and complacency and I’ve been thinking about friendship and family and all of these ideas are just nuggets of blog posts but nothing really hashed out and I’m basically just staring at the screen and thinking: Maybe I’ll tell them about the amazing movie I watched last night?

The kids and I had a movie night since I didn’t see them at all over the weekend. We decided to watch the critically acclaimed: Central Intelligence.

AND IT WAS SO FUNNY. It was PG-13 – so it had a little bit of “adult” humor but it was basically mindless and goofy and it made me laugh and that’s what I needed. To laugh.

Anyway – I have a lot of seeds of profound blog posts, but nothing sprouting yet…so you just get my 5-star review of the dumbest, most awesome movie ever: Central Intelligence.