Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Racism Does to the Young

There are some things that I can't stand to know about myself. Reminders of who I was and how I once thought that come flashing to my mind, triggered by something I see.

Like the shooting of Michael Brown. Like everyone's reaction to this death of an unarmed black man. Reactions from people that are so vocal, I can't believe I know them. Surprising me so much, with their hate and the disregard for another human being, based on skin color.
Some say that the goal is for a society to be color blind. I'm not going for that. I love the different colors that we are and the beautiful cultural differences we bring into each others' lives. I don't want to not see your brown, yellow, bronze, beige, coffee, tones.
But when I read of this hate and anger toward people, purely based on a color difference, it takes me back to when I was a child. And I would let people say things to me that weren't kind, and allow them to ask me questions that were personal and rude, and how I did nothing, but accept that behavior from them. By not saying no, or refusing to be addressed that way, I was letting them do the very thing that we are allowing people to do now. To have disregard for those that are non-white.

This week has me feeling broken, thinking of when I was seven years old, when my school would serve tacos for lunch and the kids would throw them on my tray, saying, “Here, you eat them. It's your kind of food.” I would say nothing, my face would burn so red I could feel the sweat prickle under my hair. But I never stood up for myself. I was learning that I was different, and someone to be ridiculed.

Or when my high school boyfriend's parents told him he couldn't date me anymore, and so he stopped, telling me word for word that the reason his father gave him was “Stick to your own kind, Chris.” I didn't stand up for myself. I was learning that I was something less than what someone wanted for their child.

Reading the news of this week brings floods of moments, like when I was in college, shopping for a dress with my then roommate, I tried on a figure hugging stretch dress for a wedding. She said, "Oh, that's right. You guys wear your clothes tight," even when everyone was wearing lycra in 1984. I said nothing. I was learning that there were was only one way that the women of my culture were seen.

Driving with my brothers when we were teenagers, we were so used to being pulled over for no reason, that we didn't even feel the surprise when we'd see the police lights flash behind us. One day, we had a friend of mine with us. The police lights came on, she panicked and asked what we did wrong. Did we do something wrong? she wanted to know. We looked at each other, not believing she didn't know. My brother said, “This? This happens all the time.” I was learning that we were powerless at the hand of the law.

For every story I remember, there are fifty more that have gone to the wind. It's been like this since I was a little girl. Both the talking to me like I'm lesser than others, as well as my remaining silent.

I didn't say anything when these things were said to me. And by not saying anything, I was saying it was fine. That their behavior was acceptable to me. There are a thousand reasons that I was quiet for too long, but most of all, because it happened so much, over and over, that it felt like nothing would change, and especially, that my voice didn't matter. And I came to wonder if I was too sensitive. Or maybe I imagined it, I'd tell myself. Maybe it's not as bad as it sounds, I'd explain to myself. I had been taught to not trust my feelings.

But with Michael Brown and the dialogue and stories from others that are coming out, I'm seeing the truth. The truth is that when people in my town ridicule my children's names, it's racism. When the store in our town asks me for an I.D. card when I use a credit card after I see the three white women in line in front of me have used theirs without being asked for the same thing, it's racism. When someone hands me a card for a Spanish interpreter at the hospital by assuming I don't speak English, it's racism.

It's 2014, and we still have racism. We've had the same racism that I have known since grade school and the teacher asked me why I spoke English so well since wasn't my name Hispanic? Racism exists. As long as we have segregation and treatment of others as objects rather than people, racism exists.

Talking about race is the most highly charged I've seen this nation in years. People are still so blind to themselves. They feel their actions are founded and their reasons, sound -- people who won't look to themselves to see that they are part of the problem BUT others are beginning to understand. Some are finding courage in the collective sharing of our stories. Some may finally draw the line for what they will and won't take, in what they see as treatment of others. It is ugly, and it is beautiful. We're discovering a lot about people we think we knew. And they're showing us that we truly never did know them. Every grand action of ours, begins with a decision. I see people making their decisions, allowing no room for anything else, this entire week since Michael Brown's death.

For too many  years, I had let people make me feel ashamed that I wasn't like them. I wanted to fit in so much in what was obviously their world, their rules, their control, that I let them get away with too much. It's not happening anymore. I am hyper sensitive but not in the way that people told me that I was. I am aware of  stereotypes and assumptions and hate and no longer questioning whether they happened or not. I'm hyper vigilant in my reporting of it. I share my stories. I bring to people's attention how I'm treated differently than someone else. I ask people why they want to know something and what makes them think they know something about me or my culture.

If this makes them squirm and decide they don't want to know me, that's going to be okay. Because I am saying something. Playing the game of pretending that they're not basing their questions and treatment of me on who I am, a person of color, never did work for me. It only made me feel I was not part of the world I lived in.

The times we are in right now are loaded, and they're becoming as loaded as the times of 1965. Michael Brown isn't going to go away because the color of skin isn't going to go away. Nor the way it makes some people feel.

Human beings on this planet want the same thing: to belong, to have a home, to be kept dry and have food, to find friends and community, acceptance and opportunity for education, health care, employment. To be given the same fair chance at protection as anyone else.
And when meeting for the first time, to be treated, as a fellow human being.

One of the worst things about racism is what it does to young people.

~Alvin Ailey

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Juice on Juice Fasts

Because I'm a blogger, I get a lot of product offers. Boxes come to my house with salad dressing, small journalling notebooks, foot scrubs, environmentally friendly detergent, and this month, juices for a juice cleanse. The products I get aren't for sponsored posts, they're just samples, so the amounts are small, just enough for trying.

I was excited about the juice cleanse. I had just joked on twitter that for my shorts to fit this summer I either had to 1.) lose ten pounds in two hours or 2.) rent a medieval torture rack for my clothes. I had heard of juice cleanses – you either love them and post fifty pictures on FB of your new beautiful juiced body, or you hate them, and post one hundred updates on FB about how much you hate juice cleanses and the horse they rode in on.

The juice cleanse package promised to detoxify my body (can anything detoxify a gummy bear loving woman?) and clear my liver, colon, and intestinal track of its many toxins. In the juicing process, I would lose 3-7 pounds during the fast.

I'll be honest with myself and you, I could lose a few pounds. And break a few bad habits. And lose some toxins. I couldn't wait to cleanse with juice! There was nothing to lose except the bread dough disguising as my stomach. At this point, the juice company's promises sounded so promising I didn't care if I hated the juice fast or not. How hard could it be? I crossed my fingers and opened the box. The letter inside said that if I stuck to the juice fast for a total of fourteen days, I could lose ten pounds.

Since I'm a worrier it's no surprise that I first had to google “risks of juice fasts” because I didn't want to be headlining our small town newspaper with “Mom of Three DEAD from Juice Fast Fad.” Not the way I want to go. I'd rather die choking on a Lindt 100 percent dark chocolate bar – at least that way everyone could say that I died doing what I loved, eating chocolate.

Based on my quick internet research, juice cleanses are pretty much the same – made up of cold pressed vegetables and fruits, some with added fiber from grasses. The kit I received contained nine bottles, 8 fluid ounces each at only 100 calories a bottle. What I saw at first glance was less than appealing, but the ingredient list was impressive. Kale, spinach, clover sprouts, wheat grass, parsley, romaine, celery, and cucumber with a squirt of lemon. I like vegetables. I could do this.

I unpacked the white plastic bottles, but I couldn't help thinking that the contents looked like skimmed algae from the pond at the park here. I had heard how juice cleanses made you feel energized and gave you a radiant complexion -- who's not ready for that -- but could I get it down? I could barely look at how the film clung to the container.

You're supposed to complete the juice fast in three days, with a total of nine bottles required. There is a preparatory routine you follow to get your “insides” ready for the juice fast. The day before, you eat light. You stick to baked fish or poached chicken. I did just that and then I lined up the bottles of liquefied vegetables in the refrigerator so they'd be chilled, the package suggested cold for peak enjoyment. I'm all for enjoying my experiences.

When the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. Monday, I popped open my eyes and was ready to start. I was to have one juice in place of a meal, three times in one day, and no caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol. Still in my pajamas, I went to the refrigerator and unscrewed the first bottle of the day and took a sip. It was thick, sledgey, and I had to either sip all day long, or get it down in as few gulps as possible. I got it over with and slammed it down. Despite its thickness, it was good, with a sweet aftertaste. I'd try to sip the lunch one and make it last.

The 8 ounce bottle kept me full until 8:30 a.m. That's when I wanted a doughnut. But I stuck to the program because I wanted that ten pounds in 14 days promise. This was hard, because there was no new sense of renewed energy. When I looked in the mirror, there was no radiant complexion, either. I just saw a woman that wanted a bavarian cream filled doughnut. The hours crawled by, and all I had to look forward to was another 8 ounces of pond sledge at noon.

12:00 came, I fished the second bottle of liquid silt out of the refrigerator, and was so hungry or thirsty or just without calories that I drank it in one fell swoop. This time, my hunger pangs were back by 2:00. I looked outside my kitchen window and the trees looked like big fat crunchy pretzel rods. The leaves looked like broccoli flowerettes just awaiting cheez whiz.

You know what it's easy to learn? That a juice fast is not the time to log on to Pinterest for mealtime ideas.

At 3:00 I listened to my children crunching juicy apples and munching kettle cooked extra thick potato chips in the kitchen. I was strong and walked out, leaving them to their food party. I'd be okay, after all, it was almost 5:00 and time for another yummy pureed salad. At 4:59 p.m., I opened the last bottle of the day and drank it, fast. Again, a good tasting drink, no matter how ugly the consistency. I made dinner for my family and the smell of pork chops, broasted potatoes and sliced peaches was killing me. But I was determined. I sat at the table and was fed on good conversation and warm family love. HA! I was starving. My youngest heard my stomach growling and said, “Mom?! Was that you?? You need to eat really bad!” I lied and told him I was fine, fine, oh hohohoho Mama is so fine. And starting to feel delirious.

Truthfully, the last time I was this hungry was two weeks before my wedding when I stopped eating to fit into my princess cut wedding dress. My stomach growled again, my son asked me if I was okay since my stomach was “making really, really loud noises, mom.”

I usually stay up until midnight or later working on the computer, and I'll mindlessly have a bag of chips or a snackpack of the kids lunch stashes. I had the energy that night to go the full mile, but I put myself to bed early to end my hunger misery. I lay my head on my pillow and prayed that sleep would overtake me and help me survive these hours of hunger.

I awoke at 5:30 a.m. and started the routine again. Three juices, three times that day. I felt energetic but I think it was a manic phase facilitated by low blood sugar. Day #2 was over none too soon for me and I went to bed at 8:30 p.m., again with prayers to anyone above to hit me hard with a deep sleep stick. I dreamed of Easter hams, mashed potatoes, and watermelon balls.

Day #3, I slammed three juices throughout the day. I did not look good in the mirror. I looked sallow and really, you've heard the expression, your face or your ass? I think I need my face more. I was looking like Yzma from Emperor's New Groove. You could cut paper with my cheekbones.

I made it, though. Three days of nothing but three bottles of juice. Overall, I wish I could do the juice cleanse all the time, every once in awhile. It works because you starve yourself. With its clear restrictions of no food allowed, you of course lose weight. I did go to bed hungry, and that might be a good thing to do once a week. I didn't experience the energy high promised and I never saw the radiant flush of detoxification, but less handfuls of gummy bears throughout my day must count for something.

What I learned from my mini juice cleanse is that I can live without my sugar and late night boredom snacking, and that going to bed hungry one night a week won't kill me. I liked the taste of the juices, I can see maybe having one a day for breakfast.

Just as long as there isn't a special on cream filled doughnuts at the store that day.

*This was not a sponsored post since no product was named and no one gave me any money to starve myself. I didn't even lose weight, either. I just got dizzy and heard a high pitched squeal starting on Day #2.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reasons Why "Reach Out" is Not As Easy As It Sounds

By now, everyone has heard of Robin Williams' passing. It's been sad news, heartbreaking for all of us. Robin Williams was a man who was universally loved. He made us feel like giggly third graders with his wild stream of consciousness and his obvious joy at making us laugh. He was our friend.

We felt free, happy, and without a thought to anything else when we watched Robin Williams. That he lived a lifetime with depression was no secret. Neither was his history with substance abuse. We knew that the combination of both in an addictive personality was a perpetual walk on a tightrope. But yet, when we learned that he had died, we clutched our chests.

Not our Robin Williams. Not Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin's Genie, O Captain My Captain!


Within minutes of learning that the cause of death was suspected suicide, there were social media postings questioning why depressed people don't reach out. Why didn't he reach out. Why don't people who are suicidal reach out? Just reach out.

Necessary advice, without a doubt. But there are reasons why reaching out is not just that. Talking to a friend, making a call for help. What stops people?

Much. Much stops people.

What could possibly stop someone from seeking help for something as important as life? How about-

fear of judgment
loss of face
lack of finances, resources, health care
loss of relationship
possible turning of information against you to take away your children or losing your job

A lot is at stake. And a lot of ability is presumed. With depression, you're not able to think straight. You're not who you are -- and what you are now is desperate, despondent, confused, and alone. Why not reach out? Because it's mental illness and mental illness is still not seen as body illness, not even in 2014.

Would a friend or someone you're dating drop you over high blood pressure? No. But if you lean in and trust them with something about you, like you're afraid you might act on a dark impulse? Would they hang around?

I remember a morning only a few years ago, when a friend was over. It was during a particularly bad cycle for me and putting on a happy face was depleting me. I couldn't keep on anymore, and so I confided in her about my depression. Her response? "Don't say that. You're not depressed -- you have a great sense of humor. No one's going to like you this way." Depression is messy, and it scares people.

Could you lose custody of your children over glaucoma? Probably not. But in a heated court battle, throw in words like "mental instability" and "suicidal ideation" or any information from medical mental health history, and you'd have a right to worry.

Can an employer fire you or replace you for knee surgery? Almost not. But how favorably will you be looked upon for future and increased responsibility and promotion if you've disclosed a mental health history? I'd put my money on Average Joe being the one to receive work accolades.

If people don't reach out it's because the information they're sharing with someone regarding their mental health can be used against them. Past spouses can bring up a depression history, a friend can turn others against you with whisperings on how you will drain energy from those around you, work may look past you as someone who is unable to handle job stress.

Reaching out takes confiding in a source. And often, that source is unpredictable in their guarding of your information and in their reaction to your news.

Those of us with depression history, in my case -- a lifelong history -- have been burned by the risk of reaching out. To be fair, I've also been fortunate, I have had a good therapist who helped me to see things differently and explained my work, which is that of daily vigilance and guarding my surroundings. But the times that I've been squashed by the reactions of others has made me wary of those I let into my life.

Because of time, quality therapy, and a newfound support system, I've become comfortable with my history. I no longer have the shame I had when I was a teenager and up through my 30s, when I'd look down at the ground when confessing my life with depression. Through therapy, I've learned what causes depression and I work hard, every day, to keep watch on who is in my world, and I take care with who enters my circle.

Why don't people just reach out?

Because of exhaustion.
Because of the feeling of drowning.
Because of the risk.
Because of the shame when you already feel less than others, it's the risk of losing so much, that makes many of us unable to gather the courage to connect outside of ourselves, and that right there, leads to even more isolation and eventual withdrawal.

To reach out is the scariest thing a person with depression will ever do, but it's the one thing we need  most to recover. Why don't people reach out? Because reaching out is hard.

If we reach out to you, it's with a desperate hope for your support. Please don't disappoint us.

"Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships, it cannot occur in isolation." ~ Judith Herman

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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Monday, August 11, 2014

As Summer Slows...

It's cloudy, overcast here today. Reminding me how summer is winding down. It's been a good run, this one, I tried to stretch it out, make it last, fooling myself that I could make the ten weeks feel more like ten months, as our family gets ready for our first born to launch.

He leaves for college in two weeks. I won't think about it until then (ha!) but actually, in truth, everyone in this house is excited and thrilled for him. He was accepted into his first choice, and it is a lifelong dream come true.

All this is made easier because he's ready. In his words, "Anyone who says summer is going too fast isn't going to Madison."

So there, take that, everyone.

Back to the swing of things, might as well get started now. Here we are, Monday In Case You Missed It, (just like we left off in May... that seems so long ago now)

--Super find here: 10 Bits of Stellar Writing Advice by J.R.Tolkien via Writers in the Storm

--If you're curious about google+ and how it works, this is gold, from Peg Fitzpatrick, "Five Easy Steps To Bake The Perfect Google Plus Post"

--A breathtaking read, "It's All One Life" from BaddestMotherEver (believe me, this one, you don't want to pass up)

There you have it, the weekly internet wrap-up. And yes, I usually do four links, but... baby steps into this return from summer, you know?

I love you all.


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Saturday, August 9, 2014

You Can Order Anything, But Just Don't Order A Shake

My middle son has been looking for a job this summer. After weeks of looking, nothing panned out. Like when I was job hunting my senior year in high school. I had applied to pizza places, clothing stores, ear piercing kiosks, and still, not a word back. But I finally got a call from the ice cream parlor in the strip mall a mile away from my house. They wanted me to come in for an interview -- I told the manager I could be there in half an hour and then ran to get back on the bus for the third time that day.
I'd be starting college in the fall and I needed this job. Please please please, I mumbled to myself on the ride there, please let them give me this  job. As the bus lurched at each of its stops, I tried to remember what I had said my qualifications were. I must have filled out five or ten job applications that month, and as the weeks went on and the call backs never came, my desperation along with my embellishments on the applications, grew.
I wasn't in a panic, I just wanted to be ready with the answers that would match my stated qualifications. In case they would ask me how strong my German was (did I say I spoke German for the nanny job or for the ice cream job?), or if they needed instances of how many times I had changed a flat tire (did I say I did that for the Quiky Lube job or the Tires America job?). I couldn't remember if I said I had churned butter down on the farm, I had to get this job and pass this interview to do it. I was going to fake ice cream sundae making until I made it, which hopefully, I actually would be, and soon. Before I hung up, the woman on the phone from The Ice Cream Factory told me to walk past the front counter and go to the office in the back.

Growing up, I had the kind of life where I've never had the luxury of being picky about the jobs I took, otherwise, I would have turned on my heels and left as soon as I saw the counter girl's face look up at me, bewildered, when I walked in and asked, "Is there an office?"
"You want an office?" she stared at me. "We have a room, in the back, where we keep our coats and stuff. You mean there?"

"Yeah." I started to feel nervous. "Yeah. I'm here for a job interview."

"Job interview?" she tried not to laugh. "They're getting fancy." She pushed open the swinging door to the back for me. And there on the other side, just like she had said, was a room filled with coats, old cardboard boxes, a folding table against the wall, and a gray time clock next to a sink with a picture of dirty hands and big red X over them.
I was in "the office". The room was empty and on the wall was a schedule of hours taped above the time clock. There were only five employee names on the grid, and they were all getting a lot of hours. This could be really good for me.

After ten minutes alone, a short, red-haired woman came in. Breathless and wiping what looked like chocolate off of her mouth with her white apron, she walked toward me. "I'm Sue, the manager, when are you available to start?"

I heard angels sing. I answered, "Immediately. Right away. Soon as you need me!" I made a silent wish for all future job interviews to be just like this. I smiled, it was impossible to hide my relief.

"Good. Good. Put a hair net on from over there and you can start by helping Marcy close up tonight. I've been here since 7 this morning and have to get home. So, if you're staying, I can leave. "
Whoa. Tonight? I didn't plan on working at an ice cream parlor tonight. But as I said, I've always had to say yes to work, and so I did.

"Marcy's shift was up two hours ago but Matt didn't come in for his shift, so you can replace him. Go up front and she'll tell you what to do. Don't forget an apron from over there," Sue pointed to the corner. "And your hair: UP."

"Over there" was a rod with aprons hanging from a single hanger. I chose the least stained one and tied it around my neck. "You take your own apron home and wash it yourself. If I have to wash it for you, it's 5 bucks," she warned.

I stuffed my hair into the brown hair net and walked out front to relieve Marcy. She gave me a look of  'yeah, it's a job and no way you'll ever get fired from here' that made me feel I could handle whatever ice cream arrangement was requested.

"It's really not that hard here, " Marcy said as she began training me. "Just cover the ice cream when we close. Over there is the mixer," she pointed to an industrial sized gunmetal silver appliance in the corner that looked like something left over from a 1950's bomb shelter. "Make sure to wipe that down after you unplug it. It can't get wet. Wipe the counter, soak the scoops, sweep and mop the floor, gather the garbage, write down how much ice cream you went through, close out the drawer and then... wait, are you closing?"
Was I closing? Oh, hell no. Did I say I knew how to close on the application? "Umm, I don't remember if I do or not. Is it hard to close?"

"No, it's not hard, just a pain in the ass." Marcy acted like a preschooler could do it. "You have to take the money and put it in an envelope from the bank and make sure it gets to the bank at 9 the next day so you have all that money with you all night, so yeah that sucks if someone jumps you on your way home, you're SOL."

Dear God, I prayed. I hope I didn't say I knew how to close. I had to ride the bus home every night, I didn't want to do it with someone else's cash.

"So, that's it," she said. So far, things didn't sound too unmanageable. But then Marcy got serious. She said, "Oh. There's one thing. If someone comes in and asks for a shake. That's really bad."

"Why? Are they hard to make?"

Marcy pressed her lips tight before answering, "Not hard to make but -- I guess it's dangerous. You get, kind of like this shock. Not really a little one, either. I shouldn't say that. Put it this way, it's big enough so that you know you're getting a shock."

"Like, electrical?" This had to be wrong.

"Uh-huh. From electricity. Sue says there's a short in the mixer and they cost like hundreds to replace because they don't want to buy a  new one so we just have to keep using it. It's really important your hands are never ever wet when you make a shake."

This couldn't be true. Marcy was just probably electricity sensitive, like Joey Volmer from 3rd grade who would cry out for his mama whenever we rubbed our feet along our carpeted classroom and then touched him with our fingertips.
I couldn't concentrate as Marcy started showing me how to take inventory. A shock, a shock, a shock, was all I kept thinking, my heart softening for Joey Volmer. Just then, two kids walked in and Marcy side-whispered to me, "Say your prayers. As soon as anyone comes in. Just start, Please God don't let them ask for a shake."

Marcy put on a bright smile and stood tall while she began, "Hi! Welcome to Ice Cream Factory! What can we get you tonight?"
My heart pounds, thumps, I sweat. Please God...

"We'll take two chocolate malts. Concrete thick."

Marcy turned around and stared at me, she mouthed, OH MY GOD SHAKES.

I wanted someone there if I was going to have smoke coming out of my orifices, so I decided to find out just how bad the shocks were while I had a co-worker with me. I breathed deep and said, "Marcy, let me make them."

Marcy looked down at her feet as if she had just sentenced me to death row. "All right, but, make sure your hands are dry."

I heard taps playing with each step I took toward the silver mixer in the corner. Somehow, it had grown to twice the size than it was when I first looked at it. I wiped my hands on my apron, so wet with sweat, but I wanted to be extra extra extra sure they were bone dry. I stood in front of the mixer and looked up at the shake and malt recipes taped to the wall. First, I put two scoops of ice cream into the silver tumbler, then, I poured in the milk, finally, the malt powder. The time had come for the last step. I had to flip the switch.

I held the silver cup while I clicked the silver knob down. Nothing. For half a second. Then, a zap I felt clear to my fillings. This did not feel right and was so much more than just a small zing. I popped my finger away from the knob and let the mixer run on its own, the contents flying sideways with no hand to steady it.

I apologized to Marcy and told her I had to leave, and I meant it.

Tossing my hair net and apron on to the other side of the swinging door, I walked out, shaking my head, amazed. It wasn't the shock (pun intended) from almost being electrocuted that had me in disbelief, I mean, the size of the electric current that just ran through me could have doubled as a defibrillator. It wasn't that at all.
The true shock was in meeting someone that needed a job more than I did.
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