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Portrait of a Grandfather

posted by motherhoodrising@gmail.com June 12, 2017 0 comments

Winding roads through thick patches of bright green forest, the hills make my stomach go into my throat and we talk about everything. I’m just six or seven years old and I remember feeling like when he spoke to me, everything he said was true. So deeply true.

He offered this sense of no matter what babe, everything is going to be alright.

He gave me lessons in the art of the turtle rescue. Even when I was unsure – he’d be sitting in the car telling me I’ve got it. We would come home with at least fifteen turtles in the summertime as we made our way through Ohio. He taught me to follow my own lead and to never stop believing in me and my capability.

Belief is something I have always had a hard time with. It started when I was in elementary school and continued through middle and high school. No matter how many people believed in me and my ability to do something spectacular with my writing or interest in science, it made no difference- if I was feeling down on myself.

As I have matured and reluctantly stepped into my thirties, I have come face to face with what it means to believe in something. Whether it is human rights, animal rights, honesty, justice, environmental protection… The belief I hold directly impacts the way I interact with my community and environment. While a singular belief was not the topic of our many long and deep discussions, the idea that believing in something with every ounce of yourself was important – often was.

This seed was planted by a man that was by my side from the day he held my tiny body in his arms. Strong, not much taller than me but his energy and presence made up for his height.

Big round belly, a sweeping duck tail at the base of his neck, and a shiny bald spot at the back of his head. I can picture him moving through the crowd at the Sunday flea market.

If you missed his faded blue jeans, you’d know it was him with one glance at his back pocket and that orange bristle brush handle. This place is where it started, this memory of my first lesson in believing in myself. A very simple task but when he performed it, it would stop anyone in their tracks. The art of negotiation was a delicate one that required belief in the item you were haggling over and how well you could caress the seller’s ego. Watching him create a relationship with a stranger in the span of two or three minutes was something to behold. I imagined him in a black suit with a white button up underneath. His finger pointed in the face of a car salesman that had scammed an old woman and his argument was so incredible, everyone in the court room stood on their feet.

     These lessons were not limited to yard sale negotiation – he reminded me throughout the years, just how capable I was of achieving whatever goals I set for myself.

As I transitioned into motherhood at just sixteen, he remained an active participant in supporting my life goals and ambition. Whether it was driving me to school while giving me a pep talk, or long conversations reminding me how lucky I was to be a mother to my boys. One day sticks out in my mind as it was one of my last memories of him. I remember the sound of his feet meeting the wooden floor, the smell of Aqua Net and cologne filling my nostrils, and the obscenities he mumbled as he walked past me.

This day plays on repeat in my mind – still. He was angry with me for the way I was behaving, the constant complaining about being stuck with my kids all day long while the world continued without me. He was the first person I would reach out to when things were hard, he had heard it all and always listened without judgement. Patting my back as he held me in his arms – making me feel like I was powerful and strong.

Knowing that I wasn’t alone gave me enough hope and belief in myself to last until the next time I would break down.

Here I am now, a mother to four children and 2,800 miles away from my family and the home that holds each one of these vivid memories. Gone to California, once a dream bigger than me… Now a reality. I just wish he could see how far he got me – just by believing in me. My grandfather is buried under a large Oak tree. Each time I go home; I sit with him and I tell him just how much I have done, because I believed.

 

Personal

White Privilege

posted by motherhoodrising@gmail.com February 4, 2017 2 Comments

I am white. I am privileged.

My family is from the belly of Ohio and I can’t begin to tell you the things I heard growing up about black people and Muslim people.

It ranged from “you’ll get canker sores if you kiss a black boy” to endless heated rants about muslims taking over Dearborn. Even after growing up hearing all of the negative assumptions, racist statements, black jokes, and being warned of being disowned if I ever dated outside of my race, I couldn’t help but be completely enamored with everything my family advised against. I stepped into communities I had always heard were horrific and dangerous. I walked up broken steps to an illegal living space where a girl I had met was raising her baby. I clearly remember seeing through the floor while using the bathroom, all the way down into the kitchen.

I would meet and marry my ex after just eight months of knowing him – six months pregnant with his baby and joined by the grandfather that once told me not to kiss black boys. He adored Brito and my husband changed the minds of white people that had been fed racist bullshit their entire lives. He did it by being himself. It wasn’t his duty to educate the ignorant whites, but he shook everything up with his kind heart and big smile.

 

I never really realized how privileged I was as a white woman. I never thought about it or really noticed the small things that now shine like a spotlight right in my face.

I remember my husband calling me from the side of the road one morning at 6:00 am. He was on his way to his job he’d had for six years and had been pulled over for the fourth time that month. He wanted to talk to me while he waited for the officer to come back with his license.

The officer upon returning to the car exclaimed – “I can’t believe it, you have no record!” Brito laughed and joked with the officer, seemingly unfazed. I remember laughing with him about it while he shrugged it off. He made excuses and would say “what do you expect? I’m a black man, wearing a baseball hat in an old car” – He expected it.

He knew it was coming because he spent his entire life dealing with it.

With his calm and collected demeanor, I was ok with it too.

After our sons were born I would experience hatred and ignorance first hand. Parking lot encounters with white men pointing their fingers at my boys and pulling an imaginary trigger. I remember the first time the N word was thrust at my husband while we walked our sons down the street in our neighborhood. But mostly I remember being openly overlooked as we searched for a place to live in predominantly white neighborhoods. There was never an explanation but my husband took it hard.

My sons have grown so much since their father and I parted ways, but I see in them – him. I see the kind heartedness and the passive laugh. Even when my youngest son was being called a monkey by his classmates, he laughed it off and made excuses for the boy that said these words.

My sons are black and let me tell you, this has me in this space between owning my privilege and trying to take all of this racist bullshit and owning it – so they don’t have to.

I am often asked whose kids they are or if they are hispanic. I am asked where their father is, and I’ve read hateful posts saying I don’t post photos of them because they aren’t as cute as my white daughters.

My sons were once accused by a neighbor – of stealing out of his garage.

Why? When there were so many other people in the area that could’ve done this.

I feel powerless and completely unprepared for raising black men. With their father unable to be in their lives – I am tasked with teaching them things that I will never understand.

 

Raise your hands up if you’re ever pulled over, so you don’t get shot.

Always walk with a friend.

Never wear a hoodie after dark.

Don’t raise your voice in a public area.

Don’t draw attention to yourself.

Privilege doesn’t mean that you get things handed to you because you’re white.
It doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days or that you aren’t struggling.
White privilege doesn’t mean you don’t work hard.

White privilege means, you were born into your skin and because of that skin,

You are less likely to go to prison.

As a white person, the likelihood that I will go to prison is about 4-11%.

For a person of color the likelihood is 88%.

Think about that.

When I shop in a store, I am less likely to be followed. Because I am white.

This is a societal disease that continues to hang over people of color all over the world and no matter how nice, equal, polite, informed you are… You can’t say that as a white person you aren’t privileged.

It’s simple. You are.

One of the most eye opening pieces on this subject that I have had the privilege (see what I did there?) of reading is Peggy Vincent’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – I’ve included an excerpt below.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

Instead of using your energy explaining how not privileged you are, use it to educate yourself and become more aware of your words and actions and how they affect those around you.

If you’d like a head start…

Explaining White Privilege To A Broke White Person

10 Examples That Prove White Privilege Protects White People in Every Aspect Imaginable

On Racism and White Privilege | Teaching Tolerance

What is White Privilege 

Here’s a few books!

Privilege, Power, and Difference

The New Jim Crow

Top two photos by Topher Delancey of Topher Delancey Photo

Portraits of the boys by Amy of Aimlee Photography 

 

FamilyPersonal

The Holidays

posted by motherhoodrising@gmail.com November 23, 2016 0 comments

I called my mom this morning talk about the holidays and she answered on the second ring.

She’s so far away but for the couple of minutes I talk to her every day, it feels like she’s right here.

She told me there was a surprise at her front door this morning – I asked her what it was.

I waited excitedly as she spoke in what seemed like slow motion….

“Your sister. She’s here with the kids.”

My stomach dropped and all I could feel was overwhelming sadness.

Selfish of me – I know, but it was my reaction.

I immediately started crying and told my mom I had to go – I couldn’t speak.

It has been so many years since I have walked through her front door with gifts in my hands and kids at my knee.

The holiday table surrounded by family and filled to the brim with all of our favorite foods.

For me, Thanksgiving melds with Christmas in this month long season of perfection and warm memories.

Dinners with family, holiday shopping, movies we have seen one thousand times…

But now – going on my fifth year away from my family during what was once my favorite – my happiest season, I am noticing the excitement grows less and less with each year. I feel it is forced in so many ways and because I want my children to know how magical it can be- I pretend to relish in every lightbulb and decoration.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I will wake up early to start our family dinner – with help from little hands.

I’ll cook for hours and put great care into every detail.

We will set our table and gather around it.

We will say what we are grateful for and we will eat.

I won’t miss my family any less, but I will celebrate our family that we’ve grown here in California.

It doesn’t get easier not knowing when my children will get to run around the table with their cousins or cuddle with heir grandma on the couch after gifts have been opened and A Christmas Story plays for the twentieth time.

Another year wishing we could be home for the holidays.

FeminismPersonal

Misogyny New York City

posted by motherhoodrising@gmail.com November 13, 2016 0 comments

I step off the plane and take in the rush of people moving through the airport. The sound of wheeled luggage, phone conversations, prayer. The smell of coffee and misogyny flowing through the halls and open spaces. It was sunny outside and easy to find my way to baggage claim – just above it the news stations scream and shout rape, assault, lies.

Trigger.

I waited for my unmarked black bag and was happy to see it move toward me on the belt. The name tag opened with my round and loopy writing visible. I grab it by the handle and peek inside just to be sure it’s mine. I pull up the handle and head to the curb to wait for my car. He’s a little late but arrives after just ten or so minutes of waiting. We take side streets all the way to Brooklyn.

New York reminds me a little of Detroit.

Trigger.

I change my destination to a little vegan Chinese spot just around the way from my host’s place. I had survived the past 8 hours on Pringles and a sugar free vanilla Latte and my mind was foggy. It was quiet and the waitress seemed annoyed that I had come in. She kept making this strange coughing sound – it was so obnoxious that after just four bites of my shitty Pad Thai- I grabbed a box, paid my check, and stepped outside to wait for Ursula. The vibe of this city was electric – with young couples and new families baby wearing and chatting over hot latte’s. Leaves danced down from the trees as the cool breeze blew down the quiet street.

I see a mother with two small children just to my right, we lock eyes and she asks if i’m me. Yes! Hello! I say – excited to see little faces since I was already missing mine. Her son immediately asks me everything about California as we make our way to her place.

We enter the building and it smells old – like my dad’s mom’s house. It’s this weird happy sad nostalgia that leaves me feeling a little blue. I wonder what my dad is doing and how he is.

Trigger.

Walking into this cozy little space was what all of my tiny home dreams are made of.

Efficient use of space and the sweetest little nook for the two sweetest kids in New York. Her little girl hands me this incredible little drawing – welcoming to their home and Ursula and I talk birth and motherhood for a bit. I like her a lot and I feel so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to meet her and her incredible family.

With my plans for the evening being cancelled due to birth work – I was open and we decided to head to a little spot on the corner. I had a fall infused glass of yum and Ursula had a dark and foamy beer. The energy was so natural and was equally exchanged between the both of us.

The evening was quiet and slow – They left for Long Island and I had the place to myself.

I crawled into bed after a warm shower and started the newest episode of Grey’s. I got about two minutes into it before I found myself awake the next morning.

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My plans for today were to explore the city by subway with Central Park being #1 on my list. I did a little work and took my time getting ready. I was nervous and not sure if I would actually ever leave the apartment. Would I get lost? What if I couldn’t find my way back? What if i don’t make it back in time?

My morbid brain danced in dark alleys and subway bathrooms.

I finally threw my backpack on after two hours of contemplation and said fuck it. I headed out the front door repeating the key mantra Ursula had taught me the night before.

I used Maps and walked the six blocks to the L train. After a transfer, I ended up at The Museum of Natural History and let me tell you, walking up those dirty subway steps to be met with the bluest skies and most beautiful oranges, yellows, and reds I had ever seen was the warm welcome I had hoped for since the day I booked my ticket.

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I stepped inside the museum and marveled at the people, the languages, the dinosaur bones so elegantly placed together piece by piece. I wished my kids could see this in person. This was also the moment I decided this is going to be our next family vacation. Anyone that tells you New York isn’t suitable for kids – never looked at it in this way. I could see their faces light up with every turn and subway ride. I can’t wait to go back.

I crossed the street and walked slow – something I don’t do anymore. But since I was a little girl… I had always dreamed of seeing this place in person.img_2016 img_2359

Watching Home Alone, One Fine Day, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle – just to name a few, molded my ideas of family, love, and romance from the time I was still wearing pastel pink and Minnie Mouse sweatshirts. Being here was nostalgic in the best way. For a little while I felt normal and completely ok. I walked past the fountain from One Fine Day – where George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer professed their love for each other. I caught a peek of the Empire State Building – where Meg Ryan waited for Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle.

It was so beautiful. It felt so good to be here with myself. To work through these feelings and memories from so long ago.

After walking the park, I hopped on the train to see Times Square – Walking through the busy streets was an experience – so many people going in so many directions. I snapped a couple o’ photos and decided to head back and eat before our workshop. I wanted to try Champ’s diner after hearing all the great things about it – while it was great, California vegan food is home for my mouth.

Lindsey in all of her 6′ beauty picked me up and we headed to Carriage House to prepare for the night. I think we were both wondering where it would take us and how everything would flow. We laid pillows on the floor and dragged sheepskins over woven basket seats. We tended to the space to make sure everyone was comfortable and safe in this space.

We sat and spoke about things we had each been going through lately, birth, and family life. Lindsey is like a magnet for me, so energetic and beautiful – it’s hard not to listen when she speaks. Not too long after Sam and the first pair of women walked into the room.

It’s funny how you imagine what a person or group pf people will look like or act like and it end up being the opposite.

Quiet with soft energy and accompanied by a family member for support. She was wearing her badge on her sleeve. The badge that Lindsey, Sam, Domino, and I – The badge that every woman that will follow will be wearing. This number. This bullshit number that turns our names into statistics and leaves us without a face. Without any type of validation or is there anything I can do for you’s from those around me.

The next half an hour brought in more and more women.

All of them living the same reality that I live every single day.

Picture this.

A room filled and warm with the energy of human beings whom you’ve never met that share the same dark deep secret that you carry. The same shame and mistrust that plague you whenever you walk out your front door.

A mix of empowerment and let’s change the world and immense sadness as you realize that this room is the tiniest little crumb of this un-ending pie baked by Misogyny and rape culture.

We are the same in this.

Lindsey, Domino, and I spent our evening filing our bellies with incredible food at The Lodge in Brooklyn – a quiet ride home and a quick inspection for unwanted humans in the space I would be sleeping ended this short and forever impactful trip for me. I would hop on a flight home the following morning and in just two short days – another trigger among the thousands flowing through our radio waves every day.

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Trigger.

Our president elect would rock the ground I occupy every day. With every click on a news article I am slapped in the face with the reality that is women in this country are viewed as lower than man. We have no say over our bodies – who grabs them, who rules them, who enters them.

We have nothing if we cannot govern the body we occupy. Nothing.

This is just the start of a future where I ignite the raging inferno inside my belly and I vow to take NO SHIT.

I vow to work for those that need it the most and to dedicate my energy to this movement.

New York was just the start.

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The warmest thank you and so much gratitude sent to our incredible sponsors

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Thank you Carriage House for opening your doors to me – Until next time.

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