Muddy Dust on the Windshield

18485327_10154832302689125_5606031839612231471_n.jpgI drove to San Diego yesterday, roughly a three hour round trip during a quiet weekday. The sky was clear blue and the sweeping turns with nothing but ocean in view made me smile, right there, alone in my car.

The podcasts I chose for the drive were about resilience and connection: two things that aren’t always easy for me. Coming home I was struck, maybe loosened by the wise words of sages or the beauty of this earth. It was as clear as the dirt on the windshield, the spray of the ocean muddying the dust of the hills: this–the connection of earth, sky, planet, people, animals, ocean– is everything.

There is not you and me. No I and thou. There is not a right and a left or a right and a wrong. There is just us. All of us. ALL of us.

We are here, together, for better or for worse. I cannot separate my air from yours, clean water from dirty, it all flows downstream eventually, mingles with what I have breathed in and you have breathed out.

We are one.

I pray for you and me, for our earth and our leaders; both great and wretched. Because there are not winners and losers; we are all them. We are all those people. We are one.

It’s almost too simple. We are one. May we remember this as we fight for justice and equality and clean air and clean water and for people to be awakened to what is right and good instead of what will bring the most money and power. May we remember. May we remember.

We are one.

Advertisements

Hello? Hello? Is Anyone THERE?

I can only imagine what it was like. A new and loud device was installed in the house. It had it’s own table maybe with a beautiful lace doily, just to brighten it up or maybe it was on the wall–you know, with those early adopters. The young people in the home were excited. But the folks who had done just fine, thank you, without one–well, they were not so happy. old-phone.jpg

I know my mom, who was born 11 years after women got the vote, grew up without a phone in the house when she was young.

I know that now she’s an avid Facebook user and can text better than any other person in their 80s, except maybe my hero Senator Dianne Feinstein. Dianne can do anything, including getting a pacemaker and being back at work two days later, but….I digress.

But still. Not everyone adapts. Not everyone gets used to the new things like my mom. Electric lights over gas lights? Electric typewriter over manual? Running water over a hand pump. OK, not that one. Everyone likes that one. But when the telephone came along, I know that not everyone was happy.

It’s like that with social media. Today. Now. With people who should know better.

You cannot post a big, loud, statement that brings huge commentary without curating the comments and spinoffs. If you’re going to make an inflammatory tweet, or Facebook or Instagram post, you have to stay in the conversation.

I am absolutely certain that there were phone calls that went along the lines of a loud lecture and ended with a click of the receiver. I’m sure that sometimes there was not a conversation. There was the delivery of a message. Click. That’s it. Period.

When people told that new telephone user that you were supposed to stay ON the telephone to have some back and forth with the person you had reached out to communicate with; that it was rude and just not acceptable to just holler your statement into the telephone and then hang up, folks didn’t understand. They said “when I write a letter, there’s no back and forth” or “that’s just what you think, this is how I am doing this” there might have been some frustration. Some angst.

That’s what I see today. On social media.

New users, or newish users will throw out an inflammatory statement that brings about hundreds of comments, some downright nasty, and they will just stay the hell out of it.

“I said my piece, I’m out.”

But they’re not. On social media you can’t just post and then check out. When you dump a big, explosive thing onto social media and then just let the flames build, that’s your fault. You did that.

If you don’t want to curate and tend, then do not post. It’s that simple. You don’t have to continue to engage. Lord knows sometimes silence is the most powerful message. But you have to at least answer questions and respond when someone points out abusive trolls and inflammatory language. That’s the bare minimum.

Today I removed an inappropriate comment from a post I made on Facebook. It was a comment that made no sense, by someone who was not a friend or a friend of a friend. They assumed when I said GA I meant Georgia, when almost anyone who knows me at all knows that I am going to New Orleans for an org’s General Assembly–GA. So, not worth engaging. I removed the comment and changed the privacy to Friends. Because who cares?

Later in the day I was tagged in a pretty inflammatory comment about the emerging candidates in our upcoming congressional primary on our district Indivisible Facebook page. Yes, I had to respond to that. I am a huge fan of one candidate (GO TEAM LAURA!) but this page is not the place to campaign or disparage one of the other candidates. So I took some time to reflect and carefully craft my response. I would not have even looked at the comment if I were not tagged, but I was. So I did. And I responded as best I could. Flames doused, tempers cooled. All good.

That’s current common decency. That’s polite public discourse. That is how we behave. Or how responsible, caring, people respond.

We do not write explosive commentary and then check out. That, friends, is not OK.

If you are going to write something important on social media, you must stay in the conversation, at a minimum to reduce the harm you may cause, at best, to bring meaningful dialogue and discourse.

The White Mamas

Middle aged, middle class, white woman from the midwest. Biggest demographic group around, right? Right.

Except for one thing.

No one in my world understands what it is like to be white and have children who are not white, not really, no one but other white mamas of brown babies.

When my husband finally stopped running hard and fast from his identity as a transracially adopted Asian man it was the loneliest I’ve ever been. My story was such a tiny slice of life, no one else had gone through standing on the sidelines while their spouse stormed and railed like a banshee against all he had been taught and all he knew.

Until I found a comment on an old blog; someone else who had been through this. She gave her email address and invited other spouses of Asian adoptees to reach out to her. By the time I did, her marriage had ended. But we’ve remained Facebook friends for years now. When something comes up for me, she’s on it. No one else would understand what his business trip to Japan would mean for me, but she does. Still. Long since re-married and moved on in her own world, she gets it. She’s the mama of a Hapa kid, trying to do the very best she can.

I’ve met other white mamas of children of color over the years, and when the Trump team and their explicit racism claimed the presidency, I needed the other mamas more than ever. We started a group and a Facebook page. It’s a whole thing. But it sure wasn’t the start.

Years and years ago, I met one stalwart mama of mixed race kids.  I think it was through a blog she had about raising mixed race kids; curly kidz. She was a fierce powerhouse. I can’t remember if she commented on my blog or I commented on hers. I do remember we were frustrated with the big systems in our shared faith, Unitarian Universalism, around kids who are mixed race.

It must have been not long after my son was given the option to sit in the circle of white folks or the circle of people of color and my boy, a proud Asian son of his proud Asian father who listed himself as Corean (with a C, there’s a story there….) on his Myspace profile, caucused with the white folks. I didn’t know what to think or do or how to react. It seemed like something was very wrong, but of course I wasn’t THERE, I just heard about it later.

I think I wrote a blog about wondering if they’d take the queer kids and tell them to choose gay or straight and if they weren’t able to pick a circle, would then tell them to sit in the group that society sees them in. Yeah. Not a lot of nuance there from me. But she got it. Mama instinct is powerful. She understood.

This was the start of a nice white-mama-of-kids-of-color Facebook friendship. I watched her kids grow. I watched her fight like hell for justice and against white supremacy, white privilege and racism. I watched her kids break her heart and drink all the milk in the fridge.

On Sunday I learned that she’d been hit by a car while riding her bike. And died.

Funny how you can know someone only online but their loss feels really real. If you know Cyndi Whitmore, or you are a Unitarian Universalist or you are the white parent of your own children of color, or you know if you’re just a human–say a little “thank you” prayer that this woman lived, once. And maybe, if you’re so moved, join me in chipping in to help her very young adult son manage this next stage of family life.

May we remember how blessed we are to live in such a time of connection and to remember how short life can be.

Cyndi.jpg

 

 

The Trials of Tramadol

18118542_10154773460109125_3753218510588853006_n.jpg

One a week. One middle age woman dies from an opioid overdose every week in Orange County, CA. How many more suffer, losing themselves and all they have worked and hoped for? How far does the pain radiate? Children? Spouses?

And how close is this to you? To me?

One year ago I was diagnosed with a fuzzy autoimmune disorder, meaning the first person I told about the diagnosis said “you know that’s not a thing, right?” Yes, I know it’s a catch all for things that don’t fit in the other boxes. But the reality was that I was in a lot of pain, a lot of the time. It made me nasty mean and tired; my sleep was all topsy turvy.

Somehow the nearest big clinic and my insurance aligned to bring me a great rheumatologist who listened and offered to run interference with my family if needed (it wasn’t) and encouraged me to at least have pain killers and try them to see if it helped.

I filled the prescription, but didn’t take any pills for months. I watch my local paper with articles about people who hurt their back or have a surgery and two years later they are in full-on heroin addiction. I know I’m not good at moderation. I didn’t want to start because I wasn’t sure where I would end.

But the pain continued and one day, before I was going on a trip, with the thought of being stuck in an airplane seat with no way to move and relieve the pain scaring me silly, my husband suggested we just try it. I take one and see if it helped.

We sat watching TV and as the words “there’s no difference” were coming out of my mouth, I could feel the pain lessen. It was like a cloud of relief covered my body.  That was better, WAY better.

I brought the bottle of pills with me, but didn’t take any on that trip. I was still scared of them. Once every few weeks or so I would take one, and they worked. But it never felt safe.

I pulled down the bottle the other day, it was a bad flare day. My fault, I taunted the karma fairy by saying “Gosh, I haven’t had much pain at all lately.” That’ll teach me. But here’s the thing; I’m lucky, I was done with my work day, I don’t have little kids.  I could just take a few hours. A break. Rest. Distract myself from the pain watching “Catastrophe” on Amazon Video. Drink tea. Wrap up in a blanket. I was not dealing with post surgery pain. Mine is more of a feeling of having rough sand in my joints.

But given what I have learned about being a middle aged woman, and being deemed “unnecessary” by our society, I get why people take these things without meaning to get in trouble but wind up lost. I get how the cloud of relief can be so, so seductive. Who cares if we’re out of commission? No one wants to hire a middle aged woman or advance us or move to the side a little as we walk down the damn sidewalk.

It’s painful to realize that the majority of people around us see us as just not worth an investment of time or money.

Expendable.

A little relief can feel, well, like a relief.

I am lucky that my doctor framed this thing, whatever it is that’s not a real thing but is, as a spectrum. She suggested all kinds of lifestyle modifications that have helped. I am back in yoga, and but for this little setback I am almost ready for the level one classes again, after a long ramp up time of restorative and gentle classes. Until this week, I was using one of those apps to do a slow lady jog that I call RUNNING on my treadmill and while I had one spectacular cartoon like spill I am getting better. I’ll have to work my way back up, but I will. I eat differently and value sleep like a secret health tonic.

Life is good. Mostly.

But I can feel, just on the other side of good, how very dark and bad it could be for me, and how very easy it is to get there for my neighbors.

Women of a Certain Age: Five Ways

supportthefight.png

I am two minutes from turning 50, maybe three. I pictured my post-kid world as full of opportunity and new horizons, but here’s the truth: that’s not the way the system works.

It’s rigged.

Women, especially middle aged women, are still clawing our way out of the valley of misogyny and trying to pave over the patriarchy.

I’m gonna fill you in on five ways that this tired old system is keeping the good woman down:

  1. The Glass Escalator: Men, especially young men, especially young WHITE men ride the glass escalator to top positions, both paid and unpaid, bypassing women with advanced degrees and decades of relevant experience. Some of us stand two floors down pounding on that glass ceiling only kind of hoping that the whole thing shatters. Kind of.
  2. Silenced: We speak and people look straight through us. I have even swiveled my head all the way around to see what someone is looking at behind me. But no, just straight through. Our opinions are viewed as worthless.
  3. Lumped: OK, I know that some middle aged/older women get opinionated and preachy. But I once saw a young professional post on social media something about being done with all middle aged white women on Twitter, forever. When you name a group and lump us all together, you might be missing some awesome, wise stuff. Or at least some awesome wiseass stuff.
  4. Workhorses: Middle aged women run most churches, political organizations, nonprofits and schools. Yes, sometimes because we can’t get through the damn gatekeeping in other places with higher stature (and PAY!) but also because we know how to get things done and those are the places that NEED us. Shut us out or shut us up and you’re hurting the orgs that need the most love.
  5. OTHER Women: No need to tell a woman “of a certain age” that sometimes the worst enemy is another woman. Threatened? Jealous? Power trip? Marginalized? Whatever the reason, when I see a woman in power turn on me, I know to either run or roll over. There is no good way out. They know the soft spots to aim for and they are lethal.

Change the system? Nah. I’m old enough to know it’s not gonna happen. At least not in time for me. And knowing this is the way it is helps, a little. It’s not just me. There’s a fix on. The biggest proof was the 2016 US election.

Me? I’m staying to the safe zones and hanging with the other crones, making coffee at church, and calling my congresspeople. You know. Doing what we’ve always done. Taking care of the things that need doing and having fun poking at everyone else while we do, and yeah, sometimes all over Twitter! Ha.

Fighting About the Bleeding

I admit it. Black Lives Matter was a hard sell for me. The lives I love the most in this world are the lives of my kids and my husband. Those are Asian lives. Watching pop culture racist jokes hurled by Black celebrities at Asian people just made me angrier. Chris Rock can go suck an egg.  Faith (1).png

“Why the hell do you get to go first?”

I am also a long time unofficial “keeper of the secrets” for my profession. I have heard years of story after story about powerful ministers who use their status in a gender and power bias dogfight against the religious educators over whom they hold authority: they call in a woman for a meeting and then slide her “pre-written” letter of resignation across the table with a warning to sign or they will ruin her good name; they threaten that a job might “be in jeopardy” if a particular social justice program is enacted; or they just go ahead and order all the supplies for the latest curriculum trend, even though the religious educator has clearly said it’s not the best course for their program, because they are the boss. I have heard from these people who call with tears in their eyes and sometimes a drink in their hand: “What can I do? I have to submit to my minister, I need this job.”

Sexism. Misogyny. Patriarchy. And it’s BAD.

But, I think I get the why behind Black Lives Matter and the need to focus here first, why sometimes we have to focus on a central issue. I get it.

It’s freakin’ triage. It’s the core of it all.

Say you are drinking coffee at your local coffee shop and a bus plows into the building across the street. You run across the street into the carnage of fellow humans who are shaped in unholy angles and bleeding bright red blood. Do you say “well, now, all of these lives matter and so I’m going to serve each equally in turn.”

No. Nope. You don’t. You assess who is in the greatest need. That’s who you help first. Those in the greatest danger of death.  You fix the most broken things first. Not that you ignore the other folks, no, you do that too. But priorities, please.

So we focus on #BlackLivesMatter not to the exclusion of other things. We learn about the way we are ALL taught, not just White people, to center whiteness. It’s insidious. We focus on the voices of people who are not the most privileged. Not choosing the one voice that agrees with us over the chorus of voices that don’t, but listening, listening, listening. We try to have compassion for those who feel newly oppressed because losing the center of focus can feel like oppression, but you know what? If they don’t learn to see what’s up, then they gotta go somewhere else. Move on.

We remind ourselves of what my former colleague, Lena Gardner, writes: “…fixing the centrality of white supremacy specifically against Black folks will help lift all boats and is deeply interwoven with other forms of oppression.”

We know that we’ve got to start here. Yes, my Asian family members face discrimination and oppression. Yes, my beloved colleagues face discrimination and oppression. No one is saying this isn’t part of the story.

It is.

But there is work to be done, and we need to stop standing on the sidewalk, arms crossed in anger, fighting about who is bleeding. Time to get in and fight for justice or…get the hell out.

#BoycottUnitedAirlines

I get it. We were an airline family for 20 years; one or both of us working for an airline and flying all over on standby. Safety means that we need clear lines of authority on a plane. But…

If you can’t buy people off at $700 or $800 then you go to $1000 and you keep going until you reach market price.

Don’t assault your passengers.

And you tell me that’s the same thing the damn cop would have done to a White guy.

There is no way in hell. 

I flew United two days ago. Their frequent flyer system will not match my TSA precheck number no matter what I do so I couldn’t use my precheck. 

When I tried to get it fixed I think the ticket agent deliberately changed my aisle seat to a middle seat further back on the plane to punish me for complaining. And then the gate agent would not change it back. The seat I should have had was given to a United employee.

I am glad that United has pissed off their customers in China. They don’t deserve any second chances. They deserve to go the hell out of business.

I’m done.