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Archive for May, 2016

I am blessed. Unequivocally, undoubtedly, blessed. It’s easy to forget, sometimes. It’s easy to let the problems of the universe sink in, to let the daily annoyances pile up and inspire resentment, but that’s when we have to take a few steps back and get a new perspective. We need to let those unimportant things go and either make a new plan or let it be. Here are some of my blessings:

  1. My husband. I am married to a man (for almost twenty years!) who has seen me at my best and most definitely at my worst. He has loved me through four pregnancies, three kids, job loss, financial crises, a depression/anxiety diagnosis, and my frustration with keeping up an older house and no money to do it. Oh, and did I mention that he has to put up with me trying to convince him to move to London?
  2. My kids. My boyos: Oldest Child, Middle Child, and Youngest Child. All different, all amazingly wonderful. I never imagined being the mother of all boys, but God works in wonderful ways and even with all of the ways they are different from me, they are my heart.
  3. My family. My family is huge, mixed-up, made up of many components, a wee bit dysfunctional, but most important, loving. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world.
  4. My friends. Like everyone, I have different groups of friends in different places and from different times in my life. I am deeply thankful for each one of them.
  5. I live in a country where I’m free, not only as a person, but as a woman. In many places in the world, even today, I would have no rights to anything. The U.S. isn’t perfect by any means, but I can wear what I want, marry who I want, drive, go anywhere I like without a chaperone, and criticize the government without worrying about being thrown in prison, or worse. There’s much work to do, but things are moving in the right direction.
  6. My hedgie. She’s amazing, cranky and cuddly at the same time and I love her.
  7. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several countries. I have the wanderlust. Bad. I believe that seeing how other people live in other parts of the world is essential. How can we work together if we live in ignorance and all we know of others is what fear mongers tell us? Granted, I haven’t visited any war-torn nations, but the places that I have been have given me a greater appreciation for the world as a whole. Now, I just have to figure out how to travel more frequently. (Rick Steves, have you looked at my résumé yet?)
  8. I’m a published author. Not a New York Times bestselling author, but I was able to get published by a company. Let’s see if it can happen again. (Slightly greedy, I know.)
  9. Facebook. This was a toughie, because Facebook is most definitely a colossal time-waster. But it has also allowed me to keep in touch with people who I may have otherwise lost contact with. In most cases, that is a blessing.
  10. Creature comforts. There’s an old hymn that says, “There’s a roof up above me, I’ve a good place to sleep. There’s food on my table and shoes on my feet. You gave me your love, Lord, and a fine family. Thank you, Lord, for you blessings on me.” It’s one of the truest songs I know. I don’t need, or want, a huge house, expensive cars, or designer clothes. Most of the world doesn’t have what I have: Enough.

Reminding myself of how much I actually have when I want something may not stop the desire, but it does make me appreciate my blessings. I wish the same for you.

A presto.

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I watch the Today Show in the morning while getting ready for work. Sometimes it’s background noise, sometimes they have stories that I really listen to. I tune out a lot of the political stuff because I’m sick of hearing about Donald Trump and all of his insanity. The cooking segments are okay and I listen to the headlines, but my favorite things to watch are the human interest stories, stories about real people in different situations and how they handle them, in good ways or bad. The human psyche fascinates me. I am endlessly curious about the motivations people have, what circumstances in their lives led them to act the way that they do.

I was watching on Tuesday when a story came on that caught my attention. Apparently, Old Navy had put out an advertisement that portrayed an interracial family: an African-American mother, a Caucasian father, and their little boy. It’s a really cute picture, as many advertisements are, with everyone smiling and happy. When I looked at it, I  thought that it was a cool thing for Old Navy to show an interracial family, a reflection of our modern society. As I found out, though, the reason that that advertisement was being shown on the Today Show was because many people didn’t feel the same way.

I went on Twitter to read the comments. (I know, I know, the comments are scary, but if you’re going to take something on, you should know your enemy.) I’m not going to put even a fraction of them on here, they were that horrible, but they range from “disgusting” to some extremely vile things. I was really (unpleasantly) surprised that so many comments had something to do with “white genocide” Huh? Genocide? Um, no. Genocide= what Adolph Hitler did to the Jews. Genocide= what is happening to certain groups of people in the Middle East right now. Genocide= what happened to the Tutsi in Rwanda, 1994. Genocide≠ people of different races marrying and having families. The ignorance is staggering and more importantly, frightening. Here is an article from the New York Times, if you’re so inclined: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/us/upbeat-interracial-ad-for-old-navy-leads-to-backlash-twice.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 You can also see the controversy on Twitter and most news sites.

I don’t understand the mentality of people who have been posting those inane responses. Some of them are so evil that I’m surprised they’re walking among us, but most of them vowed to never shop at Old Navy again. Really? You’re not going to shop at Old Navy any more because they used an ad of an interracial family? Stupidity and ignorance at its finest. If you are threatening to harm people because of their racial background, you should not be out on the street. Period.

What really floors me (and makes me smile to myself) is that many of the people who are so opposed to racial mixing are possibly of mixed race themselves and don’t even know it. During the period of legal slavery in the United States and its territories, thousands of children, often the result of rape from white masters. were born to slave women. Some interracial (and illegal) couples also lived together consensually and had  children. If those children, or their children, could “pass” for white, they often did in order to have a better life. Many times, their white families didn’t know and still don’t! A good example of this is Bliss Broyard’s fascinating read, One Drop. The title comes from the premise that if a person had only one drop of African blood. he or she was classified as black and was treated as such during the time of slavery and many years thereafter. Her father, Anatole Broyard, an acclaimed New York Times columnist, had come from a racially mixed family but decided to pass for white when he was a young man. It wasn’t until he was literally on his death bed that the truth came out and his children were introduced to a whole new branch of the family. It’s a fascinating story.

The TLC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, and PBS’s Finding Your Roots have both surprised a few celebrities with DNA test results showing that they have an unexpected racial connection. Ty Burrell, who stars on Modern Family, was surprised to find that the family whisperings of having a black ancestor were true. Several African-American celebrities uncovered white ancestors. Some were surprised, some were not. The truth is, we all have quite the mixture of races in us already, there is no such thing as a “pure” race. People who perpetuate the myth that there is a pure white race need to check their facts, and possibly their DNA.

My own roots are pleasantly jumbled. My father’s side of the family is pretty straightforward English/Scottish/Irish with some Swiss and German thrown in for good measure. My mother’s side, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Nick, was born in Sicily. Poor Sicily, while now part of Italy, has been conquered many times by other empires: Arab, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Northern African. It is difficult to say what our racial background actually is based on Sicily’s history. His son, my uncle, took a DNA test several years back. It showed that we have northern African cousins, in Algeria and Sudan I believe, but it didn’t say how far back in time we were related. It could be 200 years ago or 1000 years ago. Like I said, it was an older test, but my sons and I thought it was cool that we were part African. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I’m a sickly pale about ten months out of the year, but I have some African roots.

The point I’m trying to get across is that the idea of race as a kind of a club is stupid. Sure, I love looking up my family history and learning where my ancestors came from (especially the English, for the simple fact that they kept amazing records in their parish churches), but equally intriguing for me is finding the different cultures that dwell inside. How exciting!

I taught 5th graders for several years and that is when they begin learning about slavery in United States history. Many of my students would self-identify as their religion, so we always had to have the talk about the difference between race and religion. One can be born and raised into a certain religion, but that is a choice. One’s racial background is not a choice, it’s just how you are born. You can’t choose it before you are born, you can’t change it, it’s something that is a part of you forever. We talked about being proud of whatever background we had, but also how it was important to respect the identities of others and how different cultures contribute so much to the world. We also talked about how it was not okay to disparage somebody because of their race. You see, children are taught racism, it’s not something that they’re born with. Something to think about…

The term “race” has been used by bigots as a way to separate people, to create divisions and animosity, instead of simply being used for historical or scientific purposes. That never made sense to me, seeing as how science and religion agree that human beings both started in northeastern Africa, even if their ideas of how we began are different. Differences developed in response to our environments. A translucent-skinned person like me would burn to a crisp on the African continent today, my lack of melanin meant to soak up Vitamin D from the sun in northern climates. My northern European genes have won out in that respect. My Grandpa Nick, however, had what one would call a “swarthy” complexion, necessary in sun-drenched Sicily to protect him. I look more like my father’s side of the family, but I have just as much DNA from my mother’s side as I do his. What you look like doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on what your roots are. Remember, with every generation back, your number of grandparents doubles: two grandparents, four great-grandparents, eight great-great grandparents, and so on. Unless you are a careful genealogist, you really don’t know all of your racial background. Maybe that’s worth taking a look into. You might find out some really cool things!

Open your mind and think. You’ll be surprised at actually makes sense.

A presto.

 

 

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