Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Drop-Dead Gorgeous

  I was raised in a white, middle-class American family. I was sheltered and protected. My father worked hard to find work and better work, and my parents never let me know money was ever tight until it was no longer such a concern. I lived in a safe home, in safe suburb neighborhoods, and went to safe, well-funded schools. No one ever persecuted me for my race, religion, or gender, and I never really saw evidence that anyone I knew was. I was never taught to judge someone based on race, religion, or gender. These, among other things, were just parts of a person and meant nothing beyond their basic identifying purpose: to me, if a person had white skin that meant they had white skin, and if a person had brown skin that meant they were brown. I didn't attach much more assumption than that. I mean, I assumed a white person had whit parents and a brown person had at least one brown parent - but I didn't presume to know anything about a person or their parents just because I could see their skin color. After all, what could the color of someone's skin or hair or eyes possibly tell you about their beliefs, their income, their background, etc.? It that sounds too simple to be true, it's not really; it was just a kind of naivete. I rather preferred it, really.

 I knew what racism was, of course, but it was something I learned about in classes and maybe saw on the news. It really seemed to me to be largely a thing of the past, and anyone who judged based on race (or religion, gender, or whathaveyou) was behind-the-times and probably just plain mean. I didn't understand that there were, in truth, communities where people were actively discriminated against or persecuted. I'm sure my own community had its share of stereotypes and discrimination, but as I said, I was sheltered.

  That was how I viewed the world - for the most part still believing in my illusion - as a young adult. So when I fell in love with and married my husband, as far as I was concerned, his name came from a wonderful heritage and his brown skin was simply beautiful. I won't say I didn't realize ours was an interracial marriage because of course I did, and that made me love it even more. I loved that we were proof that skin color didn't matter beyond the fact that I needed sunscreen and my husband didn't; we were progressive - if I wanted to accept a label like that - because of our mixed races. It was amusing to me when someone didn't know enough about Spanish to pronounce my new name, or looked at me like my name was a mistake. And all I thought about our children was how drop-dead gorgeous they would be.

  The world, however, has been giving me a rude awakening lately, with mobs of people I can see all over the internet or TV who now literally want my gorgeous child to drop dead. Why? Because she IS a drop-dead gorgeous brown. I've listened to them, seen the footage and reports of these followers actions, and all their hate speech and violence essentially comes down to "hate everyone who is brown because we've decided they're all bad." I take the threats and hate being directed at my husband and daughter very personally, naturally, and so for the first time in my life, I feel threatened. Threatened by a mob with an angry leader that is being incredibly publicized, condoning and promoting fear, hate, and real violence. They are threatening my family. They are threatening me.

  Let me elaborate on my family. As I said, I am white, and I was raised in middle-class American society. My family has been in America long enough to have generally forgotten where we came from. My maiden name is Scottish, but my ancestors bore that name to America before the revolution. So I'd say I'm about as "American" as one can get. And I would say the same for my husband. He was raised in lower-middle-class American society, much like me. His family has been in America long enough to have generally forgotten where they came from. With effort, we can trace his ancestors back to native sheep farmers in the Colorado area in the 1500s. Again, I'd say that's about as "American" as you can get. He just happens to be Hispanic American.

  What's interesting to me is that on any government census or identification form, there are spaces marked for "race" that include white, black, and Asian, but there is no place for my husband (he's not white, he's brown, but he's also not Asian or black or African-American). If he is given a box, it is called "indeterminate race." That seems unfair to me to label him that. The problem lies with assigning a name for all people with brown skin color that would a) make sense and b) be accepted. They do, however, add a separate section where we can each mark whether we are of Hispanic descent. I mark I am not; he marks that he is. But Hispanic is not a race. So my husband is "indeterminate," meaning, "he's brown." To make matters more complicated, when I look at my husband I just think, "What a handsome guy!" but most people lift an eyebrow and ask, "Where are you from?" And he answers, "Colorado." They chuckle, then say, "Okay, but where are you from?" He repeats, "Colorado." They don't chuckle anymore, certain they're being misunderstood, and say, "Okay, but where is your family from?" Same answer: "Colorado." People give up with questions then, thinking he's being a wise guy. "Okay," they say, "but you look like you're from..." some few say Mexico; a lot say India; too many make this hand gesture to indicate "somewhere foreign." We are patient, smile, and repeat, "Nope. He's just from Colorado." I sometimes want to add, "would you like to see his genealogy charts? They go back to the 1500s - everyone was from the area of Colorado." But I don't; it would be overkill. The point is, looking at my husband, no one can guess where he's from. Probably no one could guess where I'm from just by looking at me, but because I'm white, they don't care. So why do they care because my husband is brown?

  They care because they're being told that brown equals foreign. (May I just say I still prefer my naive view: brown just equals brown.) That, in itself, is just kind of annoying. More annoying is when someone asks my husband, a native English speaker, "Where did you learn to speak English so well?" The answer: "The same place you did: at home and school."

  What is worse than annoying - what is scary - is when people are told and believe that brown equals bad, or brown equals dangerous, or brown equals illegal immigrant, or brown equals terrorist or possible terrorist. Because they act on those assumptions. They act violently, hatefully, and feel justified.

  Now we have a presidential candidate who is spewing this venom across the nation, telling his followers that anyone brown is bad and should be treated as less than a person. He is cheering and encouraging violence against skin color, simple as that. And if he and his supporters are not stopped, guess who is on the list? My brown, Hispanic-American husband of "indeterminate" race whom people always assume must have come from outside his own country. What would they do to him if they encountered him - in the store, in a church, at his work, or (heaven forbid) in the street? Look at reports of what they ARE ALREADY DOING for the answer.

  My world has become racist and scary. I know now what it is to fear prejudices, to realize they could very well be anywhere or everywhere. And my daughter - my beautiful, Hispanic, American, white-but-brown child - what will they think of her? What kind of world will she face? What kind of prejudices will she face? What would these people do to her?

  Please understand this is why I will not stop sharing posts against Trump. He and his supporters are quite literally attacking my family. We will not be silent victims. Nor will we be mean ones. I refuse to let us become "victims" at all, and I'm starting by making sure everyone I know is aware of what Trump is doing. And then, hopefully people are attentive enough to realize, "He's talking about... but I know those people! He shouldn't be allowed to do that. No one should." And I suggest that if you don't want my drop-dead gorgeous daughter to grow up in a world where she is being told to "drop dead," you find a way to stand up for those being persecuted. Find a voice for good and use it, especially against this bad.

  I have faith in people, and I have faith in my country. I do not believe Trump has any real chance at the Presidency. What scares me is how loud and how widespread his doctrine is, and what people are doing because of it. If it were a few hundred idiots who wanted to listen to idiocy at a rally, that would just be sad to see. But there are thousands and thousands who do more than listen - they engage those they're being taught to fear in criminal ways, and that... that is truly terrifying.

Leave your thoughts and comments please!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rocking Out

This is Lana's latest favorite song. Queen's "We Will Rock You"

Leave your thoughts and comments please!

Monday, February 8, 2016

No More Fear

 So it's 2016, and I am "reviving" this blog. I took a bit of a hiatus in 2015 because a great majority of my emotions were consumed by the decision to adopt and the process of beginning that journey; as I've said, that's not something I can really share here. But because of that writing hiatus, a look at my blog might suggest that I'm still in all the places I was when last I wrote. I'm not! Life is so fluid and I am ever-evolving and growing and learning. Who I was in 2014 and before is a part of me, but I am so much more now. I'm writing again because writing is how I make sense of life and share my stories and experiences.

I want to start by talking about a post I wrote in 2014 that began a tremendous journey for me. I decided that it was time to shed the fear and shame of admitting that I battle depression. So many people do, but they do so in silence and fear, and I wanted to tell myself and anyone who needed to hear that this is something we're in together and there's no reason to be ashamed of it.

But WOW! I was completely unprepared for the responses I would get for this post! I knew I was making myself vulnerable - on purpose - because I didn't just say, "Oh, by the way, I have depression, but let's move on." No. I wrote as honestly and openly as I could about what depression feels like in its worst moments. And suddenly everyone was reading that post (which had never happened in this little blog of mine), and everyone seemed to have something to say about it. Most people didn't comment on the post itself; they either contacted me privately or began this buzzing behind-the-hand discussion all around me.

So in the wake of this vulnerable expression, I now had to deal with the feelings of what people were doing with my vulnerability. A lot of people privately said thank you - thank you for showing me someone else understands; now I don't feel so alone. And I thought, Yes! This is so good. When we suffer together the burden feels lighter. A lot of people didn't talk TO me at all, but ABOUT me. I had to quickly stop myself from becoming obsessed with what they were saying. This was so atypical of me - I am really self-conscious by nature - but I convinced myself that if they couldn't say it to my face then what they said wasn't important enough to worry about. Because I had other people who DID say to my face some pretty harsh criticisms.

 Those critics were tough for me. I was already being tough on myself for having this weakness, and the added voices were too much for me at first. I heard things like, "How dare you? It's not okay to talk about this." I heard the voices saying, "Nothing good can come from this." I heard so many misconceptions. People who didn't understand depression sometimes saw what I wrote about how bad it can get and thought I meant it was always like that, and well-meaning people kept asking me or my family if they should be on suicide watch. - What?? I'd never said anything about suicide. That's not a part of my depression battle. Where was all this coming from?

So I took some deep breaths, asked some close friends to reassure me that I wasn't a terrible person for writing about depression, and then started taking a close look - a really close look - at the critics. Here's what I learned:

 Those who said it wasn't okay to talk about depression, that I was destroying my reputation by doing it, etc., were actually projecting their inner critic onto me. They were afraid to talk about it openly; they were afraid of what would happen if people knew they fought depression, too; they were just afraid of the same demons I'd given a voice to. So while I still felt the sting of some harsh words, I could understand and forgive their criticism - I knew those fears; I was just ready to move past the fears before they were.

And those who said nothing good could come from this had the same fears. They were just mistaken in what they said. SO much good has come from this! I freed myself. What could be better than that? I freed myself to say, "Okay, I have this thing - now how can I use it for good?" and it has become a vulnerability that I now consider a strength instead of a weakness. I freed myself from denial so I could finally tackle the challenge of learning no just to survive depression but to acknowledge and prevent it and actually thrive. Even better, I've been able to share how I've been learning to thrive with others who want to know and forging meaningful relationships, some short and some long. It's beautiful.

And when I looked at those who thought I must be always depressed and even suicidal, I saw people who cared. Maybe they had someone in their life struggling and they didn't know what to do; maybe they'd lost someone to the struggle and were afraid and grieving and vulnerable themselves. Maybe they had just never known what depression was, and the brutal truth of it scared them.

In the end, I learned that all the critics and even the gossipers were just projecting fear. Fear is the enemy of truth. Fear is the enemy of progress. Fear is the enemy of connection, the enemy of healing, and the ultimate enemy of love. And since I'd decided to be done with Fear, I could stand tall amid all the commentary knowing I was proving, most of all to myself, that I could be, and was, brave and stronger than Fear.

I don't have to talk about my depression, and often choose not to - I like to be positive and most of the time I'm not even in a depression. But I can write about it, about times when I struggle and times when I overcome, with no more fear. I can express myself and be vulnerable because I know those responses really have nothing to do with me. Those who find good in my writing are connecting with good within themselves, and those who find fault are, sadly, listening to fear.

I will continue to be brave and continue to share my stories and explore them. For that is how I am becoming light and free. (A follow-up post updating you on how I now battle and conquer depression is in the works.)

Leave your thoughts and comments please!