Danger

Is it unreasonable of me to fear that I’ve forgotten how to care for others in learning to care for myself?

In the past, when I’d write about different issues, I tapped and depleted reserves of energy and empathy I did not know I had.

Now, when turned on myself and healing old wounds, I worry that I will never stop knitting and patching the holes in my psyche. I will never have enough time to reverse the damage of not being present in my body. I will spend so much time rebuilding and repairing my sense of self that there will be nothing left to give to anyone. What part of the game is that?

This post is for those who have seen this portion of the journey and circled back to the cycle of giving. How do you balance your needs in the exchange of love that surrounds active engagement with the world (beauty, flaws, and all)?

Things I’ve Been Doing

Followers of the blog (hi, if you’re still out there) have seen I haven’t updated my blog in ages, and occasionally I make excuses about why I’ve been absent. But the biggest reason I’ve absented myself is I’m reluctant to return to my old posting habits when I started this blog. Have you ever read your old essays and cringed because you know you’re capable of better writing? In addition, you have new experiences to share, and the old writing dredges up memories of places you had to visit to reach your current destination. Not-so-good memories.

Well, I’m back. I’ll write. But I don’t want to revisit the echo chambers of explaining why I’m human and why others like me are human. I still want to defend what is right and to speak with integrity; but I will not internalize or tolerate any debate of why I am less than or more than anyone else.

I wrote faithfully on human rights, and I am a writer. I am not a media correspondent. I don’t want to be a media correspondent. I’m fine off camera and off the microphone. (But I’ll take a book deal. :-P)

So, what has happened over the past months, beyond graduating from law school and earning my license to practice law? Not much, I’m afraid.

  • I read a lot of fiction and watch (possibly too much) TV.
  • I’ve started reading devotionals and praying more to connect more deeply with my Christianity.
  • I am having a love-hate relationship with physical fitness and exercise. Specifically, I am starting to run (!) and I want to resume practicing yoga. (At this point, “resume” probably isn’t the right word. I want to start again because I haven’t faithfully done yoga since 2004/2005! And anyone who practices yoga knows that when you haven’t done it for years, you’re starting from scratch.)
  • I’m preparing myself to become a caregiver for a parent.
  • I’m cooking and baking, and I enjoy it so much it may result in a career change or a side hustle in the future.
  • I’m making plans to visit a friend who lives abroad.
  • I’m doing more crafting — another form of relaxation and enjoyment.

I’m not watching the news cycles, tweeting incessantly, obsessing over anyone, eating my feelings (at least, not with junk food), or playing King of the Hill games with anyone. Loving others, combined with a healthy and liberal dose of self-care, is the new world order, folks. With that declared, I think I can compose myself here again.

For folks who want to connect with me on social media, I am on Pinterest if you want to see the recipes I have collected, along with other interests like fashion and general geekery. My Twitter account is still open; but I’ve been off that for a while. If I start again, I’ll let you know.

In conclusion, I guess what I’m trying to say is hello, world.

I remember

I remember when I was afraid to start statements with “I feel” because someone once told me that was a womanly construction and it betrayed a weakness in the speaker’s ability to articulate their thoughts without preface.

I remember running across the internet and yelling at people.  A lot.

I remember having more articles open on my internet browser than I had attention span to read them.

I remember reading some articles horribly wrong because I couldn’t keep pace with all my reading.  I’d then say something completely wrong.  Later, when retracting, I’d feel a visceral pain in my stomach for being careless — but no urge to slow down.

I remember composing articles by starting from the end or the middle instead of the beginning.  Link farming.  Tying complex ideas together in my head, explaining them, and sounding like a complete lunatic.  Metaphysics and sociology/anthropology/postmodernist literary theory mish-mash.

I remember blaming Derrida, Spivak, Althusser, hooks, and Plato.

I remember near-manic composition about things and later having to go back and read what exactly my positions were on particular issues because I forgot as soon as I composed my posts.

I remember lots of fantastic fictional worlds that never made contact with a page or a pixel.

I remember lots of poetry and wordplay that (sometimes fortunately, sometimes unfortunately) did.

I remember physically shaking when my family members would tell me about writing anything on the internet and how it was risking losing everything.  Just convulsing, developing new nicknames, and writing.  More aliases and emails than I can manage, for writing.

I remember having to shake my head until I felt dizzy because understanding a position is not agreeing with a position.  And yet, everywhere I looked, people took them as one in the same.  Except the ones fighting.  And I would hear all sides as voices in my head.  Screaming voices.  And I can’t abide screaming, and I’d start to shake and ache and even cry sometimes.

I remember how it didn’t occur to me to find other ways to write.  How I bought (and still buy) countless notebooks and journals that I never used.  How I wrote briefs, papers, outlines, and notes in blog dialog boxes.  How other writing formats felt completely out of my control, and somehow, through habit or denial, positive release came with composing in the blog dialog box.

I remember doing guest writings and forcing myself to conform to the venue.  Like putting on second, third, fourth skins that wouldn’t slough off afterwards.

I remember all this now.  Fighting through reluctance and fear of being wrong to write.  And stopping because I lacked a course and a purpose to my composition that I could carry with me into and through my life.  I don’t want anything to take over my voice anymore; my feeling, thinking, and creative voice.

Lisa/Sudy once wrote that accountability is key to action, and it’s important to hold yourself accountable to someone.  I am slowly understanding what she means.  And I think there’s a corollary that one shouldn’t hold herself accountable to just anyone, either.  It’s easy to float on the wind and land where it takes you; it’s harder to fly and determine your own course.

I remember because to forget is to undo everything — the mistakes, the critical hits, the lessons, and the love.

Home Ec: Do It for the Kids (Not Just the Fat Ones)

The New York Times published an op-ed by Helen Zoe Veit about bringing home economics back into the public school curriculum to combat obesity among young people. It’s one of those ideas good in theory. If kids learn to cook early, they will make responsible choices about what they put in their bodies.

Realistically, though? I think kids would be more excited about the example Veit gives about putting a hole in canned biscuits to make doughnuts. I was. (That’s essentially what Chinese doughnuts from the buffets are — deep-fried canned biscuits dipped in white sugar. You’re welcome, fellow fatties.) Why cloak such a good idea in fat shaming? Veit’s right about these courses being undervalued because of the gender associations of household cooking with women (specifically, domesticated women, whether housewives or hired help) and the whitewashing of time and marketing on food preparation innovations. People may not enjoy investing time in cooking; but it can be the difference between a $1 cheeseburger every day for a week, or a $7 bean soup lasting a few weeks. (Can of broth, bag of veggies, bag of beans, spices, and some rice if you’re fiesty. Prepare, eat, and take the leftovers to the freezer to store and reheat. You’re welcome, fellow frugal cooks.)

Can our schools do this? First of all, we need to evaluate if schools have the resources to accommodate home economics courses. Home ec requires appliances: dishwashers, ovens, microwaves, refrigerators. Home ec requires cookware and bakeware: pots, pans, dutch ovens, skillets, casserole dishes, cookie sheets, muffin pans. Utensils, plenty of tupperware or other plastic, and… what’s that other ingredient? Yes. FOOD. Some public schools barely can afford to heat and to cool the buildings properly. Outfitting them with full kitchens — multiple kitchens to accommodate overcrowded classes — will take major investment.

My high school — one of the few all-girl public high schools in the nation — had a home economics class. And yes, I took it. Sometimes we were encouraged to bring in our own ingredients for casseroles, and as a poor kid, I couldn’t always make that happen. It could be difficult watching your classmates pull out bags of fresh seafood across the room and make exquisite meals. Nevertheless, it was a great learning experience. I still wince at the time someone in our small cooperative forgot to add sugar to our first yellow cake. We had to eat everything we prepared — good tasting or bad tasting — so long as it was fully cooked.

But do I know my way around a kitchen? Yes. I can, at the very least, follow a recipe. I know how to properly measure wet and dry ingredients. Making things from scratch does not seem nearly as intimidating as it did before I took that high school course. We all learned to keep our hair tied back, we washed our hands religiously, and we were well-cautioned against cross-contamination of foods. We were schooled on what utensils were before we even entered the kitchen, and our lessons on how to spot botulism have followed me into adulthood.

I am not currently Suzy Homemaker, though. Cooking is a slow science. In our fast-paced society that has trained us for instantaneous results, cooking can be a slow crawl for kids who want something to eat when they want it. A crash course on proper food storage won’t be enough. Plus, there were moments where all of us in the classroom raised our eyebrows, such as the manners video. No one eats pizza with a knife and fork unless it is a massive, messy, well-layered, deep dish monstrosity of deliciousness. With extra sauce and pepperoni.

But I digress.

Who would be best for teaching these classes? Hospitality industry familiars, nutritionists, dietitians, and chefs, perhaps? The only way I could see these courses impacting people’s eating choices is if there’s someone installed in the kitchens who understands the importance of balancing diets and realizes deprivation and austerity do not result in healthy chow-down habits. Scaring kids with “if you don’t cook, you don’t eat” would send a lot of people into unhealthy binging and ridiculous eating schedules, and those are not conducive to healthy living at all.

Another positive side effect of home ec? You could transform it into a vocational enterprise for the school. Have kids make baked goods and sell them to the student body and local communities for a reduced price. Host district-wide competitions, or take them to existing ones. Team up with hospitality colleges to show kids who want to make a career out of it that it’s an option. Encourage the construction of a school garden for homegrown choices and pair it with biology curricula. The possibilities are endless to segue food preparation with healthy rewards for everyone. Investment is the key, as it is with every good idea for rebuilding communities and initiative in a floundering economic climate.

A potential negative is the politics of food. Cultural sensitivity around what to prepare, how, and the reasons why requires conscious teachers. There are healthy alternatives and techniques for every type of cuisine.  While the French may have named virtually every cooking technique in the book, healthy and delicious soul food, techniques for making tamales, the secrets to a delicious and spicy teriyaki sauce, the filling properties of injera bread — all of these foods can open up the world to an America growing more and more close-minded in its worldview. Teaching the value of food substitution and culinary creativity goes a long way for feeding a new generation of experimental eaters.

In short, I am not completely down on Veit’s idea. The culinary industry is an important vocation. People do not like cooking at home all the time. Even home chefs who enjoy cooking like a reprieve from the kitchen. There is an open market for people who can prepare healthy, fresh and affordable foods and serve them safely. Bolstering home economics could be a valuable opportunity to take advantage of the glamor television shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, and channels like The Food Network and The Travel Channel have given to chefs and food preparers of all genders and races. Let’s face it: Gordon Ramsay was a former football player who is one of the most respected chefs in the world.  That’s a pretty awesome profile to an up-and-coming adult.  Plus, it’d be nice to come home from school and watch Top Chef knowing exactly what a beurre blanc and a gastrique is.  (Granted, in my cooking class, we learned little about beurre blanc and gastriques; but we made some mean batches of holiday cookies to conclude the semester.)

But is the solution to curbing obesity as simple as putting a fat kid in front of a stove? Of course not.  You could even say it enables us.

evil laughter

Talking about a revolution…

When you see photos like these, what do you think about?

Egyptian Revolution

These pictures make me think of change; for me, they encapsulate democracy.  They are the start of securing rights that help us all live, and therefore are worth death and sacrifice.

These pictures remind me of the civil rights movement and the urgency of demanding change, the changes for which work and parties and conventions and committees could wait.  The changes that could send you to jail one day and entitle you to visit any private business you wished the next.

Women Protesting in EgyptPictures like these have inspired hope, political pressure, and the courage to resist.  They are iconic.  They are lessons in civics.  Sometimes, governments do not work for you.  Sometimes, it works to protect itself and its bureaucracy and injustice.  Sometimes, you need to remind governments whose interests they should protect.

They are not waiting for our children to dream.  They are [making] all of our dreams true, today.

These events are not lessons in pride to be shoveled back to a relic in time, some hundreds of years from now in dusty tomes to be revised and shelved.  They are continuing lessons in humility to the overwhelming force of collective change.  Lessons we should honor, we should reteach, and we should always heed.  The consequences of collective change always resonate through our lives, and none of us, no matter how oblivious we try to be, will miss the fallout.

It is time to respect ourselves and the world we live in and demand peace.  Demand responsiveness.  Demand unity.

Many thanks to my co-blogger Bq for the album links and the youtube link and her general fabulousness and friendship.

 

we can share our endorphins

The phrase “blogging effort” is a perfect one. Blogging takes so much out of you and is a second job.

You can’t blog if you don’t care. You can’t blog if you don’t care enough. You can’t write if you don’t feel and let that feeling run through your fingers and spread. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t lying about writing being a hemorrhage of the soul.

My first job — the one that pays my bills, permits me to take care of myself, and allows me to care for my mom — takes a lot out of me. But right now, it is not giving me the positive energy that blogging used to give me. I feel disconnected and recycled right now, even though I know I am in a place where I am needed. But others’ needs aren’t enough.

A wise woman once wrote that the best gift you can give to yourself, as a principle of self-care, is to hold yourself accountable to someone else. Anyone else. Another way of saying it is your word is your bond. To thine own self be true. Same principle, different words.

Although I have no desire to succeed in this world because of how corrupt and plain ridiculous it is, I do care about the people it tramples and suppresses to continue its rampant inequality and debasement. And I write. If I can’t write about me, can’t write poetry, can’t write fiction, can’t write ANYTHING at given points, I have to look inside and hold myself accountable to those people by writing about them, to them, and with them.

Compassion is a good skill to have; but it takes practice and constant vigilance.

think twice.

this post is going to be a little didactic.

think twice before you laugh at antoine dodson. i know everything is supposed to take a backseat to short-lived fame and exposure. but how would you feel if your sister was attacked by a rapist and people did nothing about it? officials laughed at you, police took their time coming to investigate, media crews didn’t arrive until you called them, and then your time on the news gets spoofed to entertain others instead of warn them. antoine’s taking his time in the spotlight in stride, and i think he’s doing it for kelly’s sake. i hope all the people laughing and singing “hide your kids, hide your wife” are writing all of the people in kelly’s community and state to do something about catching the rapist.

i planned to write about this at feministe, fast on the heels of the gang rape of a 12-year-old at a nearby skatepark. what does it mean when you read about attack after attack after attack, and one of the thoughts in your head is “i hope no one auto-tunes something like this” or “how can this story garner more attention than it’s gotten,” when these stories should be enough to knock ten people on their asses with grief.

there aren’t psychic holes deep enough to hide away from all the violence and deception this culture heaps on us every day. so if we must sit desensitized and wading through day after day, trying to survive amidst the chaos, let’s use our strong stomachs and weary eyes to bear witness. reinforce our hearts by opening them and letting the scar tissue thicken around them. occasionally be sick with grief instead of overeating, overexertion. let a raw nerve throb for something more than too much sex, too much self-indulgence.

“opinions, we all have them. i try to keep mine to myself, especially in social media forums.”

sometimes keeping things to yourself can kill other people. can get other people attacked. can allow evil ideas to conquer the marketplace and argue why they should go unchallenged. because of the importance of keeping dissent mum. because no one wants to be told that maybe what they’re feeling and thinking is wrong. maybe they ought to think twice before inflicting their will on the world.

maybe everyone should speak loudly. all at once. without looking for a cheap laugh. hide your kids. hide your wife. hide your husband because they’re raping everybody up in here. say it three times with a straight face and wonder how hard you’d laugh if it were your reality. think of how hard you laugh if it is your reality.

how loudly would you scream if you realized no one is truly safe?

poor people aren’t supposed to want nice things.

I don’t know if you guys received the memo; but poor people aren’t supposed to want nice things.

All rags-to-riches (or rags-to-bitches, if you want to get all Boondocks about it) stories start with people who are poor but industrious. Tales of kids eating cigarette ash sandwiches to survive. Tales of people saving mustard packets so they have food that stretches through the whole year. Bonus points if your parent proudly refuses government help, or if you suffer through and survive a vitamin deficiency. You’re a rock star if you live many years out on the streets and still pull down a 4.0+ GPA. You have done poverty correctly.

However, if you take what little disposable income you have and buy sushi, you are doing wrong. Poor people do not want things like smartphones (you’re poor; who are you calling on a smartphone?), televisions (you’re poor; what do you need entertainment for?), nice cars (why wouldn’t you get a modest car to get around when you’re poor), or delicious food (do you know how much ramen you could have bought for the cost of that scone?). Poor people should not take any windfalls or nest eggs or scraped together pennies and expose themselves to luxuries. After all, isn’t that just a brutal reminder of how poor they are any other time? Why not just face the fact that poor is what you are, poor is what you shall be, and poor means that you cannot have nice things?

Poor means you cannot even want Nice Things. You are not supposed to want them. In commercials, do they show people living in Section 8 housing, driving BMWs and sipping lattes, and otherwise enjoying Nice Things? No, they show fashionably abysmal young lithe college students enjoying Nice Things. But what if you are a fashionably abysmal young lithe poor college student? Doesn’t matter. You’re poor. If you ostensibly put together a year’s worth of fortune cookies so that you’d have something to nibble on once the ramen ran out, you are not supposed to want Nice Things.

When you are poor, you are supposed to shock people with the depth of your intellect. It is your responsibility to tell people the reason you are so intelligent or well-read or knowledgeable is:

  • Your parents wanted something better for their children, something that they themselves could never have;
  • You owe your intelligence to treks to the library, sometimes barefoot in 10 feet of snow, backwards, pulling the sled you would overload with books and stories; or
  • Being poor, you have been living the realities that academics and news reporters can only dream about. Nobody knows the trouble you’ve seen; nobody knows your sorrow.
  • Often when one of these three reasons come to light, people forgive your indulgence (sometimes your overindulgence) in Nice Things. But they do not forgive the voracity of your enjoyment. Because at that point, Poor Person, you are their reminder that people who are poor want the Nice Things that they readily and regularly acquire. While you may enjoy yourself once, once you have tasted the fruit, do not repeatedly comment on how much you enjoyed that taste of the fruit. You are poor. They know you like what you have because they presume you have never wanted anything more than to get it, like They Who Have Always Had It. You walk into volunteer events, feeling like a hypocrite because you have benefitted from the programs to which you now give your time and your resources. You may even recognize some of the patrons in the soup kitchen, or you glimpse an address for a Christmas gift package that is doors away from your home. Your friends smile and spend over the encouraged limits for them, and you wonder if it weren’t for anonymity, would they even care to know your neighbors’ needs? Or would they be scandalized that the poor would want Nice Things for their families, for themselves? You know the answer already, though. You’ve heard their stories of contempt.

    Your goal, Poor Person, should you choose to accept it, is to forget about any presumption of haves and have-nots. Your job, Poor Person, is to get as far away from the have-nots as possible in thought and deed and investment. Otherwise, you will tip people off to the fact you are or have been poor. They are only supposed to suspect that you have been poor when you approach the dais to give a motivating speech, or when you are filling out an application to fund more education for yourself, or when you have fallen upon dire straits but grow accustomed to those circumstances with aplomb. Then, dear Poor Person, and then only may you say, “I did not always blithely accept the presence of Nice Things in my life; I lived a joyless existence under the poverty line.” After that statement, you counterbalance those tales with your jaunts to an expensive school among Those Who Have a Lot, the blatantly poor, and the secret poor. You omit the mental gymnastics you played to hide how much you wished that Those Who Have a Lot knew you when, so they’d understand how much it hurt when they’d pipe up in class about how poverty is a birthright of the irresponsible and the deranged, the deviant and the demented. Instead, you speak of overcoming the Blue Bloods, the Jacks and Jills, the Nouveau Riche as a general learning experience that the only time you can say, “I wasn’t that upset or deprived or needy when I was poor” is to yourself or to your progeny, as a whispered admonishment when they laugh at a homeless man on the street or when they sneer at a story of a single mother with four kids and a 58″ flat screen television in her home.

    “Yes,” you explain to your astonished kids or closest friends, “sometimes it hurt, and sometimes we couldn’t afford things; but I made myself remember I was still a person, a good person. That’s one thing my parents always had me remember.”

    Where is home?

    In BFP’s recent post Helen Thomas, she reinforces the solid point that Israel is a settler nation founded on the land of Palestinians.  She also points to the irony of progressives calling Thomas’ remarks out of line, when they adopt the indigenous demands that white racist nationalist settlers of the United States demand that other undocumented nationals (typically brown undocumented nationals) “go home.”  They seem to think they have exemption from the call.  It’s easier to excuse oneself than it is to face responsibility for the actions of those who built this nation on the bodies of indigenous peoples.

    However, I think it is also relevant to consider another conundrum about the homes some of us lack.  In this particular situation, Polish and German Jews and Black Americans descended from slaves have a similar problem.  We have no homes, and we may lack the economic and social capital to recreate a home in the places from which we were taken.

    Now, keep in mind that this is not an excuse for indigenous peoples being murdered, starved, and subjected to ethnocide.  But Helen Thomas seemed to fixate on a quick solution to send “Jews” back to Poland and Germany.  Kind of like when Whites fixated on sending Black American descendants from slaves back to Africa.  Some members of our peoples likely agreed and tried it.  But both perspectives, however justified partly in historical context, fail to consider the full circumstances of how we arrived where we were and how we got to where we are.

    Our forced displacement from our lands, for purposes of genocide and enslavement, have made us culturally homeless.   Why do we have a cultural and social obligation to return to lands that robbed us of our dignity?  What resources do we get to rebuild homes if we cannot afford to go where our families originated?  What happens if those lands reject us again?  Where would we settle without losing some piece of our cultural identities to the area we occupy, to take some space in the international cultural community?  Economic enrichment was another key motivator for the Holocaust, and it clearly fueled the transatlantic slave trade for several centuries.  Who owes us the totality of our lives and work before our homes were destroyed?

    We can all sit on our little acres and shout “go home go home go home” all day.  But the construction of home amidst occupation and trafficking runs deeper than telling People X to set up shop in Locale A or settling for colonization because the international landscape was founded on it, is steeped in it, and knows little else but legitimizing opportunistic violent human enclaves.  The solution isn’t as simple as move as close to the past as possible without repeating it and/or rebuilding history using scraps of citizenry and a road map.

    If we all have a right to exist, what antiquated notions of possession and siege should we relinquish in order to exercise it?

    On Gaza, Oaxaca, and the assault on human rights

    What we are seeing with the attack on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza and the attack of aid relief workers heading to Oaxaca is an assault on basic humanity.  It is not defense of borders; it is not protection of resources; it is not authority of states.  It is the violent intervention between people and their right to live, to thrive, to flourish on a planet created for all living beings to exist.

    A group of overarmed, depraved necrophiliacs are declaring war on our right to live because we do not crave death as much as they do.  It is wrong.  We should not stand for it.

    I commend the bravery of the people who gathered resources together, who walked into the belly of the gunpowder-bloated beast and said, “No.  We will not let you deter us from helping others.”  It is civil disobedience in its most sacred form.  It is worth the price of death to try to save another’s life.  I, like many others, only wish it did not have to come at such a high price.

    I am disappointed at the way people have treated those who condemn killers of good samaritans, of human rights workers, of peace supporters.  It is tragic that our culture has taught us that if logic can twist to justify one killing, it can start contorting to justify them all.

    I am also unafraid to say this, even though it resulted in the firing of a journalist: if you cannot see the clear parallels between imperialism and colonialism around the globe and the establishment of the state of Israel on Palestinian land, you are willfully ignorant.

    By acknowledging that the so-called civilized nations that permitted the wholesale extermination of entire groups of people sought to ameliorate their slowness to act by stealing land from yet another indigenous, autonomous group of people, I am not invalidating history or calling for the eradication of anything.  I am simply stating what happened, and why it is unsurprising that fighting continues for land, and why it is shameful that the Palestinians are joining the devastated ranks of other indigenous peoples around the world.  I am simply stating that the so-called civilized nations would rather steal land and arm its designated occupants to the teeth rather than create a peaceful, social solution to the ongoing racism and anti-Semitism that plagues their populations.

    The nations would rather give away land that isn’t theirs so they can continue to preach in their churches, indoctrinate in their schools, and codify in their laws that a few decades’ worth of band-aids will fix centuries of injustice, hatred, and murder.  The nations would rather transform every human body that opposes it, no matter how small or slight or unarmed, into a menace that must be put down.

    And with every humanitarian who dies to share food and medicine with their fellow human, we civilized ones are reminded that these fixes are not enough.  Just as we have the right to speak, the right to arm ourselves, the right to justice and the right to believe, we have the right to aid. We do, and we should.

    God bless those people who are brave enough to help in their communities and in the world.

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