Sunday, October 21, 2007

I'm EVERY Woman!

Chaka Khan would be so proud. The next generation of women are going to be amazing. I know because I'm raising one. (We are raising husband and I.) I clarify that in part because I think it is at least one part of why she is soo tremendous. She has the benefit, bonus, necessity, etc. of having a great daddy. Fathers matter in raising children in general - and I'm a believer that they are essential in creating the next generation of women.

So here, ninabot is pretty self-assured with her mass of natural hair blowing in the wind. Granny said here's a headband and it didn't occur to her that this is the most exposure her full mane gets, ever. I am breathless whenever I look at the this pic that dad captured with his palm. It speaks volumes about who and what she is.

She is a fashion maven, a scientist, a blessed child of God, mouthy and emotional, kindhearted, competitive, an original by every measure. I never knew when I aspired to motherhood that looking in the mirror could be so humbling and so inspiring all at the same time. For as much as she is me, she is soooo not me.

I had to buy a size 8 SKINNY LEG jean, just so it would stay up on her little behind. No matter what I did, no other jean would work. Maybe because she is indeed skinny. Uhhhhh, mental note - that is something she probably didn't inherit from me. She loves music, theatre and the arts - and I fall pretty short there too. She's a gymnast, a swimmer and often fearless when it comes to things she has never tried - well maybe I wasn't looking into the mirror after all.

She's more likely compiled of every woman, a legacy of strong women in our family, the beneficiary of wonderful women throughout our lives and the culmination of what happens when men are more that DNA contributors. She is a daddy's girl and I have almost stopped fighting that so I can enjoy it all the more.

I received an Afghan from my cousin in Michigan today, an unexpected gift of tremendous kindness. It takes its place next to the quilt made by her 95 year old mother about 5 years ago. Although these women are not close in proximity and are not people I grew up with - they show and demonstrate they care. For her Baptism, she was surrounded by more love than her heart could hold, by women she shares no dna with - I'm so humbled by that. Don't think she's from a family of slackers though - the most caring woman I've ever met, gave birth to her Artist granny, in addition to the Diva Auntie and the Auntie who encourages and uplifts right along with her dinner treats whenever we visit. I have a host of female friends that bless her life directly or indirectly, many of which alternate between encouraging her and encouraging me - both of which are necessary. She really is every woman, filled with the love and the gifts of everyone who sows seeds into her life.

The God Mother - the rescuer granny - the back-up - the gift card giver - the prayer - the Sunday School teacher - the insightful teacher - the doter - the friendship mender - the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.....I hope you get my point. She has in the core of her heart and the cusp of her hand - the potential of Every Woman, because of the seeds that have been planted into her life. I so often wonder....if we all did a bit more of this, what would the potential of little girls in our nation be?

Baptism and the power of water!

Take me to the be Baptized!

This year has been filled with new experiences. Many of them have involved water. Water surely brings renewal and an opportunity to think of cleansing, new life, birth. And for some of us immense fear.

The first of these lessons came about with the need for the swimming instruction, for at least 4 out of 5 family members. As we started planning our Summer activities we thought about swimming and the cost of swimming lessons. Our oldest had started in group lessons, had gotten much better about being comfortable, and couldn't swim a lick, or a lap. Fast forward to the mommy chatter and we heard there was only one woman who taught children to swim locally, Ms. Margie. I had enough good sense to skip the YMCA - as my childhood trauma came from that experience and I surely wouldn't subject a child to the taste of chlorine. At least not with regularity. So, by August we had signed up for oldest ninabot (affectionate term for kidlets) to start taking private lessons at the Country Club. (That is surely another post.)

I mentioned that I too didn't know how to swim, and the instructor insisted that I come ready to learn the next time I brought little missy. I don't know what made me think this was the year to learn - but I guess I did. The two of us, to my shock and surprise, are now water literate. She can dive, do various strokes, float, and do laps in the deep end. I can survive. I can swim, somewhat. Most importantly I am comfortable getting my face wet, moving from spot a to spot b, back stroke and I'm working on breath and blow. (My deep end skills have a little to be desired and I can still struggle with becoming overwhelmed with too much H20.) I still have a lot to be proud of though.

My oldest children made the decision to get Baptized this year. We were so excited about their decision and I wondered how my second ninabot would do when he understood just what it would require. He likes water about as much as I do. So we talked about it and he was certain he loved God enough to take the plunge. (Until he kindly lifted his hand out of the water to assist the minister in coming up!) Like many generations before him, my Noah doesn't care for any more water than he can drink. I was so proud of him for his courage and for his hand motions that confirmed he is surely my child.

The littlest kidlet wasn't old enough to get Baptized, although he clarified for anyone who would listen, "I love God too." We went to the Baptism and he was very observant of his brother and sister as he looked on and encouraged them in their big day. He had been overwhelmed by the company for the weekend and having the people who love him (and his siblings) surround him was such a big treat. was my rocket science idea to take the children to the gym the following weekend for a little R & R, and pool time. I was happy with my new skills and the ability to go from one side to the other with relative ease. I was happy in general - until I rolled over to a yelling lifeguard telling me that I had better watch my son (age 3), even though dad was in the water too. It was a cold shock to my system.

Littlest ninabot tried to reach me and went out too far and got over come in the water. Let me introduce you to the next swim lesson contestants - ninabots 2 and 3. The life guard jumped in, dad wasn't far behind, but the joy of the water was sucked completely out of me. The power of water is really diverse - from fear, to renewal for frustration all in less than 3 months. I solemnly walked out of the pool not thinking about the joy of our time together but promising myself - swimming is a life skill, not an option. Isn't it funny how one thing can represent soo many things when you really look at it.

The same is true for friendships, life lessons and hardships. They come in all packages, mean many things in deed to us all - but when it all comes down to it - its the same substance at heart. I guess the challenge for each of us, is how you use what you know. A lesson from the power of water indeed.

I look at this picture and I'm certain about the power of many things. The power of water, the power of people, the power of smiles. The swim instructor encouraged us in ways that made such a bigger connection than anyone who comes into your life for such a specific reason. The Baptism was at our new church - and even though there was soo much newness, we were surrounded by an incredible amount of love. And for that lifeguard who just ruined my family water day - I had to get over that too. He was in deed trying to save the life of the special ninabot here - the fearless one, and in the process his fear and anxiety overwhelmed him in how to respond. I could have avoided the water, for many years I did - but now I'm thankful for the many lessons that I bring.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Baggage. Got Luggage?

I am serving as a helper in "room mom" duties, a concept invented in the suburbs. When I was growing up there was no "room mom" - there were a host of parents that stepped in to make stuff for bake sales, come to school for special events, or drive car pool for field trips. My mother worked out of necessity and was good at what she did, and she missed the memo on taking off work for field trips to places we went together to see on Saturday. I was whole-heartedly unprepared for the class of women that were created through this process. That is until this year.

I was having a conversation with a room mom who asked how our year was going. I took for granted that she wanted to hear the answer and I am no slacker myself - I can hold my own in the volunteer world for blessing classrooms. I responded honestly - its been a bit of a tough year. My academic genius is struggling a bit - in all areas, but mainly socially. I stated that the lack of cultural diversity and the absence of people of color remained a bit of an issue, even more so as the children grow up. Let the defensiveness begin.

After a few minutes of opining about how everyone is nice to my children, I clarified that I was not discussing nice. If you put your child in a classroom or school full of people from a different culture, we could all be very nice, but your dear child would notice that he/she was different. I was beginning to feel overly agitated. I was heading down a difficult road.

My first commitment is to my children and building their self-esteem to be able to cope with any situation. I'm just not sure I want to spend most of my life focusing on coping skills instead of fostering learning and enjoying childhood. I clarified my feedback in the conversation and explained we picked a Christian school because it was our belief that the most important commonality was values in a learning environment. I went on to say that Christianity doesn't mean, however, that people aren't diverse with their own priorities, interests and cliques.

Room mother insight, "Well we all have our baggage." Excuse me, pardon me, I think I've choked on my latte. Did I say that being a person of color was baggage or a burden? My children carry their ray of sunshine brightly in the midst of what can be unbearable circumstances. And now, being Black is just , baggage.

I wonder what the baggage is when history is filtered as to be more fiction than reality, when the staff and leadership doesn't reflect the student body much less the society, and when becoming a room mom is a power structure of homogeneous folks who often don't have a clue - can we say gang habits? I have finally decided that I'm pretty much done. So much for the education process of people who don't want to be educated. As a mom, I need not lead the class when my children are struggling to find their way in a world that believes color blind is terrific, and not a tragedy. The lesson her - 100% mine and 0% hers.

As moms we must carry a lot of things to make our children's lives work - we carry diaper bags, changes of clothes, purses, money, soccer gear, gymnastics gear, spare snacks, chapter books, life lessons, emergency medical cards, pocket games, grocery lists, to do lists, thank you lists......but be careful not to carry baggage. I mean really, you can fit or blend in, but don't just rock the boat - that would be uncivilized. As for me and my house - we don't subscribe to sanitized living where you deny race and culture, and we're, uhhh, umm Black folks. I guess for some that means we've got baggage, but I'm going to go with we've got work to do. Work building our children and our family, because in 2007 - We Are the World just isn't playing in the background as a soundtrack. I for one am worried about gang violence in my suburban area - the kind in private schools with cliques of women who paint th world with one broad stroke.

Stupidity. I mean't ..... well, for now I meant exactly what I said. Stupidity.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Neverending Story

My mother is a sci-fi nut, and growing up we knew that all fantasy movies and flights of fancy were fair game for a day out. One of the stories that I watched and my children now enjoy is the Neverending Story. A mystical weave of words about reading a book where you in essence dictate the future remains a powerful story as an adult. So, when the topic of milestones came up at CrazyHipBlogMamas, I thought it merited a response. (Who really needs an excuse to write though?) Stepping Stones for me are those ah-ha moments in life where you decide what you will to some significant degree author your own future.

1. My decision to quit working a become a stay-at-home mom with our first daughter.

2. Marriage during crisis. Marriage beyond the Hollywood storybook belief of what should be. Marriage.

3. Realizing you aren't going to like everybody, and everybody is not going to like you either. (I was told this fact in 3rd grade but I didn't learn it then. In fact, some days I think I'm still learning it. )

4. The realization you can be right or you can be married - but being both 100% of the time is nearly impossible. So pick.

5. Your purpose is bigger than you. When life gets hard recognize that your purpose is not your own.

A stepping stone can be beautiful and ornate, like the ones that line our pathways with colorful remnants and monograms of our children. It can also be an unexpected bump in the road, separate from the path before and the path that follows. The ornate ones are pretty to look at, but the difficult ones you never forget where they are. My most important stepping stones are the ones that ask, "Are you being elevated and are you elevating something or someone else?" All of those paths imply movement, because there is no stone (or progress at all) without first taking a step.

The Color of Tears

Racial dynamics in our non-diverse neighborhood and private school have been very interesting as of late. With the Jena 6 and the community dynamics along racial lines, it seems that everywhere I turned there was something coming up about race in America. I listen to NPR on a regular basis and whenever I hear about the state of affairs internationally, I wonder what is going on right here. With kids 8, 5 and 3 it has been sad to even think about. Until today.

I attend a weekly Bible Study with a diverse group of women. I'm a new member and I was wondering about our connectivity, our differences really. Then today, when we were sharing our "stories" of significance about our relationship with God I realized something. The color of tears is universal. We are more alike than we are unalike. Even when things seem so different between us, at least for the women in my prayer circle, the color of our tears connects us deeply.