Race is Always a Factor . . .

You may have read or heard about the arrest of Harvard Professor Gates at his own Cambridge, MA home. Whatever your thoughts have been, read this from The Huffington Post:

Why This White Guy Was Not Arrested While Trying to Break Into a House Not His Own

By Warren Goldstein
Last October I flew to Sarasota, Fla., and arranged to stay at the home of a friend who was traveling at the time. She mailed me keys and an address.

I landed late and took a cab. When we pulled up in front of the house, which I'd never seen before, it was very dark, so I asked the cabbie to wait while I let myself in.

The keys didn't work in the front door. Or the back door. With rising anxiety -- it was 11 p.m., after all -- I called my friend, but she wasn't answering her cell phone. We tried the keys in both doors again; no luck.

Just before heading back to the airport, where I figured I could find a hotel, I tried my friend again. This time she picked up.

I explained my problem, describing the front door -- and she started laughing. "You're in the wrong place. You'd better get out of there before someone calls the cops." We were on the wrong street.

While the driver was consulting his GPS, sure enough, a cop appeared behind us. We stopped; the cop came over; the cabbie explained; he and the cop had a chuckle; the cop returned to his car; we drove on to the right place, and the keys fit. All was well.

I thought of this story when I read about the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates after entering his own house.

The worst thing that happened to me was that I had to feel stupid and frustrated for 15 minutes. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to talk my way out of any problem.

That's because my story involves four white people -- the cabbie, my friend, the cop, and me. I think now it's fair to say that there isn't a black man in America who could tell a story like mine.

Gates is probably the most famous black professor in the world, and was in his own home in one of the most liberal cities in the entire country. Of course he was furious. Still the white officer arrested him -- even after he knew it was Gates' home.

My hope is that lots of white folks will finally get what our African-American brothers and sisters have been trying to get through our thick skulls for about half a century now. It's different being black. No matter whether we think we are racists. And anyway, no person of color believes any white person who says, "I'm not a racist."

Every day, we white people benefit from being white, from white ancestry, and from acting as if we deserve the benefits of being white.

When we hunt for housing, real estate agents regard us more favorably. We don't get followed by store security. We get better deals from car salesmen, more generous treatment from juries, and -- despite myths of rampant affirmative action -- our kids rarely compete with equally qualified African-American kids because so many urban schools, where most black kids are educated, are flat-out disasters.

Racism thrives in many places -- in hospital emergency rooms, in bank loan departments, in country clubs and churches and synagogues and universities. And in police departments.

White cops treat black men as criminals all the time -- all the time. And the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) everywhere defends every white officer who gets caught out -- even on video.

In Cambridge, the city and police department dropped the charges, calling the incident "regrettable and unfortunate" -- not the PBA, which gave its "full and unqualified support" to the officer's actions.

The incident even provoked President Obama, who's stayed pretty far away from race issues since being elected, into saying that the police acted "stupidly." He's since backtracked and invited both Gates and the officer who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, to the White House for a beer. It's a great start on what needs to happen.

But it's only a start. We need to transform police training top to bottom on the subject of race. The fact that the Cambridge cop taught the class about racial profiling suggests there's a good bit more work to do on the subject. Then we can start on banks, credit card companies, churches, synagogues and universities.

Gates has always had flair -- for figuring out new ideas and new trends, and for generating publicity. I don't wish upon him the fear he must have felt in his doorway, treated like a criminal in his own home. But he may have given white Americans one of the best teaching moments about race that we've ever had. If only we pay attention to it.

This piece originally appeared on the website of Minnesota Public Radio.

Funny Pictures Through the Years

I was going through Picasa and found some funny pictures of Boo I thought you'd enjoy.
Who could this be?? (8/08)
Jinsok Groucho
This would classify as "sheer delight," don't you think? (2/07)
In the lap of luxury. (5/07)
Not a funny one, but one I just love. Listening to one of his (seven) older (girl) cousins. (12/06)
Do I have to pose more?? (1/04)
Look at these legs! (4/03)


6 Unimportant Things That Make Me Happy

I have many posts in my "draft" file. Something about the summer and it's unstructured days makes me lazy. Laaazy, I tellya. I have the luxury of writing when I'm inspired. (Can you hear me yawn?) Good thing I don't have to feed my family this way.

But a meme? A meme, I can do. I read this one at Musings of a Housewife. Six everyday, unimportant things that make my toes tingle. Oooh, how can I keep it to just six??

1. A great pen. I think a number of us went into architecture just for the sheer joy of laying down pen or pencil to paper. Or vellum. Or mylar. The joy of seeing a beautiful stroke of pen gliding from one side of the sheet to the other. Or turning a pencil just so to get chiseled strokes. A great pen doesn't have to be expensive, although there was a time when every poor intern owned a $200 Mont Blanc fountain pen. Those Pilot Razors are one of the best. I found this Koh-i-Noor on a sale bin at an art store. In sepia even!

2. Great paper. Or fabric. Just to look at. Just to touch. I loved going into the interior designer's room at my old firm just to see the latest. And that paper place at the mall? Looove to go in there.

3. Fab graphics. I love good graphic design. When you have an inkling of all that goes into graphic design, you understand the subtle undertones and how effective and powerful the message is made by the typeface, the paper, the placement of one letter.

4. A great pun. Of course I can't think of a single one. A great pun to me is often considered a "groaner" to others. But I like the ones that come on the spur of the moment, sitting around the table after dinner. These are inspired by love and laughter, and the ease and comfort that let the creative juices flow.

5. Finding a great toy for Boo. You know all about those toys that are laying about unused, unloved - the result of birthdays, indulgent relative, or their own dying wish. I search for toys that engender creativity and try to avoid ones that just "perform" via AA batteries. I got this Fisher-Price vintage town and all the pieces a couple of years ago at a yard sale, thinking I'd eBay it. As soon as I got home, Boo got ahold of it and literally played with it for three hours. (I timed it.) Straight. Three. Without looking up.

6. . . . and of course, Blackbelt Deals. Like the town above. And like this. And this. Oooh ooh - and this:


Link-on Blogs: Being Parents

Becoming a Family: A Response... - Brian and Rosemary are waiting for their son from Thailand. They are one of the most thoughtful, informed adoptive parents I know.

An-Ya: Monsters in the Closet - for everyone. Especially anyone who thinks adoption is simple. Or easy.

Fever: boy 1, mom 0 - for all you grown-ups who've been outwitted by a 3 year old. Even Lora was, and she's one of the smartest people I know. Serves her right for birthing a smart kid. Read the rest of her blog if you want to smile, hmmm, shudder, gasp, aha!, cringe and/or blow coffee all over your screen.


A Block

In the winter days when I was growing up in Korea, our traditional homes had toasty warm floors heated by blocks of coal. Pressed-formed coal rods were delivered by the soot-covered coal man.

Our wood-framed rice paper doors couldn't keep the bitter cold out, but our thick quilts, warmed from below, cocooned us. It was painful to get out of bed those cold cold days. Sometimes, someone you love wouldn't make it out of bed in the morning. And you'd know they died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It might seep in from a crack in the heating system, and in the hours of subconsciousness, someone might slip into unconsciousness, and the soul silently wafts away.

In the days when I was growing up, Korea was not the commercial leader it is today. Korea was still recovering from the war. The streets weren't paved, American GI's wandered the streets, and it was a poor, poor place.

Shim met one of those American GI's. They were escorted by a cousin everywhere they went. She was from a fine family, but even a fine family, in Korea, didn't have much. They fell in love. And he married her and brought her to the U.S. Here, he finished law school and they settled in the typical newlywed way. They had a girl, then a boy. Leisha had her face and golden skin, but his narrow nose and mouth. The boy had his face, but her dark eyes. Shim was adored by this young lawyer, who continued to do well. Better and better, in fact. He kept her in diamonds and other fine things, and the children in private school. Most of all, he kept them in his love.

Shim had always been artistic but got busy living in a new country, then raising her treasured children. Leisha inherited the talent and went to art school. As a graduation present, she wanted to tour Europe. Every art students needs to travel. She wanted to do this on her own, without even a buddy. Why not? Why not Paris? Why not Barcelona? Why not Prague?

Prague. In that beautiful, historic city. This beautiful girl of privilege, so far from her Korean roots. So far from her mom's Korea. She lay in a hostel, under a window overlooking a city block, her soul slipped away - from carbon monoxide poisoning.




Have you ever hurt your child on purpose?
How does it make you feel to even read those words? Offended? Defensive? Self-doubting?
Would you ever hurt your child on purpose?
Of course not. I wonder if any parent really wants to hurt their child. I mean in the realm of normalcy. Whatever that is. My therapist likes to quote that "Normal" is a setting on a washer. When you see a parent demean a child verbally, or let them live in squalor. I know of one mom who put cola in her infant's bottle. Do you assume she was cruel? or ignorant? I saw one mom who was berating her child at a public park as she was reviewing spelling homework with her daughter. It was in a neighborhood where you wouldn't find many 'burb moms and their squeaky-weakies. On the one hand, I had to admire her for working on the homework and caring so much. On the other hand, you could see the spirit in her daughter being stomped. Was she wanting to be cruel? or was she ignorant?

A friend of mine and I were discussing a tough decision they have to make. She said they vowed never to let their work get ahead of their children. I'd never doubt that for a milli-second. She's a new friend to me, but I know in the depth of my being that she and her husband are loving, kind, wise. And yet, when she told me about what they were considering? I was shocked. Because in my book, that's more risk than I'd ever take with my child. I have experience and research to back me up. Of course in my book, I'm right.

I think back on the days when Boo was an infant. Those days were crazy. I was crazy. I was given crazy advice. I was crazy stubborn. Sleep. Boo wouldn't. And. And. I did the wrong thing; used the wrong methodology. Back then, I felt like I had to take that route or I'd be committed. No - commit myself. As in bedroom doors with locks on the outside. I did the best I could, the best advice I could find, with the consent and cooperation of my husband. But looking back? I think I did him emotional harm. Was I - am I - any better than those other moms? That mom only had a $1.oo to buy soda. That other mom wanted to drill those spelling words into her child's head. Me? I wanted that kid to SLEEP! I wanted some sleep.

Didn't I want to do my best? Didn't I do what I thought was best? And my friends, aren't they going to do their very best to make the wisest choice? And yet, might they fail? like we all do? Rich, poor, white, tan, black, Christian, atheist, Jew? I've often heard "Oh, kids are resilient." I have to wonder if that's to ease their guilt? or to give themselves permission to slack off. Yes, kids are resilient, but I'm still not going to take chances I don't have to.

None of us want to hurt our children, but we do. Because when we're in the trenches, in the thick of thing, when the forces and influences are upon us, and a deadline looms, application ain't so easy.
How about you? When have you done your very best, only to find you had done the wrong thing?



Gee Whiz

Boo and HH are drawing together. Boo has his fire station named: "G FIRE CO."

Dad: What's the "G Fire Co?"
Boo: Dad, this is the "HOLLIDAYSBURG FIRE CO." but I only drew the corner of the building.



So. What I Wore.

Did you catch that I went to a party Saturday night? It was a picnic outdoors in our home town. I wanted to look all cute and cool and not hometown-ish.

There aren't any pictures of me. This is the best I can do. I wore the new white denim walking shorts (from Salvation Army,) the new brown espadrille sandals and added a brown top from last year. I accented the outfit with green: Chico's glass bead necklace and DKNY purse:
Cute, huh?? ;-)

I've Been Shopping

It seems I go in stages. One day, I will notice that my clothes look dated and my shoes look pathetic. I'm not one to follow fashion too much any more. I did that in my 20's. And 30's. Now? at 49? It's just not worth the fuss or the money. But I don't want to be one of those people who look exactly the same for 25 years. You know what I mean - the too-bright lipstick, the blotchy blush, the permed hair and shoulder pads.

I was at another one of my stages when I realized many of my basics had been basic'd to death and needed to be buried. So many of my shorts seemed too short. All my tees were too tight. My shoes were surely shabby. (Oh OK, I'll stop!) It was handy then, that for Mother's Day, I got a gift certificate to a plaza that has a Talbot's, Chico's, Ann Taylor Loft and NY & Co.

Oh, but wait.

Of course it's summer. That means Boo is home. And it would be more bother to hear "Mom, I'm ready to go. Mom, mom, I'm ready to go. Are you almost done?" a bazillion times than even shopping is worth. I had just enough time the other day to drive over and have an hour or so TO MYSELF. I shopped fast and furious. From Talbot's, I got 2 t-shirts in sun yellow and black:

The deep V is more flattering for my, umm, thicker figure than the scoop necks I used to look good in. I also got a pair of black chino walking shorts good for a night in the burbs or a day in the city:
And these! I'd been ogling these for months! They are comfy and adorable! And guess what? Blackbelt strikes again. All the sale items were an additional 25% off that day!! Yeah!!

This past weekend, I got a chance to sneak to Macy's and get some walking shorts for kickin' around town. I got white denim and dark denim. Perfect. Calvin Kleins. On the way home, I thought I'd swing by the Salvation Army because I needed a cheap, large serving bowl for the party I was going to that night. I didn't find a bowl, but I found a white denim pair of walking shorts for $3.99. You can bet the Calvin Klein pair weren't $3.99.

I guess I'll have to go back to Macy's to return them . . .

. . . and if you take a mom to Macy's . . .


My Heart My Nest

Whenever I get in a conversation about the difficulty of moving or in-laws who visit for too long, I inevitably inject the theory of the "nesting instinct." We've all heard about women having this need to set-up "house." Like a robin and her beakies. Don't think that I mean every female has a basic instinct for Corelle and chintz valances, all the while holding a babe on each hip. I do get the sense however, no matter what kind of woman you are, there tends to be a special protective sense about your domain, in a different way than men. The adventures of moving can wreak havoc on a woman and visiting in-laws disrupting the routine can make a woman lose her mind. Add children and you're in for some Shakespearian fury.

For me, as a stay-at-homer, our home is my domain, my protectorate. . . my nest. I happen to like stainless steel and abhor chintz, but I define for our family what is "home." I always pictured myself as the robin with Boo, my beakie, raising him for the day he will fly off alone. My nest, my realm of responsibility, goes beyond my house proper, and involves everything to keep Boo healthy, happy, safe and successful which has not been typical, natural or normal. And for me, momming has been harder than for some. Now that Boo's 7, at the cusp of boyhood, emotionally healed, it's only recently I've been able to look up to get a better, focused look around my nest.

And I wondered, where is the daddy robin? Is he just flying back and forth, merely bringing home the berries?

What have I been doing to keep my HH healthy, happy, safe and successful? What have I been doing to make the nest sweeter and softer for him? The answer I came up with: not enough. I tuck my yellow bill under my wing in shame. I have been doing the bare minimum to keep the house running for him, but not much more. Since then, I've made a point to do the following:
  • stop and smile when he comes home from work
  • wait to tell him of my day's trials
  • have his laundry ready
  • rub his shoulders more
  • massage his forehead more
  • pull myself off this dang computer to sit and read in bed with him more

It's not a lot, in one sense. It's not that I've merely made more room in my nest, but I have made more room in my heart: sweeter and softer for him.

How about you? Have you been nurturing your husband with the care you nurture your child(ren)?


For You, Amy

Seen at the Shore:

No Lie.

This probably requires a little explanation. I have a dear friend, Amy, who lives in a part of this country known for healthy living: organic cotton, ugly slip-on shoes and hybrids. And yet. And yet. All her favorite foods are orange. Not as in tangerines and magos, but Cheetos and Velveeta. So, when I see other healthy foods, my thoughts naturally go to dear Amy. I hear they're coming out with orange filling for the Oreos.

Hi Tech

You know I've been "down the Shore." That's Pennsylvanianese for the Atlantic coast of New Jersey.

You know everyone's got either an iPhone or a Crackberry or a fancy slide-em-out-so-you-can-text phones.

You know to keep em in a zipper plastic bag at the Shore. And talk holding the baggie to your head.

I just think it's funny is all.