What Do We Do Now? – A Brief History Lesson, and a Plea for the Future

As we watch Trump fill his cabinet with people who are literally the antithesis of each of the agencies they will govern, the only thing we can do is try to power through the holidays for our families, while our heads quietly explode every evening. We’re trying to go about our daily business, knowing the powers that be are gathering the Legion of Doom at Trump Tower. Many of us are anxious for January 20th, because regardless of how our current President-elect’s child rape trial goes this month (beginning December 16th), we will have a new President in the New Year. Barack sadly doesn’t get another term, so now we’re thrown into the unknown, and the knowledge that’s coming in is making everyone, Trump supporters included, very nervous.

There has been an astounding outpouring of love and acceptance since the election, largely in response to an increasing number of vicious hate crimes. Many people are trying to show their friends and neighbours that they truly do care about their lives and well-being, and trying to drown out the voices of the hateful and harmful, but the fear is that at some point, that won’t be enough. Yes, they’re getting national attention, but that attention gets spun any way it needs to, and doesn’t necessarily gain sympathizers. Regardless of how much we march and protest, watching Trump gather his cronies in an attempt to follow through with his outrageous campaign promises is like watching a bunch of unqualified, belligerent, racist puppets try to take over the governm… Ooooer…

When the country got a peek at Kris Kobach’s Homeland Security plan, we got further proof that Trump was planning to go ahead with his wall-building and Muslim registry. I’ve been digging through history, trying to find out how some of the worst government-sanctioned human rights violations occurred, thinking that might help me wrap my head around what could come out of this. Yes, there was a registry for 3 [correction, 9] years under Bush, which targeted citizens of 25 countries. It was ineffective, costly, and traumatizing. Trump and Kobach are planning to revive it and put it on steroids, so it’s time to pick up a history book or two. 

Hitler’s appeal to the everyman and his use of the census to eventually round up non-Aryan people and commit genocide; FDR’s use of Presidential Proclamations and Acts to intern American citizens considered “Aliens of Enemy Nationality”;  Phillipine President Duterte’s  current use of police, and encouragement of armed civilian militias, to murder suspected drug dealers and addicts in the streets en masse. These have all been completely “legal” in their own countries, even if they were frowned upon by the UN. What allowed them to occur and continue was that enough citizens were extremely discontent with the government’s handling of some situations, making them fearful of other citizens, and an opportunistic con man came in to promise their worries away. This isn’t the way we should elect leaders, and when it is, bad things happen. 
How bad could it get, realistically though? How long could any given administration ride the fear wave, and how far could it really take them? When you put all of our President-elect’s actual words, along with those of his unwavering supporters, and those being charged to lead the country, an ominous picture arises. It will lead you to the 8 Stages of Genocide, a briefing written by the President of Genocide Watch, and presented to the United States Department of State in 1996. It was written to help the U.S. government understand how and why the Rwandan genocide took place, and steps to prevent another one. They look something like this: 

1. Classification (us and them)

2. Symbolization (#AllLivesMatter”Alt-right”, Make America Great Again, swatikas, heil Hitler salute, etc), 

3. Dehumanization (comparisons to animals, trash, disease, target practice, aliens, demons, etc) 

4. Organization (Trump’s plan for a Deportation Task Force, or the current 55,000 armed, unchecked DHS officers)

5. Polarization (hate groups spreading hateful propaganda, extremists vilifying moderates)

6. Preparation (implementing the list)

7. Extermination (speaks for itself)

8. Denial (nothing to see here, we’ve done nothing wrong… in fact, you don’t even know what you’re talking about).

Once you read through them, it’s clear to see America is already at Step 5. This should be alarming. Really, really alarming.

On the flip side, I’ve been trying to investigate how famous activists and revolutionaries have made their marks. Ernesto “Che” Guevara began as a young, middle-class, leftist student, famously riding his motorcycle throughout the majority of South America in order to gain the perspective and sympathy for the oppressed and neglected. His altruism pushed him to become a doctor. Witnessing the government atrocities against the people pushed him to become an expert in guerrilla warfare, and a key player in Castro’s overthrow of the imperialistic Batista. During his time as a military leader, Che committed ruthless acts of extrajudicial killings, and when he eventually left the regime to try to bring more socialist revolution elsewhere, he was assassinated, and Castro was left to rule Cuba into its current communist state.

Nelson Mandela, who began his anti-apartheid revolution as a peaceful activist, became a lawyer and opened up the first black law firm in South Africa. After being targeted by the government, harassed, repeatedly arrested and jailed for his resistance, he eventually gave up the idea that change could be made in a non-violent way, so he advocated for and got training in guerrilla warfare. Then, as we all know, he spent 27 years in prison for treason.

From 1985 to 1989, thousands of students gathered repeatedly in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to protest the communist regime and demand democracy. The demonstrations were always quickly squashed by the Chinese government until, in May of 1989, the government imposed martial law. Then came the tear gas, 10,000-15,000 armed troops, armored vehicles, and the first civilian casualties. Two weeks after martial law was declared, on the bloody morning of June 4th, the troops opened fire and slaughtered anywhere from 500-2,200 civilians in that very square. They fought hard, for days, to keep the troops out of the square but, as they say, resistance was futile.

It seems as though directly opposing the establishment generally leads to a violent clash, and far too many casualties, all with varying degrees of success. We’re worried that the government isn’t going to take our best interests into consideration. When we call the offices, we get ignored, yet they tweet (all of them) like they have nothing better to do with their time. If they aren’t working for us, we should work for ourselves. We pay our taxes, yet our teachers aren’t paid enough, water isn’t free anymore, and the police are inadequately trained (to say the least). Why not start social, educational, and medical programs? Housing, free clinics, food programs, community-run schools, daycare programs… just like the Black Panthers did. From 1966-1982, the Black Panther Party implemented and ran 65 community survival programs to benefit the black community. They felt they had to treat and take care of their own, so they decided to do just that. J. Edgar Hoover didn’t like this, and actually sent the FBI to destroy these programs, such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program. That’s right, the government despised how self-sufficient the BPP were becoming, so they sabotaged and dismantled their successful social programs to make struggling African-Americans MORE reliant on the government. They took away their food, made them eat from the palm of their hands, said, “Watch it now, don’t bite the hand that feeds.” Then, they assisinated their leaders, and complained about having black people on welfare. 

So, what do we do with our new government? What can we do to keep our values, bridge the gaps, and not devolve into complete anarchy? Sadly, this isn’t a rhetorical question. Tell me! I saw Van Jones made a hashtag. #LoveArmy… “Sign the pledge.”

– Stand with the most vulnerable.

– Act out of love, not fear or hate.

– Listen with empathy and expect to learn

I just want to ask him… what do you think this pledge will accomplish? The people who are signing it are the people who already feel this way, and quantifying them isn’t going to make anyone feel better – we know Hillary won the popular vote, we have the numbers to show that the hateful and bigoted aren’t the majority. “The people who were tricked by Trump” aren’t really going to want to come forward and admit it. This is just a feel-good campaign. In his Facebook Live video (is he one of the many news outlets and celebrities getting paid to go live?) he actually sounded a bit like you-know-who. “We’re going to start doing teach-ins all across the country very soon,” he said vaguely. “You can go to the Dream Corps Facebook page and give us ideas there…” Sorry if that doesn’t give us much faith that you have… any ideas at all. “Orient on values first, orient on love first, orient on compassion first, and once we get going, we’re gonna start doing concerts everywhere, we’re gonna start doing revivals everywhere, we’re gonna start doing parties everywhere.” Great, more bread and circuses. You want to do something? Why don’t you run for public office, Van?

In fact, that’s the only idea I have. Run for office. City council. Municipal offices. State positions. Congress. Challenge the comfy un-opposed incumbents. Work as a team to unify the electorate. Be truthful to your constituents – ALL of them. Make small, attainable promises and follow-through. This political machine is big enough that it’s hard to go up against, but they can’t stop all the moving pieces at once, so it’s time to make ourselves the moving parts. Stop trying to fight the machine; become the machineNot me of course, because I’m not a citizen. It clearly doesn’t matter how qualified you are for the position (see cabinet appointments, linked again for your convenience). So do it. Run for office. In the meantime, read up on how to run for office in your town, city, county, state. Don’t worry about which party you’ll be a part of – there’s enough time for them both to fall apart before the midterms. Get to know the needs of your town, and then talk about how they can realistically be met. 

Go now, become the machine. That’s all I’ve got for now…

Kindly, Stop Asking if My Children Are Mine

It’s sad, really. The majority of off-colour, poor-taste comments aren’t even malicious. People just don’t think. They don’t think about the power their words hold. They don’t know when it’s the fifth time that day that I’ve been asked if my beautiful babies are mine… but they don’t take that split second to catch themselves.

It started when my oldest daughter (now 2.5) was about 4 months old. During the day, I’d take her out to the mall or grocery shopping or for a meal, just the two of us, and I began to notice a pattern. People liked to stop me and comment on how cute, or chubby, or stoic she was, and 80% of the time, white people, women in particular, would follow it up with, “Is she yours?” I didn’t think much of it at first – maybe they think I’m her babysitter, it’s an easy mistake… right? I assumed it happened to everyone.


Once she was in a forward-facing stroller, looking out at the world, the questions and comments started getting more brazen.


“She’s beautiful, is she yours?”


“Yes.”


– “Oh, I just love mixed babies!” They wax poetic over how perfect “mixed skin” and “mixed hair” are, they tear down their own self-image, and they talk about their own children who weren’t as fortunate in those areas. It’s bizarre, and wildly uncomfortable. I just smile and try to keep moving.


– “Wow, she’s SO white!” Yep. It’s magic… or, you know, genetics. I smile and say, “Yes, Daddy is very white.”


– “Oh, now I see, she looks just like you!” This is just proof that people don’t think before they speak. Objectively, both my daughters have many of the same facial features as I do, but people come up to us with their preconceived notions, make googly-eyes at the girls, and don’t bother to look up at the face of the black woman pushing them around. Once I confirm that yes, they are mine, they raise their gaze to verify, to find resemblance, something to prove I’m not lying. Then they find it, and they can move on. They’re actually pleased with themselves. They’re satisfied then, they got a cute baby fix, they’re going to move on with their day. And I ruminate.


I decided I had to start investigating outside of my own experiences. A few weeks ago, I asked my husband for the first time if he ever gets the, “Are they yours?” question. Nope, not once. Do they ever comment on how beautiful your “mixed babies” are? Not to him, because he’s white, and they’re just tan. They have a lot of his features too, so people who know us tell us how much they look like an equal blend both of us. I’ve had white friends and babysitters take them to the park and have other parents just immediately assume they were Mom though, so I get the impression people aren’t looking too closely.


A good friend of mine is in the opposite situation; both her girls got more of dad’s melanin, and she likes to describe herself as “as white as they come”. We’ve been friends since we were pregnant with our firsts, and since then she says she’s only been asked if they’re hers once, by a child, whose mother was mortified and made her apologize. “I told the mom it was totally fine, then I talked to the little girl about how I’m their mom, and it might be confusing because we have different colored skin, so it’s ok to wonder. Her mom was pretty upset, so I told the little girl, ‘Ok, maybe your mom has a point. Next time, if you have a question about a family, you can ask mom first, and then ask the mom or dad.'”


“Wow.” I said. “Why do you think you never get asked?”


“Honestly? Because I’m white.”


“I guess, with two decades of getting used to white people adopting black kids, yeah, it’s been normalized.” That I know about all too well, unfortunately. I wonder if she’ll eventually start getting the, “So, where are they from?” question.


It’s sad, really. The majority of off-colour, poor-taste comments aren’t even malicious. People just don’t think. They don’t think about the power their words hold. They don’t know when it’s the fifth time that day that I’ve been asked if my beautiful babies are mine… but they don’t take that split second to catch themselves.


I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t scare me, too. With racial tensions ramping up around the country, I’ve heard more and more stories of multiracial families being harassed in public. I heard a story about a black woman out shopping with her young, lighter children, when a woman stopped her to tell her that the kids were cute, but that she’d soon be deported, being their black nanny and all. In the back of my mind, I wonder what might happen when one of my kids decides they don’t want to leave somewhere and turns into a screaming, spaghetti-limbed goblin, as some kids do, requiring me to pick her up mid-flail and carry her to the car. Will people see a black woman carrying a hysterical white child and think, “Is she hers?” And what could that lead to?


I think the easiest way to avoid putting someone in an awkward situation is to just not ask about parentage. There are so many different family structures, it seems ridiculous to demand someone explain theirs on the street to you, right then and there, while they’re trying to go about their day. What happens when the answer is, “Oh, I’m their older cousin. I just had to drop out of college to look after them because their parents died last weekend.”? How mortifying would that be? But truly, multi-racial, gay, adoptive, trans, single-parent, poly, foster, guardianship, military, three-parent IVF  – there are numerous types of family structures that may not be “conventional”, all of which are still valid and full of love. When you press someone to explain their family, you could be pushing on a very sensitive issue.


So, the next time you see a baby you want to compliment, tell the person caring for that baby that the baby looks happy, healthy, and cute. If they want to talk about their family, they will. They also may really have to pee, or get the grocery shopping done before epic baby meltdown occurs, so if they seem in a hurry, just let them go.

 

My TEDx Day: Trauma, Resilience, ACEs, and Life

You guys… I had the most serendipitous day yesterday, you wouldn’t even believe it. I kid you not, by the end of the day I was shitting rainbows. Jake and I went to TEDx Charlotte, held this year at Central Piedmont Community College’s Halton Theater, in the Overcash building, and it was an incredible experience. We couldn’t get a babysitter for A, our youngest, so we chose which talks we were most interested in, brought her along, and swapped off during breaks. The food was great, the people were great, the weather was great, I couldn’t have asked for more, and yet I got so much more.

First of all, I made a few new friends. The diversity of the TEDx crowd was heartwarming, and there was this sprinkle of magic in the air that made all of our differences our strengths, and our similarities these invisible ties. It was lovely! The woman who sat next to me turned out to be right about the same age as me, married, no kids, working in the corporate world. While I tried to ask others “what brought you to this talk?” as opposed to “what do you do?” or “where do you work?”, I still got asked those a fair bit. I was there simply for the awesomeness of TED, but I decided this was my opportunity to pitch my latest idea to the world. My answer was, “Right now I run the house and take care of the girls, and I’m also working on this new trauma-informed parenting peer group idea I have.” I don’t know what response I expected, but that phrase, “trauma-informed parenting peer group” made everyone lean in. Their eyes widened, “Tell me more…”.

Anyway, that’s the reaction I got from this first new friend of mine, and we talked a lot about personal growth, and adversities. She told me she happens to be at the beginning of her own journey of self-discovery, thinking about how the past and her upbringing has influenced her, and suddenly we were elbow-deep in psychobabble. Then, she posed a question that made me stop in my tracks, she asked me: “Why do you think our generation is so determined to dig into our pasts and our traumas to fix ourselves, and why didn’t past generations prioritize it?” I know, the “generationl faults” talk is a sensitive one. Don’t run away yet! Stay, please. I thought about it for a minute, and then said, “Well, maybe it’s just because we can. Many of us now have the luxury of having our base survival needs met, so we’re not in constant fight or flight mode. Maybe it’s just Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” And we both froze. She knew the term, but for those who don’t, the Hierarchy is a pyramid of human needs, which goes from bottom to top like this: physiological (air, food, water, clothing, shelter, sex [for the survival of species – don’t have it if you don’t want to] ), safety (absence due to war, domestic violence, abuse, PTSD, personal security, financial security, health & wellbeing), love & belonging (family, friends, intimacy), esteem (confidence, self worth, respect of others, self-respect), and the top, self-actualization (realizing one’s full potential).

So, the idea is, if you can’t build the bottom of the pyramid, you will have a hard time moving up it, and if your base is unstable but you still make it to the top, you’ll be much more likely to have the entire thing collapse on you. I mean seriously, would you stand at the top of a shotty pyramid? It just makes sense that you’ll struggle to realize your full potential if you don’t have food or security or other human connections, because those foundational needs will be your brain’s major focus. Some of the Western world is seeing that they’re closer to the next step in the pyramid, so they’re reaching for it. Granted, poverty stunts this, and we have a system that keeps the lowest down, but for those of us above the poverty line, the idea that we could build our way to the top of the pyramid is starting to feel more tangible. Gen X and the Millennials are raising kids now, and thanks to the evolution of society, we are moving up the pyramid. The thing is, we’re only, by my estimation, just coming out of making “safety” our highest priority.

The Greatest Generation had it rough: When you’re worrying about the government taking your sons in the draft, or losing a child to polio, you don’t really have time for, “Hmmm, how do I make sure my child has enough fulfilling experiences today?” They yelled and probably beat the everloving shit out of them to keep them safe, because “Dammit, we didn’t manage to keep you alive through all of that to have you go do something stupid and end it early!!!” Was it right? Nope, but that’s the level they were working on. Then, you get a generation that was raised to believe you must hit and suppress kids to teach them and keep them safe, but they don’t quite know why. They faced their own issues as adults, like suffering through multiple financial crises, large-scale terrorist attacks, the invention of the 24hr news cycle (don’t kid yourself, that shit is damaging and devisive as hell), and a few of their own enlistment (yet highly expected and pressured) wars. On top of that, they fought to get us the human rights we have today. We wouldn’t be talking about anyone repealing Roe v. Wade without those actually involved. So now, those aren’t our (the middle-class Western world’s) problems anymore. Today, we’re worried about proper nutrition, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about a national shortage of food. We’re worried about safe brain development for our kids, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about having them eaten or mauled by bears. Hey, there was a time.

I’m not trying to dismiss the things our current generation is fighting for – just the opposite, I want to encourage them – which brings me right back to my new friend’s question: “Why do you think our generation is so determined to dig into our pasts and our traumas to fix ourselves, and why didn’t past generations prioritize it?” Because our generation can, and their generations couldn’t, but they got us to the point where we can, so we absolutely should. AND because, in lieu of the draft and famine and bears, our fight or flight brains are identifying and targeting new threats to our society and our children. To us, our own traumas feel just as threatening as polio or a bear because they’re working on the same pathways in our brains. For those not worrying regularly about actually being able to eat and feed our families, abuse is our bear. Those just trying to make ends meet can absolutely raise their children in a calm, gentle, trauma-free way, but they have far more obstacles to overcome, simply because their brains are prioritizing things like keeping a roof over everyone’s head, as they should be. Sadly, there are still too many people living that way.

My analogy about the bear comes from my new idol, Dr Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician in California, and quite frankly, a superhero. Dr Burke Harris is fighting tooth and nail to bring something called ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) to the forefront of Western medicine. Very briefly (because she explains it better), in the late 90s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente sent predominantly white, middle- and upper-class, college-educated, health-insured Americans a survey about their upbringings.

**Trigger warning, all the triggers, and I’m not trying to be funny**

They created a way to measure 10 ACEs:

1) Physical, 2) sexual and 3) verbal abuse.

4) Physical and 5) emotional neglect.

6) A family member who is depressed  diagnosed with other mental illness; 7) addicted to alcohol or another substance; 8) in prison.

9) Witnessing a mother being abused.

10) Losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.

From Dr Burke Harris’ website, “The results of the ACE Study had two striking findings. First, ACEs are incredibly common—67 percent (2 out of 3 people) of the study population had at least one ACE and 13 percent (1 out of 8 people) of the population had four or more ACEs. Secondly, there was a dose-response relationship between ACEs and numerous health problems. This means that the more ACEs a child has, the higher the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression and cancer.” Let that sink in.

They’ve since added many more factors. The study also found that the negative effects on one’s health are not necessarily due to the fact that these individuals might drink, smoke, overeat, or do other drugs at a higher rate. No, it’s because, as you’ll see in Nadine Burke Harris’ TED Talk (yes, you will watch it), if you experience those things regularly as a child, your brain is stuck in survival mode, being pumped full of fear hormones, making your heart race, tensing up your body, and getting you ready to fight or run… as if you’re being chased by a lion. Every day.

There are also resilience factors that help mitigate the effects of ACEs.

1) Believing your mother loved you as a child

2) Believing your father loved you as a child

3) Having people other than mother and father, who you believe loved you, take care of you sometimes as a child

4) Hearing stories that when you were an infant, others enjoyed spending time with you, and that you also enjoyed it

5) You had relatives who made you feel better if you were sad or worried as a child

6) Neighbors or parents’ friends seemed to like you as a child

7) Teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or ministers were there to help you as a child

8) Someone in your family cared how you were doing in school

9) Family, neighbors, and friends talked often about making life better

10) You had rules in your house you were expected to abide by

11) When you felt bad, you could almost always find someone you trusted to talk to

12) People noticed you were capable and could get things done as a youth

13) You were an independent self-starter

14) You believed that life is what you make it

These are things we all need to be highly aware of because our ACEs are our new lions, our new triggers, our new threats. They will kill us young if we don’t deal with them ourselves, and we risk repeating the cycle with our children. It’s a hard road to go down, but if you can, you should. You can get your ACE and Resilience scores here.

Right, so that was all a product of one interaction I had. One. I had about six other conversations that were equally as enriching, and moved me more towards implementing this trauma-informed parenting group. I talked a LOT of trauma talk, which has been happening more and more with friends and strangers lately, and I think that’s a very healing, cathartic thing. Jake met another Canadian, who introduced me to his wife, who works with mental health and substance dependence patients to help them through their trauma, due to her own traumatic past. A (the toddler) befriended a bunch of young college students, guys and girls, who absolutely turned to mush when they saw her. They talked about their nephews and nieces and cousins and parenting, and they said how important they think it is to do it right and to know how to parent effectively and treat your child with respect. I was shocked! They held A, huge smiles pasted across their faces, and she was totally content. I ran into an old acquaintance (Tracey Moore, or Dr King himself, for those who know him) who works at CPCC’s main campus, and told him about someone else’s idea for a course we want to collaborate on. He walked A and I up to an office that he thought would like to hear the pitch, and they were intrigued so they sent me to another guy, who put down what he was doing and walked us over to a woman he really thought might want to hear what I had to say. She wants to get this other idea off the ground in the Spring, but more to come on that later.

Easily, the most incredible conversation I had was with one of the presenters. I got to talk to (well, ermm, I was pretty persistent) Charles Hunt, who was the only one to silence the entire auditorium with the power of his talk on resilience through childhood adversity. Charles founded Audacity Firm, where he does coaching and workshops to help people grow (either individually or for corporations bettering employee relations) through resilience, teaching you to have the AUDACITY to not let your trauma own you. Pretty bad ass, no? He took pictures of my notes, saying he was humbled, and that it would help him know what was really resonating with people. Smart guy. I’d been telling him about my course and I said, “One of the portions is going to include working through Nadine Burke Harris’ ACEs.” He looked at me, then shook his head a little. “Do you… know what ACEs are?” I asked him. He did not. Suddenly, I had something to offer HIM, something he didn’t know, but that wasn’t even the most… well, humbling part. When I explained it all and it sunk in, he said, “Wow, that would explain my [health problem, because I don’t even think he expected to say that, and it’s not my place to put it here].” Yeah, he may incorporate the statistics from ACEs into his strategy to help others, and that would be great, but I may have just opened a whole new path for him to research his own health, and change his life trajectory, so that he can live longer to help others, and continue to heal his own trauma. Now THAT was fucking amazing. Plus, he’s willing to collaborate, or help me a little with this parenting project. At the very least, we’ll pay him to be a speaker. So, there’s that.

Whew, I think that’s all I have to say right now. Here’s a link to all the talks. All of the speakers are local, and all are looking to share ideas and collaborate. Seriously, I talked to about 1/3 of them and they’re really amazing people. I know I’ll definitely be attending another TEDx. Now that I’ve dropped that huge mind bomb theory on you, try not to contemplate it too hard, and have a great weekend!

Gun or no Gun, Keith Scott was NOT “Going Armed to the Terror of the People”

​Laws, right? In the wake of Keith Scott’s death, I’ve been very outspoken, and I’ve heard alot of arguments on both sides. There are definitely some bullshit arguments, let’s go over one of them. 

“According to NC open carry law, holding your weapon in your hand is considered Going Armed to the Terror of the People. So, you know, he deserved it.” 

Let’s see what the law says, shall we? 

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.3.

6. Going Armed To The Terror Of The People 

“By common law in North Carolina, it is unlawful for a person to arm him/herself with any unusual and dangerous weapon, for the purpose of terrifying others, and go about on public highways in a manner to cause terror to others. The North Carolina Supreme Court states that any gun is an unusual and dangerous weapon for purposes of this offense. Therefore, persons are cautioned as to the areas they frequent with firearms.”

Let’s assume, for a minute, everything the city has said about Kieth Scott’s death is true. Nowhere in the statute does it say, “Sitting in your parked car, on private property on which you live, smoking a joint, while also holding your own personal firearm is a violation of this statute.” 

EVEN IF HE HAD A GUN, he wasn’t on a public highway. He wasn’t even in public property. He certainly wasn’t causing terror to others until he supposedly pointed the gun at the police (which we have yet to see any evidence of).

Alright, let’s assume Scott was actually guilty of “Going Armed to the Terror of the People”. What’s the punishment for that? 

Class 1 misdemeanor. G.S. 14-3(a). What’s that mean? 

“If the offense is a misdemeanor for which there is no classification, it is as classified in G.S. 14-3”.

These particular offenses are benign enough, and so widely varied, that the punishment is up to the courts. You follow? Ok. 
Now, they do have… some parameters around imprisonment and fines for non-classified misdemeanors. 

G.S. 14-3(a)(1)

(1) If that maximum punishment is more than six months imprisonment, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor

G.S. 15A-1340.23 (b)

The amount of the fine for a Class 1 misdemeanor and a Class A1 misdemeanor is in the discretion of the court.

That is it. That is everything NC has to say about brandishing a weapon in public. In public. In a threatening manner. On the streets. It’s not even a felony, and it’s CERTAINLY not a curbside death sentence. 

What ended up happening with that man who waved his gun out his car window in a crowd uptown, during the protests? I know they called his license plate in to the police. I sincerely hope he is charged with Going Armed to the Terror of the People, and serves no less than 6 months in jail. 

Also, did you hear about that older gentleman in Wake County in July who was pointing his shotgun at cars on the highway, and when approached by the officer, pointed the shotgun at him? What happened to him? When he didn’t comply, the officer proceeded to tackle him, wrestling the gun from him, and took him in to be properly charged. I’m sure his family was happy he was taken alive. 

Please click the links to verify the *sigh* race of these two men. 

Always click the links.

Throw me another one, I dare you.

The Time I Lost a Friend Over Standardized Testing

quiz-1373314_1920

As a kid, I hated testing. I didn’t test well, either because I got lazy and didn’t study, I knew the material and psyched myself out, or I mismanaged my time on the test and didn’t answer all the questions. Regardless of the reasons, tests stressed me out so badly that I’d get sick. My stomach would twist itself into knots, like it was trying to wring itself out, my heart would pound, and I would get terrible headaches. It made me sick, and though it was “all in my head”, it manifested real symptoms in my body. I never had panic attacks though, so my anxiety was mostly dismissed. But I fucking hated tests.

Before I tell my story, here’s a little detail. Starting in Grade 3 (8-years-old), Ontario public school students undergo provincial and national standardized testing. Most of these tests are provided by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), “an independent agency that creates and administers large-scale assessments to measure Ontario students’ achievement in reading, writing and math…” This is repeated for various subjects in grades 6, and 9 (plus the OSSLT the same year, and others). The EQAO tells parents, teachers, and students that the tests are for accountability on the school district’s part (which, in Ontario, is separated by county), as a feedback tool for the administration, and for national comparisons. The idea is that it’s supposed to be used to improve the teaching methods and district policies, without affecting the individual student. Students and parents are told that the test absolutely does not count towards the student’s grade, but that it can be used in conjunction with their report cards and other tests “to help evaluate student learning and determine what additional support may be needed”. Ok.

So, in Grade 3, I took the test. The weeks of prepping, the intensity of the teachers, and the long, boring, silent, stressful test was just too much for me. I vowed to never do it again. When Grade 6 rolled around, I panicked. I knew the drill, and I managed to work myself up at the first mention of EQAO testing. This wasn’t a test you could study for, they told us. This is a test of your current knowledge, they told us. Don’t make us look stupid, they told us. Ok.

The more we prepped, the more stressed I got. Do these sample tests, they told us. “Why? If you’re teaching us what we should know, why do we have to take practice tests?” To know the type of questions they’re going to ask, they told us. It was boring, monotonous, bizarrely abstract material that we really didn’t cover throughout the year, but boy did we cram during the months leading up to the test. Endless worksheets. Ok.

My stomach started its slow twist, and eventually, I was writhing in pain. By the time the test came, I was a mess. “I can’t go, I’m sick!” I said, as I laid in bed. I missed the testing days (yes, multiple), and thought I was in the clear. Sadly, I was mistaken.

“All Grade 3 [6, and 9] students who attend publicly funded schools and who follow The Ontario Curriculum are required by The Education Quality and Accountability Office Act to write the Grade 3 [6, and 9] assessment.”

Uh Oh.

“If your child is absent on the days the Grade 6 assessment is administered, the school can make arrangements to have your child write the assessment when he or she returns, but only within the designated two-week assessment period.”

Well, fuck me.

As soon as I got back to school, they told me I had to sit in a separate room, and do each part of the test. “But I’ll miss regular class work,” I argued. They didn’t care. I had to do the test. They sat me in a room by myself, with a teacher to proctor. “I’m just one kid, does it really matter?” Yes. Do the test. “Can I just be back in class with the rest of my friends?” No. Here’s a bottle of water. Do the test. So, I refused. That was the kind of kid I was. It seemed entirely unfair that I had to be separated from my peers and miss class work (that I didn’t get excused from, and I’d have to catch up on) to take this mandated test that didn’t count for anything. I was right pissed. In the end, I doodled on the test – even though I knew the answers – purely out of defiance. My 11-year-old self was done with the administrative bullshit, but noncompliance doesn’t go over so well for an 11-year-old.

3 days later, when I finally got to spend time with my friends again, something had changed. They wouldn’t talk to me. For days, I tried to figure out why. Finally, one rainy morning, as we huddled under a vestibule to stay out of the rain during recess, I asked them, “Did I do something? I know I was gone for a few days… what did I miss?” They mumbled for a bit, then my best friend turned to me and said, “You didn’t take the test.” What?

“No, I did,” I said.

“No,” she said, “You doodled.” My heart jumped into my throat. How did she even know that? These tests are supposed to be private. “My mom said that she talked to Mrs. F. Do you know that without your high score, our whole school is going to get a worse grade? Thanks a lot.” They all looked to her for a cue, then it was back to the silent treatment. My high score? How does anyone know my scores on my assignments except… the teacher? She did not like my refusal to participate, and apparently made it known to my friends’ parents. When? How? At the time, I never thought parents and teachers co-mingled, but I knew after that. Teachers are human, who interact in the human world, with other humans. Nuts, right? Parents are also humans who interact in the human world, and sometimes, they meet teachers and have human conversations. Sometimes, those conversations involve their children/students. At any given time, both parents and teachers can be assholes. Needless to say, the rest of the year was hell for me, and then I moved schools.

Yes, I did do the following years of standardized testing. Yes, I got sick every time. No, I was never allowed to skip another test. Yes, I permanently lost a friend over a government-mandated test that counted for nothing, and which did exactly zilch to improve anything anywhere. Yes,”teach to test” is still a huge issue in the education-sphere worldwide. No, my children will not endure standardized testing if they continue with the current methods. The end.

The Holy Parenting Grail: Winnie-the-Pooh

After reading the actual books, it’s easy to see that each of the characters in the Hundred-Acre-Wood represents an attribute of a child’s personality. Together, they make up a normal, healthy preschooler. Considering we’re treating more and more children like they’re mentally ill, it doesn’t surprise me that some interpreted the books that way, but I’m out to restore their good name.

wp-1468264435317.jpg Illustrations by E.H. Shepard

Have you ever read the original Winnie the Pooh stories? “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner” were written by Alan Alexander Milne in the late 1920s. I’ve read so many Disney spin-off books, and watched so many Disney Pooh movies, that I’d never realized the hidden treasure that was the original writing of A.A Milne. Winnie-the-Pooh is more than just a whimsical childhood favorite; he’s a parenting guru. Over the years, some have theorized that each character is the embodiment of untreated “neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems”, or a mental illness. That wasn’t my take. After reading the actual books, it’s easy to see that each of the characters in the Hundred-Acre-Wood represents an attribute of a child’s personality. Together, they make up a normal, healthy preschooler. Considering we’re treating more and more children like they’re mentally ill, it doesn’t surprise me that some interpreted the books that way, but I’m out to restore their good name.

Filled with deep musings and sage advice, this classic is a must-read for every parent. The book is narrated by none other than Milne himself. In real life, he was the father of young Christopher Robin Milne, who renamed his stuffed bear, Winnie-ther-Pooh (no, that’s not a spelling mistake, “Don’t you know what ther means?”). Book 1 opens up with Milne casually telling us what Pooh’s morning routine is like. Christopher Robin interjects, and asks him to tell Pooh a story, “About himself. Because he’s that sort of bear”. So, Milne begins a Once Upon a Time saga. As he slowly sets the stage of a simple, hungry, fluff-stuffed bear who likes to write poetry, Christopher Robin keeps interrupting with questions and clarifications, but Milne doesn’t mind. It gets a little meta when Milne explains that Pooh is going to visit “his friend Christopher Robin, who lived behind a green door in another part of the forest.” The real Christopher Robin, who is having the story spun to him, is fascinated to hear his own name, and is referred to as “you” for a while.

“Well, it just happened that you had been to a party the day before at the house of your friend Piglet…”

Milne was brilliant, really. He lovingly indulged his son’s fantasy about a world where he and his stuffed-animal friends have great adventures, then wrote two books about them (and two lesser known poetry books). Pooh speaks very simply, yet there is something profound and knowing in his words. Let’s go through each of the characters and their traits. See if you can point out your toddler’s dominant Hundred-Acre-Wood personality.

wp-1468264436083.jpg

 

Winnie-the-Pooh: Our main character is innocent, well-meaning, and honest. He makes mistakes, asks forgiveness, and comes up with imaginative and creative solutions. He’s forgetful, he daydreams, his mind wanders, he’s always hungry, and he’s constantly thinking.

“‘I listened, but I had a small piece of fluff in my ear. Could you say it again, please, Rabbit?’ Rabbit never minded saying things again…”

Sometimes, you just have repeat something. Toddlers are constantly trying to learn, and sometimes that learning gets in the way of listening. Breathe, get their attention, repeat the question.

“…when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” 

I love this one. Kids say some pretty bizarre stuff sometimes. Once they get a grasp on language, they come up with all kinds of fanciful stories and unique ideas. Sometimes, something they think up makes more sense in their head than it does when they say it. Hey, I do that all the time.

“…my spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.” -Pooh

Translation: Please forgive my mistakes. I’m trying my best, and you get the gist of it, right? Plus, this is literally just something kids do. Parents often worry that their pre-schooler or kindergartener might be dyslexic, because they write their letters and numbers backwards, or get the order mixed up. In reality, this is fine and normal up through about the age of 7. They spell phonetically, and don’t always write in a straight line, but the great majority of them will  get there, with time and practice.

wp-1468264435332.jpg

 

Piglet: Little Piglet is nervous, insecure, anxious, and generally pretty cautious. He musters up strength when he needs to, and has more courage in him than he realizes, but sometimes his imagination gets carried away, and he scares himself.

 

“‘It is hard to be brave,’ said Piglet, sniffling slightly, ‘when you’re only a Very Small Animal.'”

I am twice as tall, and five times as heavy as my oldest Very Small Human. That’s a big difference! If you’re 5ft 5in tall, and 150lbs, imagine living in a world where everything is made for creatures who are 11ft tall, and 750lbs, give or take. You would be considered a Very Small Animal, so things like Very Loud Toilets, and Very Jumpy Dogs might scare you.

“Piglet was so excited at the idea of being Useful, that he forgot to be frightened anymore.”

Great tip! Help them snap out of some of the fear of the unknown (or that meltdown) by letting them feel useful and needed. It always feels nice when someone appreciates your efforts. It can help you feel more competent, confident, in control (of yourself, not necessarily others), and proud of your efforts. Most importantly though, it has the potential to calm them the —- down.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
‘Pooh!’ he whispered.
‘Yes, Piglet?’
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.'”

Replace “Pooh” with “Mommy”. And repeat it a few more times. Louder. So, that’s usually how we hear it, but I guess I can understand why. With all of the other facets of our lives pulling at our attention, our kids are sometimes forced to yell repeatedly to get it, but the only thing they want sometimes is to be sure we’re going to respond. They’re still Very Small Humans who need help in a Fast-Moving-Very-Large World, and sometimes, they just need to crawl into your arms and know you’re still looking out for them.

wp-1468264435326.jpg

 

Tigger: Always on the move, always ready to bounce on you, Tigger can wear on everyone, but his heart is in the right place. Even his friends get a little fed up with him sometimes. He doesn’t realize his own strength and size, and when he unintentionally hurts others, he doesn’t understand why they don’t want to be around him. Tigger is also quite sensitive; he can get easily offended, and often doesn’t know what to do with his feelings. He’s a happy Tigger, though! He’s playful, he teases, he forgives, and he puts everything in his mouth.

“Tigger, who was a Very Bouncy Animal, with a way of saying How-do-you-do, which always left your ears full of sand, even after Kanga had said, ‘Gently, Tigger dear’…”

If you’ve ever heard the Tigger Movie song, you know Tiggers are “bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!” These days, we know that sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity, like we once believed. That’s a myth. So why is your child made of rubber and springs? There are numerous studies which explain the intense, and very real need for children to get up and move, and that it is actually crucial to  learning and retention. So, when you’re reading that bedtime story, don’t get upset if your toddler doesn’t want to sit in your lap.; let them walk, keep reading. Wandering or playing with another toy is not a sign that they aren’t listening, test them and see!

“…however big Tigger seemed to be, he wanted as much kindness as Roo.” – Kanga

Kanga gets it. At what age is, “You’re not a baby anymore!” the right response to a behaviour or request? 2? 6? 12? At what point should your kids stop needing your help, patience, or leeway? “Can you tie my shoe please, Mom?” We have to go! You’re 9 years old, you know how to tie your own shoe! I know there are days when I ask my husband, “Can you tie my shoe, please? I’m just too tired.” No matter how big, we all deserve a little slack, and a lot of kindness.

“‘They’re very good flyers, Tiggers are. Stornry good flyers.’
‘Ooo,’ said Roo. ‘Can they fly as well as Owl?’
‘Yes’, said Tigger, ‘Only they don’t want to.’
‘Why don’t they want to?’
‘Well, they just don’t like it, somehow.'”

I think we all know this isn’t true. Tigger fibs, but not maliciously. Kids fib and tell fanciful stories all the time. As parents and caregivers, it’s our job to teach them that lying is bad, but why do they do it? It’s mostly unintentional, and they just need to be reminded that lying isn’t a great way to operate, because, like Pooh, they can be a little forgetful at times. Preschoolers have a difficult time discerning fantasy from reality, and sometimes a retelling of the day morphs into some underwater excursion because their imagination takes over, and they don’t even realize it. Some outright lie to your face to get out of trouble. The first instances of lying show they’ve developed the wherewithal to understand a false narrative. Bravo, Very Small Human! Mine’s still at the brutally honest stage. This great Scholastic’s article also points out that, ya know, we kinda lie to them all the time (Easter Bunny, Elf on the Shelf, we’re all out of snack bars, etc). Since they’ve only been earthside for all of 3-6 years (give or take), they really don’t have a whole lot of relevant experience – I don’t know about you, but I had 17 years of schooling and testing, and I only learned how to study in the last 3. The experience preschoolers do have in their short lives is that fibbing is very bad, but kind of acceptable… sometimes. So, they’ll test reality. If it’s harmless, let it slide, participate in the fantasy and make it wildly outlandish! There are many other reasons preschoolers lie, but most of them can result be explained by normal, healthy child development. Story-telling is great, lying is not great.

wp-1468264435797.jpg

 

Eeyore: Poor, sulky Eeyore lives at Eeyore’s Gloomy Place, which should tell you something. He’s mopey, unmotivated, and has a very defeatist attitude. He feels unloved, ignored, and sometimes he misses the kind things people do for him. Despite his melancholy persona, his friends never give up on him. They always do their best to cheer him up, and a lot of the time, he has legitimate reasons for being blue.

“‘It’s bad enough,’ said Eeyore, almost breaking down, ‘being miserable myself, what with no presents and no cake and no candles, and no proper notice taken of me at all…'”

Sometimes, we don’t realize the significance of our actions or inaction when it comes to our kids. Something as small as forgetting a good-night kiss could set off a colossal meltdown because, “What if they forgot about me? What if they don’t want to kiss me? What if they don’t love me anymore?” It doesn’t have to be rational to us, but when everything to them is extreme and concrete, it can mean a whole lot.

“Sometimes he thought to himself, ‘Why?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Wherefore?’ and sometimes he thought, “Inasmuch as which?'”

Dreary Eeyore gets a little depressed and existential at times. Have you ever see a toddler do it? The head droops, nothing will assuage the melodrama that is about to unfold. Nothing matters. What’s the point of anything? All is lost. Sometimes, it’s a little more intense – arms akimbo, they flop down on a bed or couch or floor, burying their face in their hands or a pillow or blanket, crying like they just watched their investments plummet through the floor. “Uuuuughhh!!!” It’s all very dramatic at 3, I suppose.

‘Could you stop turning round for a moment, because it muddles me rather?’
‘No,’ said Eeyore, ‘I like turning round.'”

Eeyore can be stubborn. Occasionally, he works against the best efforts of those trying to help him, and that gets hella frustrating.
wp-1468264435328.jpg

 

Owl: Talkative, very talkative. Owl likes to educate, tell stories, and explain rules. He’s precocious, which we often use as a negative adjective, but which really just means he’s ahead of the game, maturity- and/or ability-wise. He’s the go-to animal in the Forest for information and advice.

 

“‘My dear Pooh,’ said Owl in his superior way, ‘Don’t you know what an ambush is?'”

Owl is what some might call a know-it-all. Owl can spell (sort of, as he gets his letters mixed up quite a bit, too), he is full of facts (which are mostly true), and he likes to explain things to others (with a few misconceptions accidentally thrown in). Sometimes, he comes off as snobbish, but it’s only because he wants to feel important. Just like Piglet, he wants to be useful, and the best way he knows how to be useful is by using or sharing his knowledge.

“…Owl was telling Kanga an Interesting Anecdote full of long words like Encyclopaedia and Rhododendron…” 

He knows he doesn’t know everything, but when Owl has big words to use, he uses them, because he’s proud that he knows them. Sometimes it frustrates or confuses his friends, but he’s always the first they go to with a problem, or when they need clarification on something.

“‘It was on just such a blusterous day as this that my Uncle Robert, a portrait of whom you see upon the wall on your right, Piglet, while returning in the late forenoon from a-…'”

Owl LOVES to recount stories. He has an excellent memory, and remembers events in vivid detail. Sometimes, if he gets interrupted, he’ll try to restart the story multiple times, because he has a strong need to be heard. Don’t we all?

 

wp-1468265168548.jpg

 

Rabbit: Rabbit is another one of those characters who can get under your skin, even though he means well. He’s bossy, he can be an instigator, he holds grudges, but he always has novel ideas. Rabbit is a bit of an introvert sometimes; he prefers if things are calmer and quieter, and gets angry when that doesn’t work out. He’s generous though, and takes care of his closest friends.

 

“Rabbit began to feel like it was time he took command.”

When things start to spiral out of control, Rabbit has to step in, because HE knows the answer. Actually, he usually does. He can organize and mobilize the gang to do just about anything, and they usually need the help.

“‘Tigger’s getting so bouncy nowadays that it’s time we taught him a lesson. Don’t you think so, Piglet?'”

When Rabbit gets hold of an idea, he can be very persuasive, and because he’s a leader, he can sometimes lead his friends in a bad direction. He influences the others, and they respect him because of his air of authority, even though it’s not always the best idea.

wp-1468264435337.jpg

 

Kanga & Roo: The caregiver, and the baby. Kanga is the protective, patient, gentle, understanding mama, who opens her home and her pantry to everyone. She bathes little Roo, gives him his medicine, and makes sure he stays out of trouble. To Kanga, everyone is “Dear”. She can seem exasperated at times, and she doesn’t put up with any nonsense, but she’s forgiving. I see Kanga as being both the nurturing side of toddlers, as well as the epitome of “Mama”.

“Kanga never takes her eyes off Baby Roo, except when he’s safely buttoned up in her pocket.”

Thank goodness for babywearing.

“a Kanga was Generally Regarded as One of the Fiercer Animals… it is well known that, if One of the Fiercer Animals is Deprived of Its Young, it becomes as fierce as Two of the Fiercer Animals… Rabbit went on to say that Kangas were only Fierce during the winter months, being at other times of an Affectionate Disposition.”

I need a shirt that says, “Generally Regarded as One of the Fiercer Animals.” Milne wasn’t just watching his son play; he knew his wife, and he knew what mothering meant to her.

“Roo was washing his face and hands in the stream, while Kanga explained to everybody proudly that this was the first time he had ever washed his face himself…”

There’s that proud Mama Kanga. Parents know that even the smallest milestone is enough to make you beam with pride.

Roo is the baby. He still speaks like a baby, but nobody corrects him; they just smile and move on. Kanga has to tell him the hard truths, like that it’s bath time, or that he can’t eat that, or that it’s time to go home, and it’s tough for Baby Roo, but he has a lot of people to comfort him. Everyone looks out for him, and everyone makes sure he’s protected and fed. Aside from that time they stole him. Just read the book.

“I can swim. I fell into the river and I swimmed.”

Sweet, silly Roo. Often too small to participate or stay out too long, he gets his adventure wherever he can. He’s earnest, honest, and a touch impulsive, but he likes to follow instructions when they work in his favour.

wp-1468264435755.jpg

 

Christopher Robin: Their best friend, and the one who knows the Forest the best. He’s revered and loved, because he encourages his friends, teaches them, gets them out of trouble, mitigates conflict, and goes on adventures with them. He believes every word they say, and he loves them unconditionally. No matter what trouble they get into, or what they do to each other, he loves them.

“Christopher Robin had spent the morning indoors going to Africa and back, and he had just got off the boat and was wondering what it was like outside, when who should come knocking at the door but Eeyore.”

Christopher Robin’s imagination never lets him down. He doesn’t question his reality, even if it means hopping back and forth between continents. Remember too, he’s four. Getting involved in your child’s fantasy world, I mean really involved, is a blast! It’s always great to have someone to go on adventures with, whether it’s a princess tea party, running the zoo, or taking a train to the pyramids. It’s not just fun, pretend play is an important part of child development. It assists the maturation of  self-discipline and impulse control, as well as giving kids a safe place to process the new things they’ve learned out in the big world.

“…’But what I like doing best is Nothing.’
‘How do you do Nothing?’ asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time. ‘Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Pooh.
‘This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Pooh again.
‘It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.’ ‘Oh!’ said Pooh.”

This one is important, parents. Christopher Robin and the Art of Doing Nothing. Listen to all the things you can’t hear, enjoy the silence, and don’t worry about what you might be missing. I’m still working on perfecting this one myself.

“Pooh, promise me you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Waterworks. The request your heart want to give your children, without sounding needy and clingy. “Promise me, no matter how old and decrepit I get, you’ll always call me Mommy, and you’ll love me forever!” So as not to totally traumatize them, we usually don’t break down and make them promise. As long as we do our job, we’ll make memories for our kids that will last many lifetimes over, because they’ll tell their children about them, and their children will talk about them, and on it will go.

So, did Milne mean for any of his tales to be interpreted in any specific way? Who knows? His dedications do answer why he wrote them, though. Get those tissues ready. The beautiful, heartfelt inscriptions in each book shows a man so incredibly thankful for his family, trying to repay his wife for the best gift he had ever know, and ever would. He immortalized his son’s childhood for Daphne, his wife.

Winnie-The-Pooh: 

To Her
Hand in hand, here we come
Christopher Robin and I
To lay this book in your lap.
Say you’re surprised?
Say you like it?
Say it’s just what you wanted?
Because it’s yours-
Because we love you.

The House at Pooh Corner:

You gave me Christopher Robin, and then
You breathed new life in Pooh.
Whatever of each has left my pen
Goes homing back to you.
My book is ready, and comes to greet
The mother it longs to see-
It would be my present to you, my sweet,
If it weren’t your gift to me.

The moral?

“By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, ‘There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’ But all the little streams high up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late.”

Kids are moving a mile a minute – adventuring, absorbing, applying new knowledge – and as much as we feel the pressure to make their daily activities engrossing and educational, there’s lots of time for that. Hard skills (reading, writing, math, physics, etc) can come later; help them face their Heffalumps and Woozles, watch them jump as high as a Jagular, pick up some haycorns together in the park. Be loving. Be patient. Be present. “There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

 

 

Here are a few quotes you can find attributed to Milne, but were actually from the various movies, not either of the book:

“A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 

Why Isn’t Teleparenting a Thing?

“We’re in the future, we just don’t act like it.” I said. He’s in tech, he knows this better than anyone. It’s true, though. Our phones, which we can control with our voices, are now our clocks, cameras, journals, grocery lists, baby monitors, news/sports/entertainment sources, GPSs, music players, primary mode of communication, calendars, banks, travel agents, debit/credit cards, translators (and the list goes on, and on, and on). Hospitals and doctors are doing telehealth appointments, you can telecommute to work, teleconference at work, you can get a tele-education from a real university (which is just an awkward way of saying online distance ed). WHY ON EARTH are we not using video chat daily, to communicate with the ones who are most important to us?

20160526_102444.jpg

America’s 40hr workweek isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. My husband’s 50+hr workweek isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. More and more parents are working longer and longer hours. Paid parental leave is ever-so s.l.o.w.l.y creeping in, but not fast enough, and with a fair amount of pushback. Parents are missing out on time with their children, and the kids can feel it.

I’ve rallied against the unsustainable workweek, I’ve fought for longer parental leave, I’ve tried convincing my husband that we should move to an off-grid commune (preferably nudist, so I have less laundry). Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me giving up on those things; we can’t just roll over and accept that the American workweek is so long it’s becoming less productive, while slowly killing its workers. Solutions to these problems are certainly things we need to continue to push for, but what do we do in the meantime?

This morning, I had an idea. I sent my hubby a message:

“Why isn’t teleparenting a thing? Video chat is always advertised for long distance, like work trips, or family that lives out of state, but never for day-to-day. They give people smoke breaks, why not give them teleparenting breaks? It’s free! If you have wifi at work, it can be cheaper than a phone call.”

He seemed intrigued.

“We’re in the future, we just don’t act like it.” I said. He’s in tech, he knows this better than anyone. It’s true, though. Our phones, which we can control with our voices, are now our clocks, cameras, journals, grocery lists, baby monitors, news/sports/entertainment sources, GPSs, music players, primary mode of communication, calendars, banks, travel agents, debit/credit cards, translators (and the list goes on, and on, and on). Hospitals and doctors are doing telehealth appointments, you can telecommute to work, teleconference at work, you can get a tele-education from a real university (which is just an awkward way of saying online distance ed). WHY ON EARTH are we not using video chat daily, to communicate with the ones who are most important to us?

“Do you think Z is at a point where “[Google] hangouts with dada” would do any good?” He asked.

“Definitely.” I said. Over the last few years, researchers have been studying how babies interact with handheld technology (i.e. what’s good for them, what’s not, what they understand, what nuances are lost on them, what age is best, etc). We’ve learned that Baby Einstein et al were such a flop because children have a hard time learning new words and concepts from recordings. As much as a pre-recorded show or movie can pretend to interact, it just can’t. We’ve also discovered that kids learn better from live, interactive video than from recorded video. This starts younger than people think, with babies as young as 6-months-old being able to tell the difference between a recording and a live chat. So, while the focus doesn’t have to be “learning”, as much as just “bonding”, they’d still recognize your presence, and they’d definitely appreciate it.

“Just two or three minutes,” I said. “Check in, see faces, comfort mommy, back to work.”

At first blush, this seems more practical with one stay-at-home parent, than for the working parents with kids in daycare. He disagreed. “It could even be doable in daycare. Have some tablets or kiosks at the daycare, talk to your own kid.” This is true. It could be scheduled, or at either the child’s or the parent’s request. They might have to implement a limit, but it could prevent some daycare meltdowns. The more I thought about it, the more practical it seemed for everyone. They could have a tablet in every school nurse’s office, so that parents can talk to their sick kids without leaving work (if they don’t have to). Sometimes, just a minute talking to mom will save an afternoon.

Scenario 1): You’re on the job site, when you get a call from the daycare. Your 2-year-old has been completely melting down for over an hour, and they have no idea why, so they request you come pick him up. You’re the only certified front-end loader operator on site, traffic is backed up for miles, rain has already pushed this job out a week, and there’s nobody to watch your toddler at home. It’s a meltdown, he’s not sick, he just wants… something. Instead of driving all the way there to figure out what that something is, the daycare attendant could say, “Do you want to talk to him?” You climb down, call your site manager over, and he gives you the work tablet. You open the app, make the call, and see his snot-covered, puffy-eyed, rosey-cheeked face. Your heart melts a little. “Hi sweetie, Daddy’s here, what’s up?” He says, “Dadaaaaaaa! I want goggy bop bop!” His daycare attendant pops her head into view, “We’ve been trying to figure out what he wants, we have no idea what ‘Googly bap bap’ is.” You shake your head. “It’s not ‘googly bap bap’, that’s nonsense. He said, ‘goggy bop bop’, which is ‘crocodile chomp chomp’, which means he wants his stuffed crocodile from his bag.” Obviously. You turn your attention back to him, “You want your crocodile, right?” He squeals with joy. “What does a crocodile say?” He gives you an enthusiastic, “BOP BOP BOP”, arms stretched out, chomping wildly. “Yay! Chomp chomp! I love you, buddy. Daddy’s gotta drive the big truck, but I’ll see you soon, ok? Have lots of fun, listen to your teachers, and play nice. Can you do that for me?” He can, and he says he will. The teacher mouths a thank you from behind him, and off they go. You hand the tablet back, and you’re back at it.

Scenario 2): You’re at the office, it’s 11:30am and a notification pops up on your screen. Time for your daily chat with your 9-year-old daughter, who has ASD. She starts off on a tangent about how one of her classmates didn’t get detention for talking out in class, and she got one for the same reason last month, which is entirely unfair. She’s fidgeting, and staring off into the distance. “I hear you. That does seem unfair. I need your eyes on me, please.” She looks into the camera. You talk softly. “You like Mrs. Jones. She is a good teacher, and she likes you. Can you repeat that for me?” She does. Ok. “Mrs. Jones is often very fair, right?” She nods. “What did that other student say when they spoke out?” Mrs. Jones was talking about trees, and Little Jonny jumped in to talk about how big the tress in his neighborhood were. Thanks for your contribution, Jonny. “Well, Little Jonny should not have spoken out, he should have raised his hand. Did his comment hurt anyone’s feelings?” No. “Did it make Mrs. Jones angry?” No. “Did you get in trouble for anything today?” No. “That’s great! Since Little Jonny’s words didn’t hurt anyone, or upset Mrs. Jones, we can let this one slide. I know, I know, it’s a slippery slope. It’s time for you to go back and join the class now. I love you. When I pick you up, we’ll go for a walk on the greenway, and you can tell me everything you’ve learned about trees today.” All is well, time for your Q2 meeting.

Scenario 3): You’re at work, and you get called to the front of the store. The preschool is on line 1, your son, who has severe food allergies, just threw up. The school is freaking out, ready to call the ambulance (as per your directives in his file). You ask your shift manager for a minute, run to the breakroom, and grab your cell. You open the app, and when you finally see his happy little face, you’re relieved, and confused. “What happened, buddy?” He smiles. He says he was spinning in big circles, and then he got dizzy, and then he fell down, but then he got up again, but then he fell down again, and then he threw up. Sounds like fun. “Did you eat anything bad?” Nope. He’s 4, he knows what he can and can’t eat, and this mythical, vigilant school is very strict about adhering to food allergy protocols. You can breathe again.

It seems pretty simple, and cost could be managed. The school nurse’s/counselor’s office would require, at most, half-a-dozen tablets. They (hopefully) already have a secure network for their laptops, and possibly already have tablets. A daycare could have 3 emergency/comfort call tablets, at $50 to $100 apiece. Or, they could have 12 tablet kiosks for one or two scheduled, 3-minute chats with mom or dad per day.

I’m an activist, but I’m a practical activist. As much as I want to push the work-life balance movement forward, I’m also looking for solutions to keep myself and my family happy and sane. I have to, if I want to actually have the strength and mental acuity required to keep being an activist, and a mother.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to use Google Hangouts (I’ve always found it faster, and it’s a smaller, easier-to-run app than Skype, and I have no ithings, so I have no idea how well Facetime works) for some scheduled Daddy time during the week. Join me! Try it! Tell me what you think! Obviously, the daycare/school solution isn’t an option yet, but that’s not to say it can’t be. Just 3 minutes (or more, if you want to and can swing it). Sing, ask about their day, tell them about your day, make silly faces, whatever. And if your employer isn’t having it (as I just learned that “FLSA does not require employers to give their employees any breaks from work for any reason”) tell them you have violent diarrhea, or a super-heavy period, and that you’ll stay in your chair if they really want you to, but you just need a few minutes. And then enjoy some smiley time with your kid.

Privacy and Safety in North Carolina: The McCrory Definition

Why did he vehemently support a company that continually endangered his state? Perhaps it was loyalty. After all, McCrory was an employee of Duke Energy for 29 years.

Over the past few months, North Carolina has stood out in the political sideshow that is America, and has become a target of disappointment and disgust worldwide. I’ve been keeping up-to-date with HB2, the bill to suppress a progressive Charlotte city ordinance meant to help protect trans citizens and visitors. In a nutshell, it’s a mess. If you’d like to read more about it, here’s a link to the bill itself.

Continue reading “Privacy and Safety in North Carolina: The McCrory Definition”

Your Kid’s Allergic to WHAT?: Our FPIES Journey

So, this was originally a Facebook post to inform, and thank, certain family and friends. I’ve edited to bring everyone up to speed. Full disclosure: if you’re eating, save and come back after you’re done. Thanks for reading!

image

If you know my eldest daughter, you know she’s a happy, inquisitive, robust, healthy kid! You probably also know about our discovery of her food allergies, and what that’s meant to us as a family. At 6-months-old, she had a terrifying bout of vomiting that sent us straight to the hospital. After 2 more instances, a community of moms pointed me towards the term FPIES, and it changed our whole lives, from the way we all eat, to the way we parent. Seriously! Since then, we’ve discovered our second daughter has something similar (Food Protein-Induced Proctocolitis [FPIP], or Allergic Proctocolitis [AP], depending on who you ask), and is reacting through my breastmilk (evidence, because even the professionals aren’t up-to-date). At the moment, FPIP entails pooping mucous and blood if I have certain foods, but we’ll tackle that in another post.

Continue reading “Your Kid’s Allergic to WHAT?: Our FPIES Journey”

My Identity (Crisis)

image

This last week-and-a-half, I’ve been pondering the mystery that is Rachel Dolezal, the President of the Spokane-Washington NAACP chapter, a woman who presented herself to be African-American but who was born very much caucasian. I read the news articles and thought, “That was stupid. She could have just been a white ‘sympathizer’ and still become the chapter president. Attention whore.” Thursday morning, I woke up to the tragic news of the Charleston terrorist attack on Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. For me, these two stories converged in a very unsettling, but ultimately cathartic way. Let me explain.

I am Afro-Peruvian. By birth. But I don’t speak much Spanish at all. I am also Canadian. By adoption. My parents are white. My adoptive parents. This week, I learned I’m transracial. Who knew? I live in North Carolina with my white husband and our white-but-tans-really-well daughter. A year ago, I found myself grappling with my own identity for the sake of my daughter; today, I’m doing it for myself.

Continue reading “My Identity (Crisis)”