It is the normal course for politicians and national leaders to call for a national conversation on race in America when a racially infused incident occurs. The call has become filler with no real intention of being carried out. What would such a conversation look like? What would it accomplish? Nothing. Americans are having conversations on race every day but not across race, not engaging in those uncomfortable confrontations that we hope might lead to the real change. We do not need conversations on race. We need new laws.
In the face of the slayings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN by police officers, the problem of racially motivated violence against blacks by police is again in the headlines. When President Obama addressed these killings, it was obvious he wasn’t talking to black people. He was trying to convince whites that these killings were wrong, essentially saying that black lives matter. He quickly assured law enforcement that they were honored, celebrated, and appreciated for the work they did daily. The president’s quick pivot to celebrating law enforcement was telling. After peaceful protests in Dallas, a lone gunman, Micah Johnson, fired on police, killing 5 officers and injuring others. The shooter was black and he expressed anger at the recent shootings and the desire to kill white people and officers as his motivation. This disturbed individual’s horrific act was a deadly exclamation point on this week. Violence is never the answer.
It has always been the job of black folks to justify their right to keep their lives, not to be killed. Unfortunately, this sort of explaining is still required even when videos clearly show the victim powerless, non-threatening, and in many cases dying while the police officer brandishes a gun and fails to render in aid. The only way this will begin to stop is if the bar is lowered for prosecution of these police. Currently, it is too difficult to get a conviction when a police officer kills while on duty. That needs to change. There needs to be meaningful gun reform in this country. The paralyzing hold the NRA has on politicians stands in the way of this reform. This needs to change. National conversations won’t work.
I received an e-mail alert from the public library. My account was being charged for a damaged book I had recently returned.
This e-mail came on a leisurely Saturday morning. I’d slept in and had a plan to write most of the day after breakfast. Once I received the alert, my calm spirt left, replaced by a reactionary, anxious spirit bent on righting this grave injustice.
My mind recalled what has happened. I had reserved 4 thick SAT preparation manuals for my daughter. They sat on the dining room table for days until I forced her to begin studying using the volume I gave her. One of the manuals was for the redesigned SAT. This and the other books were never opened because she was talking the current SAT. Some time later, we returned all the books except for the one I gave her to study.
How could we damage a book we never cracked? Aha! Someone else had damaged it and returned it to the library. The personnel didn’t notice until I returned the book. I phoned the library branch to get to the bottom of this.
I must include some background. For almost 8 months, I worked at the public library part time. I know how something like this could have happened. Surely if I spoke with someone there, they could help me. I phoned the workroom. When the person answered, I launched into an explanation. The speaker cut me off. Apparently the library wasn’t open. She directed me to call back at 10 am. I name dropped, asking for the branch manager, but she wasn’t available. The person I spoke with was the Assistant Branch Manager, who began working there after left.
My breathing was shallow. My heart was racing. I had to right this wrong. I couldn’t sit down to write because I was too wound up. Instead, I made some breakfast and my coffee. Then I began practicing my monologue. Remembering that I knew some people on the inside, I texted a friend who worked there and asked if she was working. I briefly explained what was happening and then asked if the branch manager was in too. She told me she wasn’t working and she wasn’t sure of the manager was working that day either. Explaining that the branch manager was very stern on these issues, she didn’t give me hope that it would be resolved in my favor. I assured her I would be a pest about it.
Finally at 10 am, I phoned the library explained my situation and the person on the other end removed the fine, blowing all the winds out of overreacting sails! While I was happy for this outcome, I realized that my reaction was not appropriate to the situation. There was no need for my elevated breathing, anxiety, and willingness to argue this to the ends of the earth. No one should be made to pay $25 for something they didn’t do, but I hadn’t even given the organization a chance to right the wrong. That I corralled a former coworker in the fray was not good either. After calming down and asking her how she was doing, I learned that she didn’t even work at that particular branch anymore.
This over the top reaction gave me a temperature of my own inner atmosphere. I am subject to flights of irrationality at times especially when my sense of right and wrong are threatened. I immediately gear up for a fight expecting that “there will be blood.” This is not good. I am generally even-tempered and calm. At times, though, I do overreact at least internally to misunderstandings like this. I’m going to do better. Recognizing this as an area of growth is key. Awareness is good.
About 4 years ago, I began writing fanfiction for the ABC drama Scandal. This became my writing sandbox, the place I could explore plot, characterization, dialogue, and words. One highly addictive aspect of this practice was receiving reader reviews. The lauds, the praises, and petitions to update were okay, but I loved it most when a reader really engaged with the text and wrote a review showing that engagement.
It was akin to the feelings a teacher felt upon reading a student’s well written, fully engaged paper. That was only partly true though. My words, once they were read and reflected upon, were no longer my words. Something happened between my writing and the reader’s consumption. It was magic. Reading the reader’s reflection became my way of talking about the writing. These faceless and in some cases nameless readers (guest) were my conversation partners. It was addictive.
I still write fanfiction. I’m less addicted, but I do love reading reviews, though I am less compulsive about receiving them. I am a writing coach, editor, and consultant. My current client and I are working through his manuscript. We talk every two weeks about his progress and my edits to his manuscript. I enjoy these conversations immensely because they give me the opportunity to help the writer articulate what is on the page. It is self-affirming, sharpening the writer’s words through this active dialogue. This is an important part of the writing process.
Since I’ve recently updated on of my stories, I had a eureka moment this morning. I realized what I was looking for in my reader’s reviews. Reading others’ thoughts about my writing often helps me clarify. Many times I simply marvel at their perceptions and insights which sometimes go beyond my own.
One of my former students contacted me on Saturday via Messenger. He sent me a pic of a card I gave him for Christmas 3 years ago. I’m floored that he kept it.
As he chirped on and on about his life, I grinned and reminisced. I remembered his obligatory hugs and requests to teach the class a “science experiment.” To know you made a difference in a child’s life is bliss.
Today, this last day before I was to return to school, I gathered my two eager black labs and set off on a brisk walk in the biting cold. We welcomed the frigid air in exchange for the balmy, rainy bookends to the end of fall and beginning of winter.
Candi led the way with her sleek prancing. I walked in the middle. Rock, at the rear, interrupted our stride more times than I could count with his insistence on stopping to sniff and mark every inch of curb, pole, street, and yard. We encountered no other walkers possibly because of the temperature.
More than several cars and trucks passed our caravan on the road. Our street is hilly and winding so I keep an alert eye out for automobiles that may veer off the road. I noticed something. All the cars were white. After days of binging on episodes on The Twilight Zone, I began to hear the theme music. Was I entering another dimension? My neighborhood is pretty sleepy so on walks I have been known to imagine that I and my doggie compatriots are the last souls on the earth. My new observation was strange but in keeping with my last woman on earth daydreams.
I considered a more scientific approach. Should I stay put and take stock of the number of white cars that would pass now that I was aware? Should I remain outside until a vehicle of another hue passed? As I considered this, my gloved hands started to burn with coldness. I decided to return home. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee yet. Perhaps I was delusional or maybe white is the number 1 car color?
This isn’t the strangest thing that has happened to me. I’ll have to write about that time a really nice black all weather jacket appeared in our foyer closet. I thought it belonged to my mother or some guests who’d recently visited. They each denied owning the coat. I’ve been wearing it ever since. That was 5 years ago. It’s my coat of many absorbed colors. I was wearing it on my walk. Coincidence?
One more day and my enchanted Holiday break will be ended. I’ve enjoyed these two weeks off. Lord knows I needed it! Considering that I don’t get breaks at school-Yes, I eat lunch with my kids-and the generally difficult job of shaping young minds, I needed some rejuvenation.
But I’m ready to return. Yesterday morning, I dreamed that I had overslept and would be late for school. I dreamt this not once but two times. Last night, I dreamed I was a substitute teacher in a class from hell! I have classroom on my brain.
I’ll ease back in on Tuesday for planning sans students. I have redone my seating and am eager to rearrange desks. In science, I’ll begin the unit on sound so I have to pull out the materials for those experiments. There are other things on my list, but mostly I’m eager to see them and hear all about their breaks. Typically most students are as eager to come back as I am.
It is 2016 and I have no New Year’s resolutions. I course correct multiple times throughout the year thereby removing the need to at the end or beginning of a year.
I am embracing 2016 as the best year yet. I’m not job searching or looking for another place to dwell vocationally. There are no major life altering goals I have to meet. So I see this year as blooming where I’ve been planted.
I set my Goodreads reading challenge at 24 books for the year. I want to keep plugging away at finishing my Fanfiction stories while continuing my original works in progress. I’m continuing to find ways to work smarter and not harder as an educator. My work as a writing coach and editor continues to be gratifying. This, my daughter’s final year in high school, brings many large and small projects.
I foresee 2016 bringing me great joy and satisfaction.
It’s December 22 and I’m 3 months into 40. Today I’m feeling my age but in a good way. When I was 20, 40 seemed eons away. I just couldn’t fathom it. As the world keeps turning and the candles keep burning, each year gets seems to come faster. Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel like I’m aging or maybe aging is something different for me than it was then.
When I gaze at my reflection, I see the same person. It’s not until I look at photographs that I see the subtle differences that confirm I have, in fact, aged. Each visit to the doctor confirms the aging as well. My gynecologist scheduled my first mammogram and incidentally it was today. What a smash fest! My girls were pulled, prodded, and pressed between cold plastic during that “photo shoot” until they gave the camera what it wanted.
During my annual eye exam, the doctor asked me if I’ve experienced any changes in my vision since, “I see you turned 40 this year.” I wanted to say, “It’s been all of 3 months.” But I said, “Nope, I can still read really small text up close.” I have been near sighted and needed glasses since childhood. My vision hasn’t worsened with age…yet.
Turning 40 has bestowed many gifts. I know myself better than I have in the past. I enjoy people and socializing but my own company is just fine. Marriage has given me wings. I pride myself on doing the best, but I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. I take no one for granted. Having a best friend or a lot of friends is overrated. The best giving is when you get nothing in return. Writing and/or reading a good story is bliss. Working through a struggle instead of escaping makes life meaningful. Sometimes the smartest thing you can say is, “I don’t know.”
It is true that American culture is obsessed with youth, but in the right context, this is the best time to get older. I’m only 3 months in, but 40 is wonderful.
I signed my husband and I up to give blood on Friday. Our appointments were thirty minutes a part. Once I was stuck, pierced like Snow White, the iron reader came up low for me. I needed 10 more points to make the cut. The nurse stuck me once again, this time in the other hand. This time my iron was higher, but alas, not high enough.
I was disappointed, but determined to enjoy the time. While my husband continued through the process, I drifted over to the recovery table comforted by the greeter that I could try again in January when they were back. I kept the conversation going where the topics meandered and flowed around school, teaching, giving blood platelets, the last time we had given blood, and the greeter’s volunteer experience.
Finally my husband was done and by then another guy wearing a UGA shirt was as well. I knew the conversation would soon turn to football and the recently departed (from UGA) Coach Richt. When we left, we took pictures in the nicely decorated City Hall, inside and out.
Upon returning home, we collected the teenager and dove into thick traffic in search of more Christmas tree lights.
I will try to give blood again. I’ve been successful in the past. Since then, I’ve loaded up on spinach, chickpeas, and Farina.