Sunday, September 12, 2010

As the year of firsts draws to it's end....

I burst into tears while driving to my friends house for dinner on Friday. Thankfully it wasn't ugly crying, as I am easily prone to that. I was sitting in the car listening to my ipod, not thinking of anything, and then it hit me. A year ago that day was the last time I ever hugged my mom or saw her alive. And out came the tears. It has been awhile since I have cried in my car, and the funny thing is that most of my grieving this year has been done in my car. Someone told me that was her experience too after her mom died.

I have been so concerned with getting through the 14th (the day she possibly died) and the 17th (the day she was found) that the 10th creeped up on me.

They say the first year is the hardest. It has been true for me. I have felt a sense of loss at every change in season, and every event she is no longer here for. I am still shocked that she has been gone for a year.

I have a feeling this week is going to be painful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reflections on a Steel Magnolia....

It has been a year since my grandmother passed away. Two weeks later my mother died, and I was so overwhelmed with that loss that I don't know if I ever properly mourned my grandma. Really is there a proper way to mourn? All I know is she has been on my mind for a while.

I miss her weird mix of optimism and bitterness. Life was tough for her from the moment she was born until the day she died. She was born the oldest daughter in a poor family. She began working in the fields picking produce at the age when children today enter kindergarten. Until the day she died she refused to eat figs because of a job she had picking them as a child. She grew up with a mother who had mental health issues and drug addictions and because of the lack of resources there was no respite from her madness. What little I know about her relationship with her mother, it was not filled with many happy memories. I wonder if those experiences were preparing her to have a child with severe mental health issues.

She became pregnant with my mom when she was a sophomore in high school. She was kicked out of school and forced to marry my biological grandfather. There is only one picture of her pregnant and I have never seen a more miserable looking person. Aside from being forced to marry someone she didn't love, being kicked out of high school which had been a place she felt competent and happy, broke her heart.

She would have 4 children with my biological grandfather. It was a turbulent marriage, and she was forced to give her youngest daughter up for adoption because my grandfather was convinced she was cheating on him. She never spoke of this child, but somehow the adoptive mother contacted my uncle several years ago seeking health information. She never said her name or her daughter's name, but listed my grandma and her husband as the biological parents. Amazingly, my mom who could word vomit with the best of them never mentioned her sister to my grandma. I can't even imagine how she felt knowing a piece of her heart was lost to her.

Eventually she divorced her husband and did what ever she could to survive. She worked the night shift as a waitress (she wasn't allowed to be a bartender because she was a woman) and had a day job too. She used to carry a gun in her purse because she worked in bad neighborhoods. She accepted any and all charity and she credited different churches in my city for helping keep her children fed and clothed when times were tough.

She loved her family and she loved her children, but I don't think she knew how to parent my uncle. I think she saw too much of her husband in him, and so as a teenager he moved out of the house. Their relationship would always be filled with long periods of separation.

Around the time my mother was 10 she met the man who would become my grandpa. They married and for many years I thought they were happy. It's funny how little you know as a child. My grandma was very good at keep up appearances.

When I was 12 my grandma got sick and developed pneumonia. My grandfather left her while she was still in the hospital. It was years before I would even talk to him after that. Eventually I forgave him, but I never forgot how easy it was for him to leave. The funny thing was, I think my grandma was much happier without being married to him. For years he would come over to our house and just have coffee with her, and I think that was all she needed in that relationship. Life taught her to have low expectations.

When she got out of the hospital she moved in with my mom, my brother, and me. It was both the agony and the ecstasy. She did so much for me that I will never be able to repay. She was also an ally when my mom got really sick. I am ashamed to say that I put a lot on her shoulders because of how overwhelmed my mom made me feel.

She lived with my mom for 17 years. She took care of my mom and tried her best to make her better. When my grandma was at her sickest she refused to leave her home because my mom needed someone to take care of her.

She was an amazing cook, gardener, and pianist. She was never classically trained but she always knew she could play the piano. When she was 40 she bought a piano and low and behold she could play it.

She was fiercely independent and hated throwing away her belongings. When she was a child her mother would randomly throw out her clothes and belongings, and she never got over feeling so powerless and dependent on people.

I was her favorite. I say this knowing it was a blessing and a curse. She would treat me nicer than other family members and especially nicer than my brother. Life taught her that men were not to be trusted. Within my family I was both ignored on my father's side, and the golden child on my mother's. Neither is an enviable position.

My grandma loved holidays and celebrations. She loved giving gifts and would spend months finding the right presents for everyone. I got my love of presents and giving gifts from her. She hated receiving presents though. It made her uncomfortable to be the center of attention. On that we differ.

She taught me so much and more than anything I wish her life had been easier. I am so grateful for her love and support. She was so proud of my education and my career. I wish I had been able to support her more.

Tonight my best friend will be coming over for dinner. We will honor and celebrate my grandma by having all her favorite foods. I will remember the woman who worked so hard to support her family and who gave tirelessly of her talent and her love.

I will remember her always. And one day when I have grandchildren i will teach them to make meatballs, cookies, and to drink coffee while you watch soap operas. I will love them as she loved me. And I will treat them all as my favorites. Even the boys.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"The right to marry, is the right of individuals, not of racial groups." - Judge Roger Traynor, California Judge overturning the interracial marriage ban in 1948.

In the last two weeks California has made news. First for overturning Prop 8 on August 5, 2010 (thumbs way up). Today the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted to put a stay on gay marriage until the Supreme Court rules (bummer). I hear this will happen quickly. Quickly being December. People are once again in an uproar at the thought of gay men and women having the right to marry. They speak of America losing it's morality. The horror that Americans may have their vote on this proposition overturned. It will destroy our moral fiber, our businesses and ruin our children. I decided to take a look back on America and their thoughts on keeping marriage safe.

In 1664 the first laws banning whites from marrying blacks came about in Mass.
In 1769 the courts ruled that during marriage, the wife's legal and physical rights were suspended and given to her husband.
In 1839 Mississippi allowed women to own property with their husband's permission.
in 1993 all 50 states finally recognized that when women are raped by their husbands it is still rape. The first time it was considered rape was in 1978.

Reading up on American History hasn't really sold me on the idea of marriage benefiting me as a woman. It was kind of like spending any time talking to my dad who is anti-marriage after being divorced for 20 years. Thanks be I was born in an age where I have rights, and am considered equal to my husband. Even typing that made me angry for the women who came before me.

Now for some famous quotes on thoughts of interracial marriage:

"Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." 1967 case of Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia

"No brutality, no infamy, no degradation in all the years of southern slavery, possessed such villainious character and such atrocious qualities as the provision of the laws of Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states which allow the marriage of the negro, Jack Johnson, to a woman of Caucasian strain. [applause]. Gentleman, I offer this resolution ... that the States of the Union may have an opportunity to ratify it. ... Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant to the very principles of Saxon government. It is subversive of social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery of white women to black beasts will bring this nation a conflict as fatal as ever reddened the soil of Virginia or crimsoned the mountain paths of Pennsylvania. ... Let us uproot and exterminate now this debasing, ultra-demoralizing, un-American and inhuman leprosy"
-Seaborn Roddenberry US Senator 1912

At some point in our American History it was illegal (and considered immoral and against God's will) for a white person to marry a Native American, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Hawaiian, Filipino, Indian, and anyone considered Non-White. In Arizona in 1942 a section of this law was added to prevent anyone with mixed blood from marrying at all. I am part Choctaw, so that would mean I would get to be spinster for life. It has only been in the last 43-60 years that these laws have been overturned.

I am both glad and saddened this decision is going to the Supreme Court. I have every faith that the court will rule in favor of gay marriage. I am sad that in 2010 we still need the courts to protect the civil rights of the minorities against the fear of the majority.

We have come far in our views of marriage, but I hope that when my children are grown and ready to marry, there won't be interracial marriage, gay marriage, or heterosexual marriage. Just marriage.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Someday I will look back and laugh at the fears I had regarding being fired....

Or I will feel a sense of awe that I had a flash into the future. Today I feel like it could go either way. As I was sitting at work today, after a public shaming by my manager, I realized that I don't trust my own greatness. I am so afraid of failing, because I feel like I am not good enough. I seriously feel like I could be fired any time from my job. And I would not be surprised.

Part of my fear is due to the crappy HR dept. at my job. Several people (who were incompetent) were let go after taking time off. I have been sick with food poisoning for the last 5 days (missing 3 days of work) and I walk in to the clinical director wanting to talk to me. I walk in to his office at 9am and wonder if I will lose my job this morning. I felt a sense of panic, and I tried to remain calm, but inside I was planning on moving in with my dad, putting my stuff in storage, and becoming a janitor (probably at my job which would be the ultimate). At the meeting the director (who is one of my best friends) tells me I do not have enough sick time to have 3 days off, and if I submit a sick time request a red flag will be set off in HR. Awesome. So I make it work, but being sick for 3 days means I now have to go to work on the anniversary of my mom death and when her body was found. Double awesome.

All day long I have felt not good enough. The afternoon meeting in which the manager highlighted all the ways I file wrong didn't help. Having people tell me they need paperwork right away didn't help either. I stayed late (later than the janitor, so I guess that's something), did some paper work, but all the time I felt less than the others I work with.

I carried that feeling home with me tonight. In the back of my head I thought about what being unemployed would do to me. I felt fear, shame, and all these negative emotions. I let it define me for a minute.

But then I said fuck it. I am more than my job. I am more than my degree. I am more than this organization. If I lose my job tomorrow, then bully for them. I the best I can be, and for the people I work for this is enough. I help bring about change and healing and love. Today I am enough.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Sprint,

You suck ass. And not pretty ass either. You suck old dirty ass. Thanks for sending me to collections because I forgot to send you the death certificate when my mom died. Thanks for adding early termination charges when I cancelled the plan. Because my mom died. And the best part one yet, thanks for letting my mom use my social security number when she signed up for the plan, so I am responsible for the phone charges. I will never use Sprint products, I will also advise my friends and family to avoid your company like it is the black plague. You want the 361 dollars because you lost out when my mom died. I hope you choke on it.