The America We Live In: Explaining Hate to My Eight Year Old

It took a really long time for me to decide whether or not I wanted to discuss Charlottesville, VA in regards to racism, fascism, and Nazism to my eight year old. Until he got up this morning and I was about to read Percy Jackson as I usually do, ( I eat much earlier and he out eats me by about four times the amount so we get a lot of reading done at breakfast), and instead I started talking about racism and the Alt-Right/KKK gathering in Charlottesville, VA that ended in the death of one woman and the wounding of some nineteen others  due to a car plowing into a peaceful protest, on top of the two policemen killed.

This is not okay. It is not okay to come to a college campus and march with torches and promote hate, the same type of hatred many of our grandfathers or great grandfathers fought against in WWII. And they chose to begin this march on a college campus because the educated youth is who they need to target, or to get on their side. This hate is here in our America, being denounced nationwide by Democrats and Republicans alike. However, I felt it impossible not to speak to my child because the one person immediately not denouncing it was the President of the United States. Immediately, I felt his remarks lacked any real remorse or committed stance that this was racism at is core, terrorism perpetrated by the same people who are raving about our President. Violence on all sides? What the fuck? David Duke even specifically said he was happy about the President’s statements and how they did NOT call the Alt-Right out for being terrifying and malicious in their intent. In fact, it took two days for Trump to say anything remotely calling the rally what it was; which he almost immediately countered with a statement about the Alt-Left and their violence.

Wait a minute…The Alt-Left? Does he mean the peaceful protesters who were there protesting the KKK rally-I mean Alt-Right rally? Perhaps he means the protesters who engaged back in the violence the rally brought? However few who did engage, ultimately, what the groups stand for at their core are what’s making this such a high stakes discussion. There was a group Unite the Right, protesting the removal of General Robert E. Lee statue from a park open carrying guns and torches, and an even larger group protesting this group, protesting what was essentially a whole lot of members supporting white supremacy.

There was so much information, so much darkness, that I didn’t even begin to know how to talk to my kid in a coherent and eight year old meaningful way. When I started explaining, however, he knew more than I gave him credit for, such as Nazis are bad. He already knew, just from picking up conversation elsewhere, (not sure where because for a long time I kept politics out of the home–until the debates) that Trump was a bully. He knew about the Civil War and who freed the slaves, (albeit for maybe not the most altruistic reasons), and knew that there are people who discriminate based on how you look, who you love, and what your sex is (whether it be physical or otherwise). I don’t shy away from conversation with my son about “controversial” topics. So we discussed the America we live in, and the America we stand for, and what we can do as humans to promote the message of acceptance. It’s really more of an understanding, not just an acceptance, and certainly not tolerance, of how difference in ethnicity, religion, gender, sex, relationships, family makeups…how all this difference makes us human and amazing. I mean, ultimately, most of us want the same basic things: love, understanding, friendship, and meaning within our lives.

I did tell my child what went on and why and how it was handled by different people. He watched Seth Meyers reaction, which was maybe my favorite of the nighttime hosts. And he took it in and asked a couple of questions. And then he was hungry. He wanted me to read Percy Jackson and The Last Olympian, a story where it seems like the bad might prevail, but the hero always wins in the end.

We can’t bury the bad in the world, nice it over for our kids. This is the world they will inherit, and I would like my child to learn from the mistakes of the past. Ultimately, as Americans, I feel that we will be learning a lot about the formation of protest groups and the rally cry of the usurping of our rights. I have never in my life seen this amount people out to protest such things as healthcare as I have in the past few months and it is both sad that it needs to be done, yet hopeful that people are standing up and demanding to be treated better. I am hopeful that more people will educate their kids on what it means to be an American versus the innate hatred that comes with white supremacy, or any hate group for that matter.

Trump has emboldened hate groups. After the announcement that he was, to the chagrin of many, going to become the 45th President of the United States, I wrote this: Trump Gave Hate A Platform . I feel that it is still relevant, if not more so in the wake of the white supremacist march. Speak out. Educate. Explain. I am a single working mother; I won’t be at the marches or the protests, but I won’t be silent.

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“I’m on fire!” – Caolan (aka Smalls), 8 Year Old Gamer

As I sit here, shades open, the computer sitting at the bar in my kitchen playing the new Rancid album, the shouts and laughter of two rambunctious eight year old best friends playing Plants VS Zombies in the next room, I know that my life is exactly where I never, ever imagined it would be, and that this is the closest to happy I’ve maybe ever been. As a kid, I just always assumed I’d move to New York City and become a starving writer working at a shit job. It turns out that to make this happen, you really need this thing called ambition, and I don’t exactly have that quality in spades. I guess I’d like to think it’s not that I’m not ambitious, but that it just wasn’t the reality that I really wanted, instead more an ideal that would never live up to the dream I’d set in my head. Turns out, there are a lot of things in life that we build up so much, the reality can never compare, thus the death of dreams. I’ve always called this idea the Problem of Christmas. Think about it: months of time and energy and money and thought spent for like an hour, if not less, where we spend a few minutes together buying into the idea of consumerism and trying not to show our dissatisfaction when the people who are supposed to know us best, get us something that proves they have no clue what we like and vice versa. Minutes that have been built up over months time; how can this ever live up to the ideal? Now, I’ve made my peace with Christmas and the whole season, but that’s something for another day. My points even elude me on most days, but what I’m trying to get at is the idea that plans don’t always work out, paths lead to completely different places, and for me, it’s this amazing idea that I’ve been on this crazy, random journey that led me right back to the place where I first felt comfortable, first felt like the me I have become. Home has come when I was least expecting it. A child’s laughter. Reading Harry Potter and Percy Jackson aloud. Watching The Goonies and The Princess Bride and Stand By Me and witnessing my child falling in love the way I did. The highs made higher by the lows and the depressions.

It is the unexpected I’ve come to fall in love with, the little moments that make up the vast portions of life. The sound of two best friends, laughing and shouting as they play video games, while I sit sipping coffee, knowing how damn lucky I am to just recognize these moments, when some days, it’s difficult to see past the shit/depressing/stress insert negative adjective here stuff.

Summer Break Bucket List

I am on summer break.

Just saying it like that makes me feel ten years old, creates this amazing sense of excitement for the myriad of possibilities. In an effort to not let the time pass too quickly without having a bit of fun, my son and I have compiled a Summer Break 2017 Bucket List. We did this once before, a much shorter one, for spring break earlier in the year. It was amazing!

So, what is on our Summer Break 2017 Bucket List? A whole lot of awesome, that’s what!

The To-Do’s of Summer 2017

  • At home DIY science experiments – we’re making some slime and we’re making some chemical reactions
  • Listen to new songs and create a summer break playlist on Spotify (thus far)
    • Agnostic Front – Gotta Go
    • The Vandals – Come Out Fighting
    • Jake Bugg – The Love We’re Hoping For
    • Jake Bugg – What Doesn’t Kill You
    • Mischief Brew – Thanks, Bastards!
  • Practice riding 2 wheel bike
  • Practice and learn how to swim (hopefully I can arrange lessons at the college for him)
  • Make a dessert together – We made pudding today, but I’m thinking cookies soon
  • Go geocaching around the city
  • Go to a Loons baseball game
  • Tridge/Dow Gardens – (indefinitely postponed due to flooding)
  • Build an EPIC blanket fort and play games/read Percy Jackson
  • Do summer reading program at library
  • Go to Lansing for breakfast at the greatest breakfast place ever: The Golden Harvest (I cannot wait to share this amazing place with the person I love the most!)
  • Go to the airport and watch the planes land with snacks/picnic
  • Take a trip to Grand Haven and visit friends and the beach
  • Make a fun T-shirt, like glow in the dark
  • Make a bottle rocket because rockets are awesome
  • Have an epic Nerf gun battle – which we did and was a blast!
  • Coffee shop for games and treats (this is always a great way to get out of the house)
  • Thrilling Thursday for fun, free activities down town
  • Play Kinect Sports together – (I got demolished in boxing yesterday)
  • Make a dinner together that is not pizza
  • Movie and popcorn camp out on the floor
  • Go to the splash pad (indefinitely postponed due to the massive flooding in the city)
  • Volunteer at the Humane Society (Smalls is reading to the pups and he loves it!)
  • Go to the Soda Shoppe at the drugstore (a huge success for an old school chocolate shake)

This is the list we compiled with a little help from our online community. There are so many ways to spend time with a child or your family, and this, for me, is a great way to make sure I don’t allow us to waste our time, because it is so easy to just say, ‘oh, lets do that tomorrow. We have time.’ Time doesn’t really work that way. Also, there’s just something so damn fulfilling about crossing stuff off of a list.

Some days, Smalls and I chill and watch YouTube music videos together. It’s a way for me to relate to him and share some of the music that means a lot to me. Another thing we’ve been doing for the last few years is reading series books together. Well, I should say I’ve been reading and he listens. I read all of the Harry Potter books aloud, with accents, for two and a half years. After we finished, we started on Percy Jackson, and I feel like this tradition is something that we will always have together, memories that will be with us all of life. I guess what I mean to say is that a bucket list isn’t the only way to make sure we have fun, but it certainly does have a way of pushing us out of our comfort zone (which is important), and exposing us to things we may not even know we like. I’ve never geocached, don’t know how to do it, but I know there’s an app to download, and I know it will be an adventure.

Here’s to summer break and adventures, and having the amazing opportunity to spend it with my son.

Nostalgia Flavored Coffee

This was written roughly a few months ago, sitting at a Bigby’s in Muskegon, hanging out in the middle of a Friday before meeting up with a friend. Not sure why I didn’t post it then, but I think I ran out of chill time. Today, my backdrop is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and an occasional, “Mom, I need…” or “Mom, I feel…”, because my small one has strep. It is everything opposite of that Friday; sitting at my bar in my kitchen, drinking coffee out of an old school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mug, thinking about responsibilities and work questions because I’ve never taken a day off from this job, let alone three, and a sick child that I want to feel better and stupid housework. A contrast of days, the difference of life.

It is a Friday afternoon and I am sitting in a coffee shop, headphones in with a to go mug next to me, thinking about how this used to be my life, filled a little with a sense of nostalgia and longing. Well, switch out the computer for a composition notebook and mini CD player with headphones, because we’re talking about the early 2000’s here, and add a plastic black ashtray on the table with a pack of Camel Lights. Back then, us Michiganders were allowed to smoke inside and I took advantage of this fact wholeheartedly. That pretty much sums up my twenties. Currently, the mood is being set by the Flaming Lips, my child very noticeably not in front of me as he is at his Dad’s, and I have no real place that I need to be. In my twenties this was something taken for granted, but over halfway through my thirties, I think I should probably take a moment to recognize this as a rare occurrence, the successful mating and birthing of a panda bear, and enjoy the hell out of it. I mean, where am I normally on a Friday afternoon? Well, normally I am working at an elementary school as a paraprofessional during the day, and hanging out with a seven year old every night, making sure he’s eating a real dinner and not spending every waking second with his eyeballs glued to his Kindle. By the time he’s in bed and we’ve read some on Percy Jackson, it’s past nine and my brain is fried. If I did cohabitate, my guess is the person would get zombie answers out of me if they tried to start a conversation. Like, “Hey, what do you think of the new healthcare bill?” and my response would be something like, “Ughhh guuuuhh.” Clearly a well thought out response.

My early twenties were filled with a lot of Goodwill clothing that didn’t match, emo music and Wes Anderson films, long conversations over coffee that felt like they held the weight of the world, and PBR over smokes and darts. Homework was a backdrop, classes and work, always there in the background of my memories.

Flash forward to my thirties and I spend this entire time : spaced out from writing, looking up songs and artists on Spotify and adding music to my newer playlists, and bouncing from there to working on a story for a few minutes, reading a couple of articles on NPR but I shall invoke the millennial phrase: I just can’t. I just can’t think about politics today, so that didn’t last very long. I texted a friend about Tim Vantol, then I looked him up and listened to a few of his songs. And here I am again.

I guess I’m just not used to getting big blocks of time on my hands. And that’s okay. I mean, my mid thirties kind of kick ass.

This Is My Brain All Of The Time

It’s like waking from a dream and I get up and have my coffee with far too much creamer because damned if I can quit and the mess is just not something I can be in and around and it makes my brain crazy. I wake up and realize that I have to clean. And I have to clean everything as thoroughly as possible and as quick as possible and I have to do anything I can eke out in the time that I’m functioning on a ‘don’t just do enough to get by’ basis and it’s either falling asleep after I make dinner or the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep which causes zombie like tendencies the next day with a complete inability to focus properly or remember anything and the rest of the week and all I have I give while I’m at work, because my coworkers and the kids need me to be my best me and then I come home and I try my best to be the best mom but sometimes it’s hard and I yell and I’m lonely and I’m so overwhelmed with the bills and the bank account and the responsibilities and the keeping house and the getting groceries and the doing extras with my son and the need to exist outside of this bubble I’ve created is just impossible and I am so goddamned alone. This is my brain. This is my brain all of the time. If I don’t give my brain something else to focus on, sometimes two something else’s or even three it will just drive me absolutely insane. There are people who wonder how a person can drink alone, because when I was younger I always wondered how people could drink alone, but now I understand and now I understand the struggle to not drink alone because being overwhelmed doesn’t get fixed that way, but just existing in this state isn’t going to fix my brain and I worry about my quality of life because it slips by so fast and the time with my son because he’s already seven and he was just a tiny toddler hardly tall enough to see out the window but that was years ago.

My brain is filled with words all the time. Some people see images in their brains, but mine is a stream of flow consciousness all of the time unless otherwise occupied and some days I just need it to shut the fuck up and leave me alone.

Alternative Reality

Science is just
A word
And words
Have been made by man
Have been manipulated
Mangled and mutilated
Fit to the purpose
Fit from the speaker
Fit to sequester the audience

And language is arbitrary
To follow
Reality a construct
And it has never been
More real
With all this
Surrealism surrounding us
As a new reality
Is being constructed

Language makes meaning
Spreads ideas
Ideals and affections
And disease
Disaffection and disdain for difference

There is dissent
The divide
A crater in the center of
This reality
And reading this:
1984 has become a bestseller
In the year 2017
The terrifying nature
of an Orwellian society

This is a society
Where facts are becoming
A choice of belief
Reality being purported
As a construct of
Alternative facts
Also known as
Opinions
And when science becomes opinion
truth become obsolete

Take away the shared reality
Allow the ‘new words’
Remake history
Dare we utter the idea
Of dissent
The idea
of silence
As a form of dictating

And the reality of
The question
The reality of
The outcome
This has become the new reality

To Disappear

*This was written sometime before Christmas, before I started working full time again, when I clearly had too much time on my hands and in my head. However, though I feel more stable in my life, the sentiment is still with me. I am terrified; of the big things and the small things, of my freedoms and choices, and of the 1984-ish aspect of the way facts and history are being handled during these times here in the US. Reality and subjectivity are two of my favorite ideas to debate philosophically,  but the goings on here are most certainly playing a joke on me, like the world has turned into one big, unfunny satire.

 

It is easy to disappear.

Three weeks ago, I was livid, hurt, scared and decidedly ready to get involved. Today I sit, trying to not let something small but maybe big deter my goals, deter my ability to function as a human. A week after the election, it was all so much, so overwhelming, I quit. I deleted social media off my phone and quit reading the stories and quit giving all of my mind to the overwhelming depression.

A simple, “I’m fine.” It keeps even the closest person from asking more, asking those questions, keeping you from facing the truth: Despair. Unaccountable sadness, despair, anxiety and fear.

Death. Failure. Loneliness. Disease. Disaster. Pain. Suffering. Add in family and friends and the pain the death the disappointment the overall sense of failure to know anything and help anyone because…

It is easy to disappear.

I will tell you: A bottle of vodka. A twelve pack of high gravity beer. An empty house. No phone calls.

It is fighting to stay present for a child, for the only child, the only person with unconditional love. This is my reason. He has my eyes. And he’s so intelligent and funny and he makes me want to be okay.

I want to not want to disappear.

Today. On the computer the news headlines terrify me. The posts terrify me. The tweets are disheartening. The hate is so much more palpable and lasting than the goodness. Think back. Try real hard. Those negative comments, those mean people, they’ve stuck in the bank of memories and they’ve taken root, grown black branches, spread the significance of what a negative action is capable of.

Stir with a ceaseless self loathing and

It sticks with you.

And my head is filled it’s always going with the this and the that and the what did I forget what did that comment mean this person probably didn’t like me anyway how can a nice guy care and definitely how can one care after getting to know me and the insecurities and selfish behavior and the me and me me me.

Fuck.

How will my child ever be okay?