Friday, December 2, 2016

30 days of gratitude, the power of the word

Day 2: A friend of mine shared this gutwrenching poem on Facebook this morning.  And after verifying with the author that I could share it publicly... today's moment of gratitude was for the strength of this woman through the days, and the power in the word.


November 14th.
In the coffee shop,
the man in the
Make America Great Again hat
smiles at me, so I take this
as an invitation.

“Pardon me, but I have to ask—
do you think Trump’s
ideologies keep every person
in this country safe?"

He doesn’t hesitate.

“Ma’am, I can’t get wrapped up
in identity politics, all I can
worry about is how
I’m going to feed my girls.”


At my 40th birthday party,
an acquaintance asks
why we have “so much
Mexican art in the house.”
“It might be because I’m Mexican,” I say.
“No,” he laughs, “you’re not Mexican."
“Yes. I am.”
"No," he continues, reassuringly,
“and if you are, you’re only, maybe, 17%."
The winter air stiffens between us.
An old, familiar pain.


There was a time when I
would have thanked him.

The early years,
when I wanted only to pass,
to rid myself of my last name—
the dead giveaway,
its muddy lineage

crawl out from the burying shame
that held me down every time
my father picked me up
from school in our shitty car,
his bushy mustache
& brown face
magnified by the sun.


A local white woman
posts a photo of her new tattoo:
a Mayan god etched eternal
on her flesh. When I point out
the disrespect, she assures me
she speaks Spanish fluently,
spent three years
in South America.

For the next six hours,
I argue with her friends.
They demand I quit being so
divisive. Judgemental. Close-minded.

“We have a racist running for President,
and you’re complaining about a tattoo?”
asks the white boy, who spray paints
murals all over this city
with impunity.

O, to be permitted the luxury
of only worrying about one thing at a time.

O, to be white in America,
to wake up knowing every god is your god.


When you never see yourself,
you search for yourself all the time.

You know the white girl
in the sombrero isn’t you.
The bro dude in Calavera makeup
isn’t either, not the ponchos
and glued on mustaches,
not the lowrider Chevy
in the Disney movie
or the hoochie-coochie
sex pot on the Emmy
award-winning television show.

Maybe you are only this:

the scorched bird pulled
from the chimney,
covered in soot.
Not the actual bird,
its velvet sack
of jigsaw’d bones,
but the feeling
of recognition.

The ash of knowing.


A white comedian tells this joke:
“I used to date Hispanics,
but now I prefer consensual.”

The audience laughs.
And you do, too.
Until the punchline hardens,
translates into a stone
in your throat.

You swallow it, like you always do.

You don’t change the channel,
but you also can’t remember
a single joke she tells after that.

A few months later, the comedian's career
blows up. She’s so real. So edgy.
Such a hardcore feminist.
When someone writes an essay on
her old stand-up routines—
noting her blindspot when it comes to race,

her response is:

“It is a joke and it is funny.
I know that because people laugh at it.”


If two Mexicans are in a car, who is driving?
A police officer.

How do you starve a Mexican?
Put their food stamps in their work boots.

What’s the difference between a Mexican and an elevator?
One can raise a child.

What do you call a Mexican baptism?
Bean dip

How do you stop a Mexican from robbing your house?
Put a help wanted sign in the window.

What do you call a Mexican driving a BMW?
Grand theft auto

What do you call a Mexican without a lawnmower?

What do you call a building full of Mexicans?

How do you keep Mexicans from stealing?
Put everything of value on the top shelf.

What do you call a bunch of Mexicans running downhill?
A mudslide.

Why don’t Mexicans play Hide ’n Seek?
No one will look for them.

What does a Mexican get for Christmas?
Your TV.

What do you call the Arizona man shot to death
by his white neighbor, screaming, “Go back to Mexico!”
Juan Varela


November 29th.
For weeks, I’ve avoided
eye contact with strangers.
My face is a closed curtain.
My mouth, the most
decorated knife.
I pay for groceries,
grab the receipt &
let my half-hearted
thank yous trail like smoke.
I no longer want to see
who refuses to see me.

Anyone is everyone.


December 1st.
I keep waking up.
There isn’t anyone
white enough to stop me.

Pantomime the living until
the body remembers:
wicked bitch. Bloodwhirl.
Patron Saint of the Grab Back.

Still. Still. Still. Still. Still. Still here.


I etch my own face upon my wicked flesh.
I am my own devastating god.

- Rachel McKibbens, published December 1, 2016


Day 2: Fighting the good fight:  Support your local food bank.  Hunger in America is real.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

30 days of gratitude, another year and outrage

I didn't finish last year's 30 days of Gratitude. A year later, I step back to this space. Jote's 30 Days  always makes me think,, makes me reflect.  I let this blog founder for the year, despite so many stories to tell.  The stories aren't necessarily relevant to anyone but me, anyway.  And so many other things eat my time and my energy and often falling on the sofa with a novel seems like the best way to end an evening.

Jote's invitation this year was the invocation I needed.  Because I am so angry and so despairing and so fundamentally sad about what the election says about where we're going and who we as a nation are and have chosen to be.  And I'm a lucky one. I'm a white woman in a progressive state.

I'm not sure if I can play along properly.  I'm not sure if I can really find the gratitude within myself.  I'm hoping that this will force me to, though.

Day 1:  Shared outrage.  That I'm not alone.

And also picking up Jote's lead:  people fighting the good fight.  I'm going to highlight in each of these blogposts, someone I think is doing something worthwhile in the world.  It may be a charity, it may be an individual, it may be a corporation.  It might be largescale, it might be a small kindness.  If you like it, pass along the URL or pay it forward.

Day 1:  -- yep, it's a clothing company.  But it's a clothing company that has made a point of trying to be ethical and to be a reasonable steward on this earth.  This year, they announced that 100% of their Black Friday sales would be donated to environmental charities. I #optedoutside instead, but I was amazed to read that they'd done $10MILLION in sales, rather than an anticipated $1-2 million. And that they were following through.

Friday, December 11, 2015

30 days of gratitude, day 11: those old familiar rags

I have a backlog of posts that will eventually appear, once I double-check spelling and grammar and have a few minutes to breathe. But tonight...

It's a Friday evening; so many things to be grateful for on this quiet evening at home. I've pulled on my favorite pair of sweatpants, nearly worn thin after 23 years of use. I remember buying them in college, sometime in the fall of 1992.  The elastic waistband's failed; the fabric's disintegrating. El Bandito keeps trying to convince me to discard them, and if I were moving somewhere, if drawer space were really an issue, or hell, if I was assessing them realistically instead of sentimentally... they'd be gone.

But they're comfortable. Easing into your own skin comfortable.  I've got a sweatshirt I inherited from S. that has the same ripped, disintegrating, and yet... home-ishness. For years, I had a pair of jeans that I borrowed from Jote on one of our last shared days of college and never had a chance to return. Banana Republic, way back then They were close to a perfect fit, already broken-in. I did try to give them back, but we'd gone on separate paths and didn't reconnect for a while. Eventually, they disintegrated, as well-worn and well-loved jeans do, and when not only the knees, but the butt and the inseams ripped... I had to admit they were done, as much as it kind of hurt to do so. It was not only the memories of many days across several years, but the association with a friend who replaced my champagne-sodden pants with clean, dry jeans and a perfect understanding...

These sweatpants... I should admit they're done too. But they're a comfort, a reminder of time past, and when they really won't stay up anymore, even with the drawstring knotted...  I'll say goodbye, and the next pair, I'm sure I'll say "they don't make 'em like they used to", though they may last just as long in just as disreputable condition. That's not the point.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

30 days of gratitude, day 3

Sports medicine.
I don't know at one point I realized I was an athlete, but I have come to accept it as true.

I haven't actually had that many injuries as an adult, but the ones I've had have been doozies.  Torn shoulder ligament, grade 2-3 ankle sprain and high ankle sprains.

And now, the reminder of my youth -- the osteoarthritis that was predicted in my teens from the damaged knees has made itself known.

I've been working on strengthening and stabilizing the more-affected knee in physical therapy, and that's helped.

But going to sports medicine specialists? They get it.  They understand that it's not a matter of *not* doing something, it's figuring out how to minimize pain and damage as a consequence.

They think this circus stuff is crazy, and that running is... probably not the optimal activity for me... but they're helping reduce the pain and make it easier for me to do the things I love.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

30 days of gratitude: day 2, TK

This isn't, despite the photo, specifically a post about circus, and the gratitude I have for all that it's brought to my life.

It's about the sheer joy I have seeing this woman, friend and travel companion extraordinaire, back on the trapeze after 11 months of rehabbing an injury.

I  know, from my own history of injuries, just how hard it is to be patient.  Or how easy it is to think about just giving it up.

She has an ear-to-ear grin when she's in the air, and I am so happy for her return. She's not ready to rejoin me as a doubles-partner yet, but hopefully that will come eventually.  In the meantime, I get to enjoy her love for the trapeze and her thrill at being back.

(see also, last year, day 13)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

30 days of Gratitude: Day 1. Remembrance.

A year later, I step back to this space. Jote's 30 Days  always makes me think, and I love seeing how the idea has spread amongst my friends.  I let this blog founder for the year, despite so many stories to tell.

But this... I could do this project on instagram, or even Facebook, but I like separating it a little from the fleeting nature of those forums. Even if this is neglected, less written in, less read... it's also a little more present.

Today's World AIDS Day, and it breaks my heart that we need such a designation.  We've come so far.  It's not like the bleak early days when it was "the gay plague", not like the late years of high school and early college days when it felt like friends and friends of friends were dying too often, too quickly, too young. But just because it's not ... I was about to say, because it's not in my current circle of friends, family and acquaintances... but now, it's so much more manageable that it may well still be present and just not really discussed.

More manageable. Still deadly. Still heartbreaking. It's a day that I remember those young lives cut short, those fresh faces of my own youth, and applaud the people who remain activists in some form or another.

And it's for them, and for the remembrances, that I'm grateful on this first day of December.

Monday, December 22, 2014

gratitude, day 22.

That I am married to the kind of guy who will share his umbrella with a stranger at the bus stop.