Thank You, Brad and LL

11 04 2013

I consider where I live, college-town, Missouri, to be the pseudo-south.

I wrote the opening line of this post then realized I really do NOT know enough about Missouri’s slave and civil war history.  So I stopped writing and got down to reading.  I decided to actually read more than just other people’s opinion about the song “Accidental Racist” (a newly released collaboration of LL Cool J and Brad Paisley – lyrics available here).  I decided to read history.  Now, I am not going to claim it was in-depth research – it was Wikipedia.  But I am going to claim that I now know more than I did a few minutes ago.

I went and examined a little bit of history to see if it could shed some light on my current day perception of race relations in Missouri.

And, it did.

And for that I am grateful to Mr. Paisley and Mr. Cool J.

I am a white mother of a black son who thinks about race all fricken’ day long.  But I have never taken even 10 minutes to read the racial history of the state I am raising my trans-racial family in (hangs head in embarrassment).

I read modern-day writings on race.  I read modern-day rants on race.  And I feel all over the place.

I feel lucky we live in a community where we see other trans-racial families every day.

I feel grateful my son will go to an elementary school that has a significant African-american population and is also considered a great place for education.

I feel dumb-struck when I am jogging and see that one of my neighbors has a rebel flag hung in his garage.

I feel fightened when it is 5 am and my family stops at the single gas station open for miles only to find ourselves parked next to a pick-up truck that’s roof liner has been replaced with a rebel flag.

I feel angry when I notice a tattoo of the rebel flag peaking out of the extended arm hole on a young man’s t-shirt at the gym.  (I also feel grateful that tattoos hurt – I hope that one hurt a lot.)

The rebel flag, yeah, that is something that provokes strong feelings in me.  And it is the jump off point for “Accidental Racist”.

I always believed I knew what the rebel flag stood for, and it does not jibe with Brad Paisley’s claim of southern pride.  I guess that is okay.  Maybe the meaning of a symbol is actually subjective enough to be considered an opinion not a fact.  To some degree I think that is what Paisley and Cool J are proclaiming in their song.  And, everybody is entitled to an opinion.  But opinions are best when backed by education and experience.  (To read a variety of educated opinions about the song, go here.)

I am sure everybody who has heard the song has an opinion – most not as educated as they think.  I am sure there are even more people like me.  People who haven’t actually even heard the song (country/rap cross-over duet – I think I’ll pass) but who researched the lyrics and then formed opinions.  Maybe they even read an opinion piece about the song – probably written by somebody who looks like them – or is in the same place on the political spectrum as them.  My hope is that each of those people, (those with deep interest in race relations – and those who normally never think twice about it) –  will spend a some time educating – or re-educating – themselves in an effort to back their opinion.

Maybe we will all learn a little something.  Even if all the things we learn are random and not directly related to each other, even if we never come to a consensus, we will have advanced our understanding of race in this country, as individuals and as a whole.

Maybe that wasn’t Brad and LL’s plan.  But maybe it was.


Sunday Slideshow

27 05 2012

Scenes From PJ’s Birthday Party






(In case you are wondering, it is true, Little Dude is not the only Kembatten living in our neighborhood.)

Where The R0ad Show Meets The G0ng Show

30 03 2012

Last Friday, I spent 12 straight hours in the car with the kids driving to the house I grew up in.  They did great.

However, on Tuesday it was time to get back in the car and start home and the return trip was destined to be much more of a G0ng Show.  My kids were exhausted from spending a long weekend at my parent’s house.   Less sleep than usual, no Daddy, a minor virus, and a highly charged, emotional environment left us all drained and now we would be flying down the highway, pulling a U-Haul Trailer, crammed into the small cab of a pick-up truck.

To get home we would first drive 6 hours west to spend a night at my sister’s, followed by driving 8 hours south the next day.  On Tuesday, I had my 11-year-old nephew to help me out, but he would then stay behind at his house.  So on Wednesday, I would be on my own again (and by “on my own” I mean in charge of driving, not running the U-Haul trailer into anything, refereeing the kids’ fights, changing the DVD player, dodging water bottles that would be thrown at my head, and not getting lost).

A few highlights of our adventure.

Highlight One:  When pulling a trailer (which I had no prior experience doing) it is important to only use wide-open parking lots that can be entered and exited without actually having to do any backing up.  At some point we had a “back-seat emergency” (I honestly can’t remember what the issue was – let’s just call it Back-Seat Emergency Number 327).  The first place to pull over with an appropriate parking lot was an “adults only” book, video and (I believe) live-performance arcade.  My daughter looked out the window and said, “Is this the dentist?”  My nephew could not stop laughing.  I am not going to ask how my nephew had such a clear understanding of what this place was – that is my sister’s problem to figure out.  But I appreciated that he was really giggling but also embarrassed as this was about the same reaction I had.

Highlight Two:  My son insisted on wearing a purple and black, shiny, ruffled, can-can skirt for all parts of the long drive.  In what I think was a nod to subtlety, he chose to wear it inside out so the violet lame’ wasn’t showing, only the purple ruffle.  Still, he was a young boy in a very fancy skirt.

Pulling into a truck-stop in rural Illinois I was keenly conscious of his outfit – as was everybody else.  I finally looked at one trucker who was staring, but half-smiling and said, “Hey, it is safer than him wearing a hoodie.”

Highlight Three:  We were in the car long enough for my son to conquer the chest clasp on the last remaining car seat which he had heretofore been unable to open.  Do you know that NO company makes a product for this particular type of genius?  Sure, when kids get older you can put something on the seatbelts to keep them from unbuckling.  But kids in true car-seats can’t possibly open the buckles – except Little Dude – so no product is actually made to prevent this occurence.  It has been suggested that I buy a model of car seat with tougher-to-open buckles.  Since none of my son’s grandparents can  release the buckle on his seat, and he has now succeeded at opening the buckles on three different models of car seat, I don’t think that is a realistic solution.

On day three of this road trip I was prepared with the only thing I could find at L0wes that I thought might keep him buckled in – a multitude of rainbow velcro straps.

Little Dude left his buckles alone for about four hours, then he planned his big escape.  I pulled over at the nearest exit and looked for a big parking lot where it would be easy to u-turn with the U-haul (see Highlight One).

So we were here – in the “Visitor’s Lot.”

I was a little nervous to be hanging out in this parking lot.  I was not afraid of a prison break, but was conscious of the fact that every move I made was being watched by guards who were thinking, “What the hell is that lady doing?”

As I tried to figure out how to best apply the velcro straps, Little Dude kicked off his shoe and it went under the truck, coming to rest equidistant between the front and rear tires and the left and right side.  Now that I had given the guards plenty of time to crowd around their cameras, I needed to get down on my hands and knees, stick my behind in the air and shimmy under the truck while trying not to scrape my knees on the blacktop.

In the meantime, PJ once again played, “guess what type of business we have pulled into.”

First she asked me what the business was.  I lied sue me and said, “I’m not sure.”  She looked around and concluded we were at a tennis facility.  I believe it was because of the high fences then she announced, “And I can see two guys walking around.”  I am pretty sure they didn’t have racquets, but I was too busy crawling around under the truck to take a good look.

Highlight Four:  With about two hours left to drive PJ asked, “What’s adopted mean?”  I quickly turned off the radio and prepared myself for an important talk.  Since Little Dude seems to avoid the topic, lately I have been hopeful that PJ’s probing will provide insight and context.  Plus, he was stuck in the truck with us (thanks to the velcro job), he couldn’t casually wander away as he seems to do at home whenever sensitive subjects come up.

I replied, “I think you know what adoption is.  Little Dude is adopted.”

She then said, “But what does it mean?  Am I adopted.”

I replied, “No, because you grew in my tummy.  But Little Dude grew in his Ethiopian Mommy’s tummy.  But he was supposed to be part of our family, so he came to live with us.”

She replied, “Can we adopt a puppy?”

He was happy with the additions to his car seat.

I am happy to be home.


Books To The Rescue… Or Not

16 03 2012

Yesterday afternoon, I had the perfect opportunity to revisit what happened in the park the day before.  PJ and I were alone, getting in the car.  We were both calm and happy.  The stage was set for a triumphant, teaching moment.

As I buckled my daughter in, I reminded her of what happened the day before.  I asked how she thought Little Dude would feel if someone said they didn’t want to play with him because he was brown.

Using “Shades of People” as a base, we talked about skin color.  Comparing our own hands we noted how we aren’t really the exact same shade either.

Then I reached for another literary reference, “How Full Is Your Bucket?” by Rath, Reckmeyer and Manning.

I explained that saying you didn’t want to play with someone because of their color was bucket dipping.

PJ said, “But Little Dude dips in my bucket.”

I said, “We all do, but we should try not to.  Sometimes I dip in your bucket and I am sorry.”

She said, “When do you dip in my bucket?”  (The fun never ends with this one.)

I came up with, “Like when I am dealing with Little Dude and you try to talk to me and I tell you you can’t talk to me right now.”

And she replied, “Yeah.  And when you tell me we can’t eat out at Olive Garden.”

Yep, just like that.

Note:  we took the child to Olive Garden ONE TIME.  We waited more than 45 minutes for our food.  It was a bit of a nightmare.  But, the girl loves Parmesan cheese and they used their little grater to put it on her noodles.  She has never gotten over it.  If we drive in the vicinity of Olive Garden she points it out.  If we talk about going out to eat, she asks to go there.  And clearly she knows that I am ruining her self-esteem by not taking her back there.

Lucky Winners

21 02 2012

Sorry it took me so long to post this.  We were out of town.  When we returned I practiced a little procrastination.

I was so enthusiastic about this give-away.  Then it was time to draw the winner and I started to freak-out.

You know how easy it would be for me to cheat?  I also felt this way when I gave away the book, “This Is A Soul” just not as intensely.  Maybe because this prize has a bigger monetary value.  Maybe because this prize was coming directly from Picture It On Canvas and not from me.  Maybe because it would be so easy JUST TO CHEAT.  And I really hate cheaters.  Hate cheating.  Hate it.  I am a little obsessed with fairness, just the fact that it would be easy to cheat makes me nervous.  Who would I cheat for?  My friends who don’t have lots of money?  What about my two friends who just got back from Ethiopia with their new sons? (You can check out their stories here and here.)  Maybe I should have a NEW reader win so they will keep coming back or an old reader to reward loyalty.  The crazy power of being able to cheat made me feel, well, crazy.

Anyhow, I managed my anxiety to the point that I actually did the drawing.  Last night I wrote a name for every entry on a piece of paper.  This morning I mixed them up in PJ’s Valentine’s Bag – awesome to get two uses out of what is essentially a piece of motherhood guilt (Can I throw away her first Valentine’s Day bag?  Why would I store that piece of crap for years?  What kind of mother thinks her child’s first Valentine’s Day bag is a piece of crap?)

This morning after SAG got the kids strapped in their car seats ready to head to pre-school, I made him draw a name.  And of course, I made him let me photograph the whole thing to PROVE I wasn’t cheating.


The winner is Katie W. from Oregon.  (Katie, Blogger won’t let me grab your contact info from your comment, so please email me semiferalmama at yahoo dot com so I can get the details I need from you.)

Now, for everyone else who entered and any other reader who didn’t but wants to take advantage of this cool offer, the 45% off coupon code is feralmama.  The Picture It On Canvas website can be found here.  I am not sure how long the coupon code is in affect.  I will check with the PIOC people and post an update when I know.

I know I will be using it this weekend as soon as I can get organized.

Thanks for playing.

A Little Reward

17 02 2012

Last week I hit my first weight loss healthy lifestyle mini milestone.  To achieve this goal, I basically wore the same pair of (8-year-old) workout pants that make me feel good and look decent for every workout (On average that is a 1.5 hour gym session, six times a week.)

The over-worked and under-washed pants had a teeny-tiny bit of help from a pair of lime-green, super-oversized shorts (terrifying – but, hey, they have pockets).

I did try to work a pair of satiny exercise pants into the mix – but I literally slid off the incline board while the personal trainer tried to make me do some stupid ab exercise my new friend watched me happily tone my core.

On two other days, I donned a pair of oatmeal-colored yoga pants.   The first day they were fine in a yoga studio with no mirrors, as far as I could tell.  But when I wore them the next day to the brightly lit gym and looked in the mirror- well, lets just say my underwear was blue and EVERYBODY knew it (they also knew exactly how much cellulite I have on each thigh).

So, my reward for this first milestone was some new workout clothes.  Lucky, lucky, cheap me… I found the following four items on sale.

A yoga tank top with a built in bra.  (When you look at it in this picture it seems that “tank” in tank-top might be referring to what appears to be bullet-proof cups.)

A pair of running shorts in a color I said I would NEVER wear to workout in again (but they were only $4.99 – and I can wear them when I run outside – no mirrors.)

A cute t-shirt from a popular brand that I would NEVER pay full price for.

And, best of all, a stretchy skort.  It was originally FIFTY SOMETHING FREAKING DOLLARS (because it has a little swoosh on the side).  But I paid – $4.99!!!  I will be happy dancing in my new workout clothes everytime I think about these prices.

So, if you happen to be in the gym, you may recognize me from my 12-year-old humane society t-shirt.  Or, you may smell me before you see me if I am wearing my every-single-day workout pants.  Or, you might not see me at all.  Because in my new clothes, I might just sprint by you so fast all you will feel is a cool breeze on your face.

I know that picture sucks, but I really wanted to brag share.  So please ignore the fact that in the photo the tank top (which might earn the nickname of “Barb1e B00bs”) and the skort look like a bathing suit.  You will have to trust me that the tank has a super cute, subtle pattern on the straps.  And the skort has reflective stripes in a figure flattering place.  I mean, why wouldn’t you trust a person who admits to having both oatmeal-colored yoga pants and satiny jog pants so slick they cause accidents in the gym someone with my fashion sense?

The Loop-Hole of Culpability – Sometimes There Is No Take Home

13 01 2012

I am so lucky to have life-long friends, women who I have known since we were girls.  Recently I got together with two of them.  M was eight months pregnant at the time.  And she had a 14-month-old as well.  And she is older than me (44 – shhhhh).

Just this morning I was drafting a blog post (while taking a shower- of course) about her energy level.  I use age and genetics as an excuse for my indolence.  But she, she’s got it going on.  And yes, her genes are on her side.  But you know what – she eats healthy 99.9% of the time.  And she doesn’t talk about how old she is (probably my worst habit).  And she runs, and goes to yoga, and stretches her brain.

Getting Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to bless M's new baby (while I pose like a fool).

Well, last night her new baby arrived.  He was a few weeks early and a small peanut weighing in at four-and-a-half pounds.  But that is bigger than his brother was – and he stayed in the womb about 10 days longer than his brother.  Just like his brother, he is the picture of perfect health.  Life is good.

Except, it isn’t that good.  Because she was talking to her sister when her water broke.  The reason she was talking to her sister, their 11-year-old nephew died completely unexpectedly the night before in his sleep.

And there is no real explanation for it.  He had suffered a few night-time seizures.  His parents took him to wonderful doctors.  They followed the wonderful doctors’ recommendations.  These are thoughtful, organized, well-educated parents.  If you knew them – and I know them – you would know that there is no loop-hole of culpability here.

The loop-hole of culpability is what I look for as a parent every single time I hear about a child dying.  Well that kid’s parents were addicts.  Well they knew that there was cancer in both sides of that family.  They let him ride a bike without a helmet.  They were too busy with their seven other kids to cut his meat into small enough bites.  Those people lived in a bad neighborhood.  Those people had a pool.  This will not happen to my kid.  This can not happen to my kid.  This Can NOt HaPpEn To MY KID!!

When I got off the phone with my friend M I said, “Congratulations on the new baby.  I am so sorry about your nephew.  I love you.”  – three sentences that do not belong together.  Then I called our mutual friend S and shared the news.

And we talked, about M’s successful VBAC and the health of the baby and who was going to go and help her.  And we talked about spring break and skiing.  And we talked about the death of a child.  But we didn’t have much to say.  We talked about it.  Then S said, “What’s the take home?”  And I said, “I guess that is the point, there is no take home.”

I don’t think there is a single preventative thing that can be learned from this death.  We can’t build a well in a rural village in this child’s name.  We can’t lobby our senators for Universal Health Care  on this child’s behalf.  We can’t buy a smoke detector, a security system or a new car with side-impact air bags and say, “Whew, now I know my kid is safe.”

Sometimes the only take home is to know that there are no guarantees – not today, tomorrow or ever.

In our family I have made it a RULE – we always hug and kiss hello and good-bye when anybody leaves the house.  This can seem silly at times.  And it is certainly messy at times (yogurt lips anyone?).  I am sure SAG will admit to rolling his eyes on occasion.  But it is a good rule.  If you don’t have it in your house, maybe you want to – for Eric G – whose family loves him.