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Just a White Girl

by Miranda on August 19, 2014

I remember the very first time I realized I was just a white girl. And I don’t mean in the sense that I became aware of my skin color and how it differed from that of my darker skinned friends.  I mean the first time I became aware that I was JUST a white girl. With privilege I didn’t ask for or want.

It was May of 2005. I needed one final English credit and a linguistics credit and found a Maymester course which satisfied both requirements. It would mean fewer hours at work for three weeks, but three weeks!! I would officially be a senior in college.

The course turned out to be a film studies course on race and ethnicity in the media and literature. I learned more about myself and the world in those three weeks than I had in the previous four years of college courses.

Our final would be a presentation covering what we’d learned about our own race and ethnicity while taking the course.

That’s when I realized I was just a white girl.

My race is one of oppression and my ethnicity, if geographical locations can be considered such, was “southern,” which, given history made things doubly worse somehow. What could I possibly contribute to this discourse that would be meaningful in any possible way?

I said as much in my final exam.

“I’m just a white girl. I don’t really HAVE an ethnicity.”

I got an A.

*******

The second time I became aware of status as just a white girl came a few months later, during a discussion in one of my education courses, and once again I was caught off guard. I railed against the lesson, grappling with the words written in one of our required readings.

The author, Lisa Delpit, asserted that white women couldn’t teach children of color, Black children specifically, because we didn’t understand the cultural differences and coded language used by Black mothers and teachers. Those students wouldn’t respond to our methods of asking nicely instead of giving direct orders.

“But students are students! HOW DARE SHE say I can’t teach children of color!! HOW DARE SHE!”

I was angry. It was visceral. I said as much.

This woman who didn’t even know me deigned to assume what kind of teacher I would be to students who didn’t share my same pigmentation. She didn’t believe that I was capable of reaching ALL students. Was she REALLY going to advocate for classrooms segregated by color and teachers assigned to their respective students based on race?!

That was not what she meant. That was not what she meant at all.

I learned that lesson soon enough, though at the time I was too colorblind to see it.

*******

Colorblindness doesn’t work.

Teaching our white students and our white children that race doesn’t matter and doesn’t exist isn’t working. We think we’re doing a good thing by saying “we’re all the same underneath our skin” and that’s true. We are.

But change isn’t happening because we’re not acknowledging the very serious realities of what it means for the rainbow of people living in America, and the truth is that it’s very different for each of us. Easier for some and much, much more fraught with anxiety and oppression for others.

The situation in Ferguson, MO last week has dredged up some feelings about race and ethnicity and being just a white girl that I’ve been trying to swallow for quite some time now. I’ve tried and tried to hold them in because once they escape I can’t take them back. I know that. You know that. We all know that.

I’m just a white girl. And lately I’ve been hearing a lot of “sit down and stop talking because this isn’t your issue and it’s not your fight.”

But this IS my issue and this IS my fight because I believe in the interconnectedness of humanity. That while we’re all different, change doesn’t happen unless we all make it so, and I can’t make it so if I say nothing.

When I think of the suffragists, I think primarily of the men who lobbied and protested and picketed to secure women the right to vote. They didn’t have a dog in that fight aside from believing it to be a fundamental right of all citizens of the United States. They already had the right to vote. Why should they care if women did?

They cared because it was the right thing to do. They recognized their privilege and how silencing voices oppressed a group of people.

I care not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because I believe in the fundamental right of humans NOT to be afraid to leave their houses or send their children into the world. I believe in equality. That our children–that WE–all deserve to be treated and seen as equals in the lives of the public AND the law.

I recognize my white privilege and, quite frankly, I hate it. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t deserve it. Maybe that turns my white privilege into white guilt. I don’t know.

So I guess I better put it to good use.

I want to amplify the voices sending the messages we all need to hear. I want to share the stories of those mothers living daily with the fear of letting their young men out into the world, because while all mothers fear their children leaving the nest, even to make a trip to the store, the fear is very different for mothers of color, particularly in the wake of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, John Crawford III, and Trayvon Martin.

I want to stand up and shout that racism–covert, overt, systematic, systemic, and everything in between–is unconscionable. I want to know how to teach my son what to do should he see racism occurring around him, how to fight against it, and how to stop it for good.

I want that because I want a world for ALL of our children where none of them fear anything other than the ordinary parts of adolescence and adulthood.

But the truth is I’m scared.

I’m terrified because I’m just a white girl. I don’t want to step on toes or offend or seem like I’m attempting to silence the voices that matter or shout more loudly than anyone else. I just want to throw mine into the mix and be heard.

I want to do better for my children, yes, but mostly I want to do better for yours.

{ 4 comments }

Be The Light

by Miranda on August 12, 2014

Some of you know that one of my freelance jobs is as an entertainment news writer. By now you’ve probably heard that Robin Williams died yesterday. He took his own life following a serious and prolonged battle with depression.

When my professional and personal worlds collide like this, it’s hard for me not to stand up and speak out. It’s hard for me not to be personally affected. It would be hard for me not to be personally affected by news of Robin Williams’ suicide regardless of my job. I love Robin Williams movies. All of them.

But this is doubly difficult because of his battle with depression and the way people respond when someone–anyone–commits suicide as a result of mental illness.

I know how close many people living with depression get to feeling like taking their own lives is the answer. I know how close they get to feeling like they don’t matter. Like no one cares. That the world would be a better place without them in it.

I’ve been there.

Robin Williams’ death is an opportunity to open up the discourse about mental illness, suicide, and the stigma of both, but–and I hope I’m wrong–the opportunity will be missed because of people who don’t understand and don’t try to understand. Many of them are well-meaning, but they’re also very wrong.

Suicide isn’t “the easy way out.”

Suicide isn’t “a permanent answer to a temporary problem.”

Suicide isn’t “selfish.”

Suicide is death. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. RestmycaseAmen.

Mental illness is a disease of the mind. And one that is far too often handwaved as a moral failing or shortcoming on the part of the person living with the disease.

“Just go out and take a walk! Get some fresh air! You’ll feel better!”

“Pray more! God will hear you! You’re only going through this because God is teaching you something!”

“Why can’t you just snap out of it?”

“Wow! You always seem so happy! What do you mean you’re depressed? You have nothing to be depressed about!”

“You have so many awesome things in your life. Why aren’t you happy?”

“You should just be thankful you’re alive.”

If any of those things were truly helpful in any way we wouldn’t have a legion of depressed people walking around, many of whom can’t get treatment because of lack of access and resources to do so, or who won’t seek treatment because they’re afraid of what people might say, or how it will affect their personal and professional lives should anyone find out.

We wouldn’t have people like Robin Williams committing suicide.

Depression lies, and when you hear those bootstrapping phrases enough and can’t seem to dig yourself out, the depression just gets worse.

“What’s wrong with me that I can’t just be better?” If we could will it to be so, we would.

If any of the bullshit statements being bandied about regarding mental illness were truly helpful, I wouldn’t be a woman living with depression and anxiety. Robin Williams (probably) wouldn’t be dead. My student wouldn’t have taken his own life at 17.

We wouldn’t need activists shouting that there is hope for you if you’re suffering.

Frankly, I dream of that world, but that’s not the world in which we live. And my heart is a little more broken open today because of it. Because another life has been lost to mental illness. Countless lives, since suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 3rd among those ages 15-24.

We live in a place where you never quite know what’s happening in the lives of those right next to you. In traffic, on the train, at the grocery store, in the carpool lane, at school or work, or maybe even at home. You don’t know what lies depression might be telling the person you think you know so well, especially if you’re the kind of person who spouts off the nonsense written above.

Because we can’t know that, not unless the person suffering shares the information, the only appropriate response when we find out is “How can I help you get better?

And the answer, if you really want to hear it, is to listen. Listen and don’t judge. Don’t try to solve the problem with quippy and faux-supportive phrases you heard on an After School Special or read on Facebook. Don’t tell people what YOU would do if you’ve never been there. You can’t know what you would do if you’ve never been there.

Be a friend. Check in. All the time. Make phone calls and find the person help. Do not give up. Tell someone. And on a global scale, stop doing things that prevent others from gaining access to treatment (like voting for politicians who don’t give a shit about healthcare). Shout loudly against the stigma of mental illness and not in ways that only further it.

Don’t just “rage against the dying of the light.” BE THE LIGHT.

Fight alongside those who are suffering, even though you yourself do not, because there might come a time when they can’t fight for themselves and they’ll need an army to do it for them. Be their army.

Do it for Robin Williams.

1-800-273-TALK

{ 5 comments }

Invisible Loss

by Miranda on August 6, 2014

It’s been a year since we said goodbye to my dad. A year ago today. I dreamed about him on Sunday.

He was only there for a second, but he was there, greeting someone with a smile on his face, introducing himself, hunched over slightly to mask his height.

And then I woke up and he was gone, just like he is in real life.

Loss like this is invisible. I know it happened. I know it’s missing. No one else can see it. No one else knows.

I don’t wear a sign that says “Pardon me for being a little more scattered than usual right now. Got lost in memories of my dead dad and forgot what I was doing…”

Losing someone you love automatically inducts you into this club you didn’t ask to join, and one from which you can’t unenroll. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. Or until you die yourself, I guess, and then everyone who loves you gets to join. Yay?

There have been times over the past year where I’ve gone days without thinking about it. I’ve been swept up in the daily grind of life and because I didn’t live at home and saw him infrequently nothing felt different.

But then there are moments where I sense the loss more profoundly, and they’re always little moments. Holidays have been easy because I can steel myself against them. The hard moments are the small moments that sneak in when you’re not looking.

I’ve closed my eyes and seen the inside of his hospital room in my mind, where we were all standing and sitting, the sounds and the lights. Or I’ve heard a song or smelled a smell or remembered a funny story. And then I remember that he’s not here anymore.

That’s when I miss my dad.

I’ve been dreading today a little bit, not because of the sadness we faced a year ago, but because I didn’t know what to expect from today. What I should’ve expected is that it would feel like any other day, but totally different at the same time.

The fact that it’s largely been more business as usual has only compounded my feelings.

Everything else is the same except me. I’m different. He will forever be the father in my memories.

I went looking for pictures of the two of us to reminisce today. I can’t find them. Hard copies are packed away and digitals are saved on an old hard drive somwhere.

So right now all I have is the dream from Sunday.

I miss him. Every day. Even on the days I don’t think about it. But especially on the days I do.

{ 8 comments }

Dear Joshua, On Your First Day of Kindergarten

by Miranda on August 4, 2014

Dear Joshua,

Today you started Kindergarten. I always fret and worry about you and big changes in your life, and man, this year is going to bring a few of those.

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Kindergarten feels like such a big deal, a much bigger deal than any change we’ve weathered so far.

You feel so big and yet so small to me right now, in some sort of space in between.

Part of me wants to protect that smallness because your innocent and sweet spirit feels tied up in that. That’s probably silly. Oh well. Then I guess I’m silly.

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I cried last night while talking to your dad about Kindergarten and what a momentous occasion this feels like. See, I’m a worrier. It’s kind of a thing I do when I know that change has to happen and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. The worry doesn’t stop the fact that things are changing, but I do it anyway.

I hope that I’ve been a positive enough force in your life for the past five years so that you make good choices. In friends, in schoolwork, in everything. I worry that I haven’t been, which says way more about me and my insecurities than about you, so there I go again being silly.

Deep down, I know that you are the embodiment of everything good in me and your dad. (And some of the not so good things, too, like that impatient streak of yours…) I know that you’ll be okay and that we’ve done alright and I’ll keep working on it and hoping for it just the same.

Because one thing I know is that you’re about to encounter all sorts of different people, with different ideas about the world and how to live in it. I know that you’re going to hear things I’m not ready for you to hear. I know that people are going to be mean just because they can be that way.

I want none of those things for you and know that they are inevitable.

I know that one day we won’t be the center of your world. That’s inevitable, too.

I know you’re about to get your heart broken, your feelings hurt, and sometimes you will have a terrible, horrible, no good, really bad day. I will fix it with ice cream or popsicles or snuggles for as long as you’ll let me.

I know that you are going to make mistakes as you grow and learn and navigate this world.

I know that I’m going to love you anyway. Always and forever.

Love, Mama

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P.S. Please be nice to your sister. She is, after all, one of your best friends.

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First Day of Kindergarten (Free Printable!)

by Miranda on August 3, 2014

You guys. My baby boy, the pioneer child, the one who taught me what it means to be a mom is starting Kindergarten.

Tomorrow.

1st day of kindergarten printable

(It won’t bother me one bit if you pin this. Nope. Not one bit.)

Tomorrow I will have pictures and a letter/wishes for him to post here, because parts of this blog are as much for him as they are for me.

For now I just have a fun little first day of kindergarten printable for y’all since I know some of you have little ones starting school tomorrow too.

Download your copy here. (If you right click and save the image above, it won’t be big enough to print. Go to the dropbox to download!)

And here are Joshua’s answers, of course, which were so difficult to pull out of him you’d think he was 15 instead of 5. I do admire his future career path.

afterlight (5)

The incorrect subject-verb agreement errors are only bothering me a little bit. He’ll learn about subject-verb agreement errors eventually, right?

(Someone tell me this is going to be okay.)

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Spill It

August 2, 2014

In case you haven’t looked at a calendar, it’s August. AUGUST. Fall is upon us, school is starting (Monday!), and our busy, too short, blink-and-you-miss-it summer is done. Just like that. I didn’t blog at all in July and at first I didn’t care. Didn’t even notice. I was too busy doing and being and […]

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Climb Out of the Darkness

June 25, 2014

I will never forget the relief I felt the first time someone looked at me and said “Miranda, you’re depressed. This is depression.” In that moment, my moods, the sadness, anger, rage, all of it, had a place. Slowly, with therapy, dedication to getting better, and through the twists of fate which started me on […]

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Dads, Don’t Date Your Daughters

June 20, 2014

There’s a video making the rounds on Facebook right now about a husband who’s about to go on the most important date of his life…but not with his wife! SCANDALOUS! He gets all dressed up and a friend asks if he’s nervous. “Yes!” he says, as he ties his tie. “It’s been a long time,” replies his […]

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5 Tips for Better Sleep (Sponsored)

June 16, 2014

This is a Type-A Parent paid post to discuss sleep issues, and to share a new insomnia resource from the National Sleep Foundation. Dan has often joked that if the average person needs 7 hours of sleep a night, I need 14. He’s right. I’m a total grump without enough rest. I love sleep. There’s […]

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Climb Out Of the Darkness 2014

June 10, 2014

It’s time to Climb Out of the Darkness in Atlanta, y’all. 1 in 7 mothers will suffer from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. And that’s only the number of moms who actually seek help. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, and with postpartum mental illness in particular, and because of the lack […]

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