The other kitchen sink drain

It doesn’t look like the epicenter of frustration and tears, does it?

Alas, this spot marks the culmination of epic arguments between Aaron and me. Most have been borne from an off-hand remark and then spiraled off into a platform for unloading the real issue that had been simmering under the surface for hours, days, weeks, or months. (Note: if your panties have been in a wad for months over something a partner has done to you, you’re the only one experiencing that level of chaffage. Unpluck the wedgie by working through that concern pronto — nobody likes surprises or Desitin).

The kitchen should be a place reserved for the creation of comforting, creative dishes; for laughter and a few spills. It’s the siren’s song, drawing people into the home, whether a long-time resident or a random Tuesday dine-and-dash. This one space offers gifts for all five senses (but it can also be the place to get burned. Ouch).

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Maybe if I had a kitchen that looked like this, things would be different? Damn.  Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Our kitchen does take on these positive qualities most of the time. But, every once in awhile, this room morphs into our own version of a WWE Raw event. And it most often begins when one of us is standing at the sink.

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A fairly accurate portrayal of our culinary-centered verbal smackdowns. Photo credit.

A few months ago, Aaron pointed out: 90% of our arguments start at our kitchen sink. (My husband loves him some percentages. Next time you see him, ask him if he is a vegan). Back to the kitchen: There’s nothing that sparks anger or annoyance than feeling the pulsing vibrations of a nearby garbage disposal, am I right? It’s true: the rectangular section between the island and washing station appears to channel dark energy that worms its way into a host and expels itself through the mouth in the form of a snarky comment, criticism, or passive aggressive non-verbal behavior.

Observe:

Me watching Aaron load the dishwasher: “Instead of putting those on the bottom shelf because they could melt, can we shift those to the top rack?”

Me upon discovering a bowl crusted with dried food left on the counter: “In the future, would you mind soaking this dish in the sink?”

Me washing dishes after cooking dinner: “Can you DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, I JUST COOKED DINNER AND WHY AM I WASHING DISHES? OH AM I YELLING AT YOU NOW? I AM TRYING TO SPEAK SOFTLY BUT PROBABLY DON’T PUT A STICK IN MY HAND RIGHT NOW, NO MATTER THE SIZE.”

What did those three scnarios have in common? 

I am the instigator.

Am I always wrong in my instigation? Not from my perspective. I HAVE CONTROL ISSUES. This is when I force myself to reflect on my own experiences around the kitchen sink growing up. I was raised in a home (and mom, please correct me if I’m misconstruing any of this) where dishes were not to be left in the sink or on the counter overnight. There was a dishwasher. Use it. Put dishes in said dishwasher in a logical manner. Make sure they are rinsed first because the dishwasher isn’t magical. Wipe up excess water around the sink. Every once in awhile, wipe out the sink because it is a breeding ground for serious funk.

Perhaps I set the tone early on in our relationship when I instructed Aaron to get out of the kitchen as I was preparing a special dinner.

It was Aaron’s kitchen.

We all have idiosyncrasies. There are processes we prefer to see unfold, methods that soothe our spirits. None of them are inherently wrong. When it comes to merging your preferences with that of someone else’s, that’s when each of you might reach for your battle axes or boxing gloves.

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Or just bare-paw it like these wallabies. Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

It is not easy to live with someone else. Feel free to disagree. Feel free to throw the “you’re an only child” card in my face. I’ll eat it for breakfast. Because I firmly believe that maintaining your sense of self in shared space is harder than we assume — or how it can be portrayed in pop culture. Our baggage alone can crowd our closets. Remember all of those things you used to do as a single person that you would never do in front of a partner/roommate? (Future blog post for sure).

The kitchen, in particular, also screams to me the place to buck gendered household roles. I resent feeling as if I’m the sole cook and then the sole cleaner. I’m not good at asking for help; or, if I do ask for help, I struggle letting go of dictating how a process gets done. Would I have preferred that a larger colander was used rather than filling the brim of the small one? Sure. Does it really matter in the preparation of this meal?

No. It doesn’t.

In the same breath, I do want to engage in a real partnership, not just give lip-service to one. I have to be able and willing to speak up and express when I’m feeling like the balance of shared responsibilities is lopsided. I want my partner to understand that it’s not about me versus him; it’s about the “us”, this modern take on establishing a household where each of our parts plays an instrumental role in creating the atmosphere that fills us with satisfaction, connection, and joy.

Perhaps it’s best if such conversations start far away from the kitchen sink.

 

That whole no regrets thing? BS

I’m going to write three words that is going to make most women between the ages of 30 and 70 squeal with pleasure:

Dr. Brené Brown

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IN THE FLESH. (Photo credit: SuperSoul TV)

If you haven’t checked out this amazing shame researcher-turned TED Talk celebrity-now author of multiple best-selling books-who is warm and real and vulnerable and wicked smart, then I would highly recommend starting with her website and allowing yourself to fall in love.

Point of clarification: just because I identified women in my introductory sentence doesn’t mean Dr. Brown’s work is exclusively for women. Far from it. No matter your gender expression, the odds are that you know shame well and how it manifests inside you. The hissing voice of criticism that seems to get louder and louder at all the wrong times. 

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You know this feeling, right? (Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash)

Last week, I’m listening to BrenĂ© on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversation podcast and she begins talking about regret. Apparently, she put this out on social last year, but alas, I wasn’t a superfan back then. Here’s what she wrote on Facebook:

I’ve found regret to be one of the most powerful emotional reminders that change and growth are necessary. In fact, I’ve come to believe that regret is a kind of package deal: A function of empathy, it’s a call to courage and a path toward wisdom.

Like all emotions, regret can be used constructively or destructively, but the wholesale dismissal of regret is wrongheaded and dangerous. “No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection.

To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life. I’m not suggesting that we have to live with regret, but I do think it’s important to allow ourselves to experience and feel it.

One of the truest things I’ve ever heard about regret came from George Saunders’s 2013 commencement address at Syracuse University. He said, “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

Time out, girl. You’re saying that we SHOULD have regrets? Because there were times in our lives where we could have made a better choice? Treated someone with kindness? Walked away from a situation? Taken action? Said “that’s not acceptable”?

I’ve always viewed regrets more from the FOMO (fear of missing out) frame. You’ll regret if you don’t study abroad! You’ll regret if you don’t take this job opportunity! Often, regrets had to do with major experiences or experiences.

But, it’s the little things that count, right? We talk about that in the positive sense all of the time. Small acts make big impacts. What about the small acts that didn’t lead to someone feeling empowered or seen? What about those times where we elected to be cruel or silent? If we were willing to accept the role of regret, what could we then learn, upon reflection, that would help us make a different decision in a future situation?

Here are two random regrets that came up in my reflection:

#1: When I was in elementary school, I made fun of Jenny Lee. Most kids in our grade did. Why? Jenny Lee was taller than average. I can’t remember if she was perceived as smart. She had a penchant for horses and would pretend to play make believe as a horse during first grade recess.

One day in particular, I must have been extra mean to Jenny Lee because I got my name written on the board. It was May 22, the day before my birthday 7th birthday. My friend Marissa, who was in fact celebrating her birthday that day, also had her name written on the board. I’m sure there were mumbled apologies. I was probably more ashamed at the public record of my bad deeds than the actual hurt I inflicted on Jenny Lee.

Jenny Lee was killed in a car accident a few years later. I never chose to speak with her or build a friendship. I labeled her as a weirdo and left her on the bench with the rest of my classmates deemed untouchable and unpopular.

Why did I choose to follow the crowd? Why did I feel the need to make fun of her in the first place? How did her presence threaten me? It didn’t. She was just a kid trying to navigate her way through growing up. I didn’t know anything about her family or the world she hailed from. All I knew was the others had deemed her different. And I needed to remind her of that on May 22, 1991.

#2: There was a boy in my 7th grade P.E. class, Jamorial. He sat behind me in our assigned grid-like pattern on the gym floor (or on the outdoor basketball courts when the weather cooperated…which was like every freaking day in Phoenix). Jamorial was probably the only Black kid at my middle school. (Ugh, talk about regret: I can’t even tell you whether we had more than one Black student at my junior high? Needless to say, I attended White-majority schools throughout primary education).

Jamorial was small for his age, if that’s a real thing. He had ashy knees (I even have regret typing this). He just wanted someone to talk to as we sat baking under the 90+ degree sun during final period. Sometimes I decided to be nice. But, I more often chose to whisper about him behind his back, commenting on his weirdness to my friend Amanda. I teased her that he had a crush on her and wanted to marry her and all of the juvenile patter that runs of our mouths.

I’m sorry, Jamorial, for being racist and further ostracizing a young man of color who had to ensure the unimaginable in our school. I don’t even know if you finished at Mountain Sky or went elsewhere. I’m not even sure to this day I am spelling your name right. I’m sorry I never took the time to learn.

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I think this image is called: “privileged white girl stands in her guilt in front of  her beach front property”

There isn’t enough time to list all of my regrets. Or yours. Definitely not time to list yours, assuming you are willing to have regrets as well. Heck, I regretted something I did yesterday. I decided to air my grievances with one individual in front of many (who DOES that?!) when I could have made the more respectful, compassionate choice of talking with that individual one-on-one later.

Apologies, if able to give, are part of this empathy/regret relationship. Not only extending sympathy to the inflicted party but also to yourself. Y’all, we’re human! We screw up. Constantly. Putting feet in mouths or fingers in eyes or whatever other strange bodily metaphors we devise to describe our continual ability to make mistakes.

Regrets, I got ’em. Or, better yet, the photo used in Dr. Brown’s post:

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đź“·@IMDb
🎥We’re the Millers (2013)
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

 

 

 

 

The real poison pill

What do you do when you learn that your body has stopped ovulating?

First, search the Internet to re-teach yourself everything that you should have learned in sex ed classes. (Where are my ovaries? What are hormones? Wait, a menstrual cycle isn’t really every 28 days? Thank you Taking Charge of Your Fertility – and the friends who recommended it – for setting me straight).

Second, create a list of possible explanations for why your body choose to abdicate one of its core responsibilities.

Theories on why I stopped ovulating:

  • I led a double life as a elite athlete. (Thanks for considering this to be included on the list doc, but alas, my pole vaulting career lasted a grand total of four weeks, and I never get off the actual ground)
  • My thyroid is wack. (Test, re-tested, medicated, test #3, cleared)
  • I’m hormonally imbalanced (WHO ISN’T?!)
  • I am experiencing stress. (SOMEONE TOLD ME I AM NOT OVULATING AND HAVEN’T BEEN FOR POTENTIALLY YEARS — AND MAYBE I AM ALSO HORMONALLY IMBALANCED)

Problems with ovulation are one of the top causes for infertility. Answers as to why said women are experiencing problems are less common.

Here’s a quick backstory: I stopped taking oral birth control in August 2015. Aaron and I had been married for almost one year, and we had decided to give ourselves that time before embarking on the potential for pregnancy. You know, that whole trying to figure out this marriage deal. I remember finishing my final pack, tossing it valiantly in the trash, and preparing myself for what could come. In September, something didn’t come: my period.

I was flabbergasted. My monthly flow was more Type-A than me. I could nearly chart it to the hour on the appointed day. But, no period for the first time in 15 years? Finally, this moment of being late that didn’t evoke an immediate panic attack.

Like any dutiful mom-in-waiting, I allowed the appropriate time to pass and then purchased my first at home pregnancy tests.

Negative.

Alright, perhaps I did this one too early. I let a few more days slide by (noting that my mind could only focus on the fact that I could at that very moment be formulating some zygote monstrosity that would ideally reform into a beautiful, healthy baby).

Negative #2.

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I didn’t understand. THERE IS ONLY ONE POSSIBILITY. WHY DID I BUY ALL OF THESE JUNKY PREGNANCY TESTS?

We’ll glide over the confusion and hurt I felt because, little did I know, this was only the beginning of my infertility journey!

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I wish this is what the infertility journey felt like. Image credit to the Tumblr blog “Power Pussy Says.” No, I’m not making this up. Brilliant!

How could I have foreseen that 2016 and 2017 would morph into my very own episode of “Unsolved Mystery”? Side note: easily one of the best television shows on Lifetime Television in the 1990s.

My period did not come back. Of course, I met women who shared that despite the fact that did not return to regular menstruation after birth control, they still were able to achieve conception. Have hope! Stay positive!

Nope. Well, I mean yes, I tried to stay hopeful and positive. But I certainly didn’t find myself procuring the coveted “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” novel or flocking to the nearest Target to oodle over burp blankets and onesies.

I’m less interested in talking about what transpired between those 24 months today. In fact, I don’t think what happened was really all that interesting, period (Ha! She’s got jokes). We tried a few things. I had some atrocious interactions with medical professionals whose callous, cold hearts made Charlton Heston look like a softie. What I really want to lament about on this Sunday evening is the evils of birth control.

After a failed round of hormonal injections last November and December (culminating in getting my period on Christmas Eve as I was in the midst of a wretched bout of food poisoning — happy holidays, folks!), we decided to take a break to start off the New Year. Or, I made that call as I do have an incredibly supportive partner in this process (even willing to be present in the room when I gave myself injections, if needed, but also would have had to turn away and not allow himself to hear any noises of pokes, or else I would have been waving smelling salts under his nose a half-beat later).

Fast-forward: STILL NO PERIOD. My ob-gyn is like: “ok, soooooo…maybe we should put you on birth control for a little bit to at least go through a couple of cycles. You don’t want your vaginal lining to get too thick because that can lead to complications. And, since you’re not producing estrogen, you should notice improved energy and mood. You may get some headaches initially but they should dissipate. Sound good?”

I am going to start taking medication that will prevent me from doing the one thing I’ve been trying for the last 2+ years to do? As Tony the Tiger would say:

Here I am: 33 and back on birth control. AND FEELING MISERABLE. The headache promise came true. But, what I wasn’t prepared for were the following:

  • Overnight weight gain (I’m sorry, what does my scale say?)
  • Bloating — or how I prefer to describe it — feeling SWOOL
  • Sore breasts that don’t fill sexy but just feel the pain
  • A general squishiness to my body (where did you go, muscles?)
  • Extreme anger — I may or may not have thrown vegetables at the wall at one point
  • Exhaustion
  • Constipation (something needs to come out of this damn body)
  • Generally unpleasant wife/co-worker/friend/human being
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I put Grumpy Cat to shame during these seven weeks.

The silver lining after three weeks: I got my period. Hooray?! Shed that lining. Feel like a functioning reproductive woman. All I felt was awful. Nearing the end of my second pack this last week, I said: “no more.” I chucked those last pills into the rubbish and dusted my hands of that experiment.

How do I feel now? Despite currently enjoying my second cycle of 2018, I feel so much better mentally and emotionally. I can’t hide from the fact that I will need to find a replacement therapy to put estrogen into my body.  That I may never get pregnant or carry a baby to full-term. But, like hell I’m going to allow myself to be subjected to feeling like shit and spending money on tampons by ingesting something that is designed to make sure I do neither of those first two things. I don’t have enough time or energy to sort that would with a therapist. Or to rationalize it any longer with myself.

Perhaps it’s time to give that pole vaulting career another try…

 

That time we visited Scotland and Ireland

Both countries lived up to the hype and my own personal hopes.

Rather than sketch out a full narrative on our 10+ day excursion, I’m going to challenge myself and aim for the 10 words or less review of each place (accompanied by a few photos to give, you know, context)

Edinburgh: birthplace of Scotland. Old meets tourist on cobblestone streets.

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St. Andrews: must-stop for golfers, botanists, beach walkers…and single ladies.

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Dingle: agrarian paradise held together through kindness, culture, and beer

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Dublin: Guinness-built international destination; class lines, once deep, now blurred

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Without hesitation, I would recommend putting both countries on your list for your next vacation. With nearly 86 miles under our feet (and 400+ in the car), we only scratched the surface of these nations.

We change from the insides out. When the joy is sparked, you can’t hide it:

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Finding one’s roots (literally)

When I grow up, I want to be a farmer.

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This is what farming life is like, right?

I was sitting on an airplane, reading Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass”, when this realization first struck me. To that point, I had dabbled in spring and summer gardening, casting “ooohs” and “aahhs” as seedlings emerged from the soil and pollinated flowers transforming into peppers and tomatoes. Owning the title of “green thumb” still felt far in my future. Yet, I savored the moments spent in the dirt, checking each plant’s progress, and nurturing those in need of extra care due to rising temperatures or a hookworm infestation.

I want to have a farm that provides organic, healthy, local food.

I laughed at myself, embarrassed, after a beat. What did I know about farming? I had never even set foot on one to that point. Besides the three years of backyard gardening and the occasional interaction at the Durham Farmer’s Market, I was as green as the crops I so badly wanted to yield.

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This sums up the amount of interaction I had with farm animals to that point. Is that how one properly holds a sheep?

I want to create a place where young people can work, acquire skills, earn an income, and reconnect with the earth.

This pursuit, while ever evolving, stems from my core values of connection to earth, animals, and people; stewardship of natural resources; promotion of well-being; and access to one’s humanity and the skills, values, and temperament to build stronger communities.

During my time teaching in Vance County, my students became intrigued with the various fruits and vegetables I packed for lunch. Upon seeing a bag full of red bell pepper slices, one of my students, Ahmad, gasped: “You’re going to eat those?”

“Yes…?” I responded with that questioning lilt trailing off to signfy my confusion.

“Aren’t those hot?”

I smiled and opened the bag, letting Ahmad know that these red bell peppers slices were far from hot; in fact, they were sweet and crisp. He warily eyed the slice he plucked from the bag, looked at me once more for reassurance, and then took his first bite.

He smiled. “No, these aren’t hot at all!”

Such interactions with Miss Paulson’s lunch offerings took place with jicama, mangoes, and sugar snap peas. While most students lived in a rural county, their ability to access fresh food was minimum. Nearly 1/4 of Vance County residents are below the federal poverty line and 30% of children live in food insecure homes. But, don’t worry folks: there are dozens of fast food restaurants in the county seat of Henderson:

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I’ve thought about my students, their families, and the broader Vance County community a lot since leaving in 2009. Often, these reflections are tinged with guilt and sadness. I left. I had the choice to leave, and I did without hesitation. On the surface, I became an example of “white privilege tour of poverty” levied at Teach For America.

But, I promise you that while I physically left Henderson, I’ve never forgotten it.

Back to the plane: here I am, seeking out my purpose. And images of Vance County surged from my past and plopped down on the tray table in front of me, wriggling with anticipation. What if such a place could exist in Vance County, partnering with the school system, community leaders, and other organizations? Do such programs and projects already exist within Vance County or in surrounding places that I could support and learn from?

I want to create a place where young people have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate empathy and compassion to creatures and crops.

I want to develop a platform for them to build strength — physical, mental, and spiritual. I want to give them the tools to cultivate the earth at their homes and churches to transform our food system from reliance on processed, transactional products to homegrown, transformational produce. 

This lightbulb moment took place two years ago. At first, it was easy for me to shrug off taking further action. Between work and professional commitments, I was too busy. There wasn’t enough time; I didn’t have enough energy.

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I’ve done two volunteer shifts at the Piedmont Animal Farm Refuge in Pittsboro. Nothing says getting more hand’s on experience than cleaning out goat barns!

Alas, I have cast those constraints to the side. The call rings louder and louder each day for me to do something to work towards this dream. This past week, I finished Will Allen’s “The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities” about his project to transform the food system starting in his Milwaukee home. There are a multitude of stories similar to Will’s where people just starting doing. He emphasized that call-to-action in his book on several occasions.

Just start doing.

One theme I heard from two of the #NonprofitSTRONG Summit conference breakout sessions I attended involved honoring one’s roots. Our ancestral histories can be fraught and painful. And, they are still part of us.

I’m sorry that I know so little of my family lineage. One thing I do know is that I come from a line of agricultural stock. In fact, I still have extended family members operating farms in Minnesota. Perhaps the seeds of my dream were planted for me by past generations. Perhaps it’s part of the social awakening that the systems we have to nourish and feed us are failing us instead. Perhaps its a selfish quest to marry all of my passions — education, food, conservation, mentorship — under one perfect umbrella.

Perhaps it will all be a bust. But I won’t know if I don’t do.

The less sugar-coated version of desert

No, we’re not talking about those sweet treats that evoke feelings of comfort, happiness, and mayhaps a slight tinge of guilt. Instead, we’re dropping one “s” and focusing on the bizarre cultural phenomena of ascribing certain people’s situations to their supposed ethics.

Case in point:

Whether outwardly acknowledged or not, Americans (generally) hold two distinct viewpoints about people:

Wealthy people deserve to be rich.

Poor people deserve to be poor.

You may read those two sentences above and exclaim (perhaps just in your head) that you would never subscribe to those sentiments. Those are ludicrous and unfair!

I’m in complete agreement with you. Yet, I see that even those of us who like to believe that we’re above such projections often help perpetuate them through unconscious actions.

Before we dive into what those might be, let’s push pause for a moment and ask: how did we get here? Why do Americans believe so strongly in the correlation of someone’s socioeconomic status and the values/skills/traits that contributed to their lot?

A 2017 Pew Research study examined the question of what makes someone rich or poor and found that partisan affiliation was one of the most significant influences on viewpoint.

By about three-to-one (66% to 21%), Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say hard work, rather than a person’s advantages, has more to do with why someone is rich. By nearly as wide a margin, Democrats and Democratic leaners say the opposite: 60% say a person is rich because they had more advantages than others, while just 29% say it is because they have worked harder.

We Americans heart (as the kids say) the idea of the self-made person. You know, the one where someone (typically a man) pulls himself up by bootstraps and changes the world. But, guess what folks? These types of stories don’t speak for the hundreds of thousands who have been disenfranchised to even begin accessing certain resources to move beyond their current socioeconomic status. No access to loans to start a business; social supports for guidance; or even safe spaces to allow an idea to bear fruit.

Check this reporting out from Sam Pizzigati at Inequality.org:

“Just over 3 percent of the Forbes 400, the United for a Fair Economy researchers found, have left no good paper trail on their actual economic backgrounds. Of the over 60 percent remaining, all grew up in substantial privilege.

Those “born on first base” — in upper-class families, with inheritances up to $1 million — make up 22 percent of the 400. On “second base,” households wealthy enough to run a business big enough to generate inheritances over $1 million, the new UFE study found another 11.5 percent.”

If working hard equals being born in the right family, then congratulations! You’re ability to control the environment where sperm and egg came together forming you is commendable and well-deserving of wealth. But, I am going to hazard a guess that no one would admit to being successful at such an endeavor. Generally speaking, members of the upper and owning classes don’t work harder than members of the poor, working, and middle classes. They just got lucky.

How us do-gooders help to stop reinforcing this notion of desert

If we truly believe that much of our life is determined by luck — where we’re born, who we are born to, the societal expectations for our identities — then we need to be active in dismantling this “norm.”

#1: Eliminate the knee jerk reaction to include language around “people abusing the system” when talking about social supports.

I hear this far too often. This qualifer — “I know some people abuse the system and all…” Why is this commentary necessary? There are a lot of systems — social, financial — that people “abuse” every day. Sometimes those individuals make a lot of money. No, that’s not people utilizing the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) (in 2017, 42 million Americans were enrolled).

 #2: Talk about other forms of government “handouts” that exclusively benefit wealthy, owning class individuals.

If you were completing your own tax paperwork this year, did you celebrate the credits you were able to claim? Mortgage? Educational payments? How about contributions to your retirement?

Oh, did you think you weren’t one of “those people” receiving government handouts? And those three examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Yacht taxes. Rental property write-offs. No more estate tax.

And think of all of the incentives local and state governments offer multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies.

#3: Reflect on how you evaluate philanthropy and charitable giving.

Making a donation to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization makes people feel good (and it used to make people feel even better because you could write it off on your taxes! Now, less incentive. But again, who does that credit really benefit?). But, what does a 501(c)(3) designation truly tell you about a nonprofit?

It tells you that someone(s) completed the appropriate paperwork and paid the fee to the Internal Revenue Service. Consider it akin to the SAT or ACT tests many high school students may choose to take to pursue higher education. Do those tests — or any standardized test — truly evaluate someone’s preparedness for learning or intelligent? No. The tests reveal how a student performed on that test on that date at a certain time. That’s it. Sure, if you have access to resources, you might have been able to receive more instruction on how to prepare; you may have developed better study habits because of the schools you’ve been able to attend. But, it doesn’t mean that you’re better than someone else who didn’t.

Community-based organizations are the same. Just because a group doesn’t have that shiny seal of approval from the IRS, or has less than 10% “overhead”, or whatever Guidestar review it should have, doesn’t mean that the organization and its people aren’t doing vital work.  Avoid fanning “the flames of injustice.”

We can get hung up on giving to nonprofits that have the best name recognition or the shiniest covers. But real work to eradicate hunger, upend poverty, and dismantle systemic racism doesn’t come in 120lb gloss paper. It comes with sweat and tears. It can’t be captured in an annual report and doesn’t make an appearance at the gala.

Desert. Do people deserve their lot? Do you work hard? Are you wealthy? Do you know individuals who have struggled financially? Are you aware of the wealth you may have, even if income seems a bit spotty?

 

 

 

 

That moment during ‘Waitress’ where I wanted to stand up and scream

Not the typical response during a Broadway musical, perhaps. Especially one built on the bubbly, emotional-fueled songs of Sara Bareilles. But, it wasn’t Sara’s fault that I felt compelled to stop the show and decry the scene unfolding on the stage.

If anyone needs to be blamed, then I will point a finger at the original book’s author, Jessie Nelson. Although I don’t like to blame others. It’s counter productive.  Instead, let me offer an open letter (are those still a thing??) to the writer about what bubbled up inside me at the pivotal scene in the musical:

Dear Jessie,

Former NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano said: “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”

Adopting that approach to evaluating a day, I can proudly share that I had a heck of a day yesterday thanks to seeing the traveling production of Waitress. However, I also experienced a level of frustration that left a stain on my memory of the show. It has to do with this:

Waitress2

Jenna is a woman who has clearly endured years of pain and suffering due to an abusive relationship. She is a dedicated friend and employee; she creates and shares willingly. She is not perfect; she perseveres yet doesn’t allow herself to achieve actual happiness.

But then she has her baby and EVERYTHING IS SUNSHINE AND ROSES. She has the courage to leave Earl and start her own business. She reclaims her self-worth and finds her entrepreneurial chops. Obviously, she shares this newfound realization in a musical number dubbed ‘Everything Changes’ where Jenna sings:

“Today’s a day like any other
But I’m changed, I am a mother
Oh, in an instant
And who I was has disappeared
It doesn’t matter, now you’re here
So innocent
I was lost
For you to find
And now I’m yours, and you are mine.”

I do not doubt that such a moment could have such a profound impact on someone’s perspective and life. Yet, as an audience member struggling with infertility, it felt like a reinforcement that achieving motherhood is the ultimate quest. My life remains in gray until that moment of bringing a life into this world. If my life was a mess prior to this moment, then it will be magically scrubbed anew. 

If that is the measuring stick we’re using for women like Jenna, that such troubled lives can be turned around completely after taking on the role of mom, what does that mean for those of us who cannot — or don’t want to — take that journey? It reminds me of my former high school students, many of whom actively sought getting pregnant in order to create something to love — and something to love them — in their lives. 

While I applaud Jenna’s metamorphosis, I do wish that it didn’t have to be fully centered on becoming a mother. Because that makes me feel sad, inadequate, and worried that I don’t ever fully realize my best self if I can’t become a mother. Will I be able to experience that type of love and empathy? Will I ever feel that overwhelming sense of joy that I have watched play out in film, TV, books, and now a musical?

I know you can’t answer my questions, Jessie. But thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Katie