Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Other N Word

Did you know that racism is alive and thriving in this country? Yep, it is. (Shocking, I know.) I get little first-hand tastes every now and then. And how does it taste? Bitter.

I always think I am going to be prepared for it when it comes. I have thought through retorts and responses a thousand times, playing out the potential offending scenarios in my head. But then when it actually happens? Crickets in my brain. Chirp Chirp. I go blank. Well, not completely blank but the intelligent and thoughtful lines that I had in que seem to go out to lunch at that moment in time. Maybe I need to add more fish oil to my diet. Good for the brain.

The latest racist expletive I heard is a doozy. A DOOZY. I don't think I have heard this word since I watched Roots in the 7th grade. It's not the N Word. No, it's the OTHER N Word, the one that Wikipedia claims became an ethnic slur in the 1960's.

Are you ready for it?


I'll give you a minute to process....or to gag....

Okay, so here's the deal. I had someone use this word in a sentence to me just yesterday, over the phone. She is lucky it was over the phone because if it had been in person I'm not sure what I would have done. I do not know this person, and hopefully never will. This person was calling the church where I work. She is not a member but was wondering about our worship services. She was asking me if I knew a certain person at our church, and this is how it was said (exact words): "Does that dark woman still play the piano there? You know, the negro?" Yes, this is a true story. So I say (after my mind goes blank from the shock): "You probably mean Marti, and yes she is African-American." Racist woman on the other end says: "Yeah...whatever."

Now, I wish I would not have left it at that. I SO wish I would have said more. But looking back I think I might have done all I could in that situation. I should have said something like, "That word is offensive and I suggest you use something more appropriate like African-American." But would that have been any more effective that what I really did say? I don't know. I don't think anything would have gotten through her ignorant, Neanderthal skull. Sorry, anger gets us nowhere. I realize that. But I AM angry, damn it. Very angry. I am mad that this shit still exists. That people are allowed to walk around thinking and saying these things makes me sick to my stomach. I am offended on behalf of my son, on behalf of ALL AA people. It's not just about antiquated language, or ignorance, or not knowing any better. Those are all excuses for the fact that this LABEL is, plain and simple, not acceptable. Although this slur is really a derivative of the Latin word "niger", meaning "black", it's ties are to utterly painful things in the history of AA people in this country--namely slavery. This kind of language is so much more damaging that one might first think.

Speaking of damaging: Did you know that if you Google the word negro one of the suggested "related searches" that comes up, in fact the FIRST one that comes up, is "negro jokes"? That leaves me cold.

I won't expound on this too much because there are so many other people who have said it far better than I ever could. But, I do want to say that LANGUAGE MATTERS. Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. B.S.! Words can do deep and long-lasting harm. Words are what wars are fought over every day. Words are the ammunition of bigots and bullies.

And one word can feel like a punch in the gut. It only takes one.

Racism: Another ugly word. I don't like it and I will never accept it. I am so aware of the fact that I am a white woman raising a black son in this kind of world. It is my responsibility to him to never accept this as status quo. That is why I work with the Diversity Council of Rochester, that is why I talk about these things with family and friends, that is why I hope to write and speak more publicly about these topics at some point in my life. We are so freakin' proud of our multi-racial family. We think it is beautiful. I hope that someday we will live in a world where everyone thinks the same.

Monday, October 26, 2009


After a wonderful weekend with my boys, I am feeling perfectly in harmony with the universe. There has been so much stress and drama in our lives lately that I think we all have felt a little off kilter, a little bit like crazy people who had lost our minds. But now we are settling back into our routines and our rituals, and that feels oh so good.

I think that's what I crave most in life: BALANCE. You need the ups and the downs to appreciate the times when all is at equilibrium. Normal is good. Boring is good.

I can see how the rollercoaster of life effects Miles. I am more aware than ever that he CAN feel our stress, he DOES feel our pain. And on the other end he also feels it when we are happy and content.

The realization of just how much he feeds off our state of mind hit me like a ton of bricks this morning: My mood changes his. (Seems like DUH! But I am a bit slow at seeing some of these more obvious parenting things.) As I said, we had a nice weekend. Didn't do anything in particular but it was just good. Lots of time just the three of us, which is what we like best. I was calm, I was happy, I was in a good mood. Feeling no stress for the first time in, well, a long time. So by the time we all woke up this morning, it seems that all the GOODNESS had settled into our little munchkin. He woke up happy, full of smiles, full of hugs. He even ran to the bedroom to get the sweater that I had worn yesterday (that was lying on the floor) and brought it to me, and eagerly watched as I put it on, and then put his coat on him. It was as if he was saying to me "C'mon mama, let's go have more fun!" This is such a great age because they now actively start to show you how much they love you by doing little things like that. I love him so much. What a nice start to the week.

But how do you bottle balance? Yeah, I know, it's called Zoloft ;) No really, I have often wondered how to harness this feeling of contentment when you feel anything but content. I think I am getting closer to figuring that out due to a book that I am reading and a recent retreat that I attended that focus on buddist and zen principles. I will explore that in more depth in another post. But for now I will just bask in the glow of the moment. Happy. Content. Ahhhh.

Friday, October 23, 2009

They Freakin' Read My Mind

I just found this site called Hybrid Mom and nearly fell out of my chair. Did they read my mind?? Their tagline is "Mother your ambitions". And furthermore, the header of their site says "What is a Hybrid Mom? We've evolved into a new generation of moms who embrace their multiple identities."

OMG. Awesome.

So, apparently this is not a new and original idea that I have about motherhood. Damn.

Check this out, love it:

What is a Hybrid Mom?

If you have ever:

…owned a purse that functions as a diaper bag, laptop case, tote and/or contains both a cell phone and some stray Cheerios
… prayed that your mute button is not broken while on a conference call
…had a great idea for a business, but no clue what to do with it
… worked from a local coffeehouse to have more peace and quiet then at the home office
…had to make the choice between a big meeting and a little league game
…thought “balance” is overrated, yet strived for some form of it each day.

Then now is the time to declare yourself. For you my friend, are a Hybrid Mom!

From Entrepreneurs to Executives. From Bloggers to Volunteers. From Consultants to Students. We Hybrid Moms are everywhere – and we are actively pursuing our personal and professional goals on terms that still allow us a fulfilling family life. We are strong. We are resourceful. We are ambitious. And now, we are one.

Our Hybrid Mom promise:
We are committed to helping each Mom nurture her own ambitions, in a world where so much is demanded of her. We understand her needs. We believe in her ability. We see her potential. We proudly provide her the inspiration, tools, and opportunity she needs to succeed.

Anne says: Yes, YES, YESSSS!!!! (a la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally)

I just ordered a subscription to their magazine, signed up for their mailing lists, joined their FB group, am following them on Twitter, etc...

I am a little excited.

If anyone has any more of these enlightening types of groups they can tell me about, I am all ears!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Someday List

Ever heard of a Bucket List? You know, the list that you make of all the things you want to do before you 'kick the bucket'?

Well, as a piggyback to my last post (the whole, "I have a dream" post) I have decided to make myself one of those. A place to write down all of my alleged goals and dreams seems like a good idea. (Gee, I guess I like lists a lot??)

Except I hate the name Bucket List. Seriously, how morbid.

So I have decided to call this My Someday List. Some are petty and some are profound. And some are somewhere in between. I think this is an extremely good exercise. I will look at this list on the days when work sucks, Miles is being a pain in the ass and I am fighting with Grant...and it will help me to focus on the fact that THIS TOO SHALL PASS. See, I'm not good at that. I think that if it sucks now it will ALWAYS suck. It's a curse. I think this will help me focus my energy, and maybe (just maybe) I will start to check some things off the list.

I have left out some of the obvious ones like "Be a millionaire" or "Have happy, healthy, generous and emotionally stable children" or "Live in my dream home" ... but I am trying to think outside the box on these.

Making this list is much tougher than I thought it would be. Here goes nothin'!


Someday I would like to shower without at least one pair of eyes on me.

Someday I would like to have a master bathroom with double sinks.

Someday I would like to have a double attached garage.

Someday I would like to have a fireplace.

Someday I would like to own my own business.

Someday I would like to go back to school to get a degree in graphic design or something related.

Someday I would like to have a daughter.

Someday I would like to go to London.

Someday I would like to go to Italy and Greece.

Someday I would like to see the Pyramids.

Someday I would like to take my nephews on a road trip.

Someday I would like to teach a whole year of Sunday School and be there every single week.

Someday I would like to donate an enormous amount of money to a worthy charity.

Someday I would like to write and publish a book.

Someday I would like to meet someone really famous.

Someday I would like to become at least semi-fluent in a foreign language.

Someday I would like to learn how to play the piano.

Someday I would like to fly First Class.

Someday I would like to be in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Someday I would like to take my entire family to Disney World.

Someday I would like to say I have visited all 50 states (I am at 25).

Someday I would like to see a taping of Oprah and Conan.

Someday I would like to own a vineyard.

Someday I would like to be a grandparent.

Someday I would like to go on a mission trip to Africa.

Someday I would like to be able to say that I am 100% debt-free.

Someday I would like to be able to go shopping and actually have money to spend.

Someday I would like to see my kids graduate from college.

Someday I would like to be able to retire comfortably.

Someday I would like to attend either the Oscars or the Emmys.

Someday I would like to get massages, manicures, pedicures, facials, haircuts and highlights on regular basis.

Someday I would like to have someone tell me that I am a really good mother.

Someday I would like to lose 15 pounds.

Someday I would like to learn the art of meditation.

Someday I would like to have time to do devotions, keep a journal, read and exercise every day.

Someday I would like to get another tattoo.

Someday I would like to be someone's boss or the president of something.

*This list will be constantly changing, I'm sure. But it's a good start, right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All of the Above...and then some

We all have multiple personality disorder. At least, I like to think so.

No really, think about it. We are all so very many things. We wear so many hats. Can you name them all? If not, try it! Do it. I did. You can see my list on the sidebar. It's not an exhaustive list (like I could have added "Battlestar Galactica's Biggest Fan", "World's Worst Baker", etc... ). But it's a pretty good snapshot of who I am. Or at least my LABELS.

Hmmmm....labels. Let's talk about labels.

I have noticed that when we give ourselves and each other labels we often limit ourselves. We say "I am a mother." or "She is an accountant." Why do we do that to ourselves? I suppose it's out of necessity. I guess we can't really say "She is a wonderful human being, created and loved by God, adored by her family and friends, ..." That would be counterproductive. So, we give ourselves and each other short and succinct (and often VERY limiting) labels. We put ourselves in a box. We put others in similar boxes. And that is where we stay.

I take issue with that. Lately I have taken major offense at being labeled one thing or another. Why does this bug me so much? Because I am, we all are, soooo many things. Let me explain:

My primary label is "Miles' Mama". I love that label. I cherish it. I adore it. I am proud of it. But I also rail against it. I am not a feminist. I do not think traditional gender roles are evil. But I do think that by putting on the label of "mother" the assumption is that the other labels have to go away. Disappear. POOF! Like being a mother means that everything else has to fade to a distant memory. AND if you choose not to give up your other labels you are somehow slacking off on your primary responsibility as a mother. Don't agree? Don't think I am right on this one? Think about it. It's true. We put this pressure of being a mother and ONLY a mother on each other and ourselves. Every day. Ever hear of mama guilt? It's a very real thing. But that's for another post.

Here's an example: I recently had lunch with a woman who is not yet a mother, but deeply desires to be. In fact, they will be adopting in the near future. I casually mentioned that I love reading and am in a bookclub, and that I play the violin and am in a big production at church every spring. She gave me a funny look, and then said, "How do you have time for all that AND being a mom? Your husband must be very supportive!" Hmmmmm.... Yes. Interesting, isn't it? Somehow my interests suddenly become a burden to my husband? We are all the architects of this idea that motherhood has to be all-consuming; block by block we build ourselves into a corner where we are left wondering what happened to the person that we used to be. The message is clear: How could we possibly have interests outside of our children? How could we possibly be so selfish as to spend time away from them? Our poor husbands or babysitters that are left to raise our abandoned children! (okay, I am exaggerating a little on that one, but you get my point)

Here is my moment of zen: I want to be more than just a mother.


Hello. My name is Anne. And I have other interests outside my son.

And I will not give them up for him or for anyone.


I realize how sacrilegious this all sounds. I am defiling the sacred house of motherhood with these words. But it's the truth of MY life. I have interests, desires, dreams and goals that have nothing at all to do with my label as mother. I am by no means saying that I put myself ahead of my son. Because I don't. I think parenting requires sacrifice and our family is my number 1 priority. But that does not mean that the moment Miles was born I hit delete on the rest of my life.

My first instinct is to apologize to you (the whole Lutheran/Minnesotan/Scandinavian curse) for saying these seemingly selfish things, to remind you of my deep love for my son and to repent of my sins. But I am going to resist. ;)

But here's the flip side for me: What if I allowed myself to be fully engulfed in this label of mother? Would I be happy to be that and ONLY that? No. Do I know people who are happy to be that and ONLY that? Yes. To each their own. No judgments.

We all become mothers for different reasons. And there is no right or wrong reason. Just different. I have heard a few people say that when their child was born they felt somehow complete, or like it gave them the feeling that they could do anything and be anything they wanted to, like they themselves were being re-born through their children, like their children gave them wings to fly. What an awesome testament to the power of motherhood--I am jealous of their experience. Because I can't really say the same. In fact, I would say that at times I have had the opposite experience. I have sometimes had feelings of resentment, loss of freedom and isolation after becoming a mother. I have sometimes not felt released, I have felt trapped. I have sometimes not felt free, I have felt a heavy weight. But again, this ball of wax is for another post.

My point is that labels can be damaging or they can be freeing. They can be hurtful or they can be helpful. Or they can mean nothing. But the fact of the matter is that we are not just one thing, we are many things. We are all of the above. I have named my blog "All of the Above" for that reason. I want to be reminded daily that I am a complex and ever-evolving creature. It gives me great comfort and joy to know that I am NOT just one thing, I am many. I am a better mother for being not only that, but "All of the Above". I desire to be an example to my children, and these are lessons I wish to teach through how I live my life: Well-roundedness and self-care.

Speaking of lessons, there is one in this for me, too. I am learning how to be all of my labels at the same time. It is a precarious balancing act that I sometimes do well and sometimes fail at. But I am learning. I am growing. I am doing my best.

I would challenge you, as I have challenged myself, to look at the labels in your life and the labels that you put on other people. Being aware of them has changed my perception of how I see myself as a mother and how I see others. What is the expression? "Know thyself." Be self-aware. Make a list like I did. You never know what you might discover.

I'm a Mother, Not a Martyr

This blog is a work of love. It's my love child, of sorts. It's purely for me. For the love of ME.

Sounds selfish, yes? How dare I take the time and energy to put my deepest thoughts in writing. How narcissistic of me. You are a mama first, for God sake! You should not have the time, desire or energy to do anything of this sort (my inner voice screams at me). Why should anyone care what YOU think?? What gives you the right to think that you can just vent to the universe in this manner?? This is only going to be a place to complain, whine and cry, isn't it?? ISN'T IT???


Well, sort of.

This blog will, in the end, beg only one thing of me: Honesty. It's so much harder than it seems...

This idea has always been in my head...the idea of a place where I can be totally honest about life, about parenting, about being a wife. It has seemed like a far away dream. And it got more distant with each "put on a happy face" post on my other blogs. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my life. I have an incredible, amazing and blessed existence that I thank God for every single day. But I have always longed for a place to write down my darker thoughts, work through some things I am grappling with and just write honestly in general.

But I don't want it to be a bitch-fest, a woe is me, an angst-ridden tirade, a pity party table for one. After all: I am a mother, not a martyr. I don't cry myself to sleep. Most of the time. But I do feel bottled up, contained in a box that I have built for myself. And I am ready to bust out! Ready to spread my wings and write. Ready to finally have an outlet for all the things that I wish I could say that I don't.

You see, the silence has been deafening. At least for me.

But there is a problem. Well, 3 problems, actually. 1) I am Scandinavian. 2) I am Lutheran. And 3) I am a Minnesotan. When it comes to being honest and forthright about our feelings no matter what, WE SUCK. I have those 3 strikes against me. It's in my blood, in my upbringing, and in my soul to be nice, to spare people's feelings at the expense of my own, to be humble, to not complain. These are the basic core values of how I was raised. When it comes to breaking free of those things in order to explore the things that I want to explore, it feels like there is a mountain in front of me...

But I will try, I will do my best. I sincerely don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, it's true. But I might. I sincerely want to be nice. But I might not be. I will apologize once and only once. Here it is in advance: I'm sorry.

Now that that's out of the way, on with the show.