Dear Sissy

Dear Sissy,

It has been almost six months and I do miss you dearly.  I think of you often.  I wonder how things are where you are.  How is Ray?  We sure do miss him too.  And Jeanna.  And Patti.  And your family?  I am sure they were so happy to see you.

I wanted to catch you up on what is going on.  I can just picture us sitting in your living room and talking.  You always were a great listener and story teller.

Jaren and I are well.  We found a nice apartment and I am almost certain you guided me to it; so many coincidences.  The best part about our new apartment is I am only 4.8 miles from work.  I know you would be happy to know that.  You always worried about my long drive.

Work is going well.  I really like my new department and coworkers.  You know how nervous I was at first.  I started my new position a couple weeks after you passed.

Jaren’s graduation went well.  I know how proud of him you would have been.  He is taking online college courses and he hopes to be in a dorm soon.  He really wants to experience the college life.  I am glad he is with me a little longer.  With your passing, my new job position, Jaren graduating high school, moving out of the house and into our new apartment, I think it would have been difficult to be without Jaren too.  So thankfully, he is with me a little longer.  But I know he is ready to explore.  And I am just about getting used to the idea of him leaving home.  I can hear you giving me advice in your kind and gentle tone, reassuring me that everything will be alright.  And you are right.

So many changes in such a short time, Sissy, but considering everything, I am doing well.

Noah and his family came down for Jaren’s graduation and they stayed with us at the house.  I told Noah that he was there shortly after he was born for Christmas Eve.  Of course he doesn’t remember but maybe somewhere subconsciously it is in him.  It did feel like we came full circle.  It meant a great deal to have them stay at that house.  Noah’s parents felt right at home too.  The only thing missing was you and Ray.  But somehow, I think you both were there.  Everything in that house reminds me of you two.

The kids all seem to be doing well.  It’s hard because everyone is scattered but we do talk or txt now and then.  I know you would be very happy to know that most everything you had went to the kids or close family and friends.  I know how much you treasured your belongs.  We had fun going through your things and sharing some stories to go along the way.  Of course, you know I have many of those to share.

Sissy, you would be so proud of how your kids handled your estate.  They were so generous to Jaren and me and honored your final wishes and request.  I really got to know Danny more in those last few months then I did over the twenty plus years of knowing him.  I see what made him special to you.

Tell Ray that Jaren did his best to keep the yard looking good and he took good care of your flowers too.  We all worked together to get the house ready for market.  Danny and Judy labored hard getting the house ready for the estate sale.  And ready for the new buyers.  I even got to meet of few of the neighbors.  I guess having a garage sale is a good way to get to know the community.  One lady bought a book shelf and she said her son would come get it later.  When he came, I saw he was wearing a hearing aid.  He is in his early twenties.  I told him I was hearing impaired and we got to talking about it.  I just thought, “Wow, what are the odds.”  They were a nice family.  It made me realize why you loved your home and your neighborhood so much.

Well, today Sis, is your birthday.  And in your honor, Jaren and I are going to meet Karen at BJ’s.  I hadn’t thought about doing this until mid-day today.   I can’t think of better way to honor you and your memory on this special day.  We will be sure to put a glass of tea on the table for you, with extra ice and lemons.

Happy Birthday, Sissy.  We love you and miss you dearly.

Do All Lives Really Matter?

What does a family, a community, a city, a country, or a world look like when All Lives Matter?

I live in the Dallas-Ft Worth Metroplex.  And as most everyone knows, we had a recent shooting where five police officers were shot and killed while working a peaceful Black Lives Matter Movement event in downtown Dallas, Texas.

The first time I saw the “Black Lives Matter” meme, it was in a Facebook post the summer of 2014.  There wasn’t any added comment or explanation of the post.  At the time, I didn’t realize it was a movement.  I thought it was a new creative meme.

black-lives-matters

When I saw the post, it immediately brought to mind a conversation that I had had the previous day with my son’s godfather.  I am someone who is very aware of synchronicity and divine intervention.  I am in awe when these occurrences happen in my life, as if I am being divinely guided by some spiritual being.   It actually happens quite often but that is a post for another time.

I commented on the Black Lives Matter post.

I explained how I had just had a conversation with my son’s godfather, who was very depressed after losing his partner, Jose of eighteen years.  He had even contemplated suicide.  After he and I talked, I got ready to leave and walked to my car.  I started my car and was about to leave when this overwhelming thought came into my mind.  I thought about the time my high school friend, Mark, committed suicide a couple years after graduating and how I was the last friend to see him alive, dropping him off at his home the previous day and him saying things to me like, “nice knowing you,” and how I didn’t take him serious.  I’ve had many regrets about that over the years.  Could I have said something that would have mattered?

So, I got out of my car, walked over to my son’s godfather, who was standing in front of the house, stood directly in front of him, made clear eye contact and said, “Your.Life.Matters.”

We were both brought to tears and it was an emotional moment.  I had to be sure this time I made it perfectly clear.  Sometimes we just don’t get a second chance.

Well, the response or reply I got back from this page was not a favorable one.  She did acknowledge that it was great how I was there to help my son’s godfather through his time of need but accused me of combating the “Black Lives Matter” with the “All Lives Matter” antidote, which was a statement that was included in my comment.

At first, I was hurt and offended.  I was unaware of the movement.  I was sharing a moment.  I felt God had given me this sign or affirmation of what had happened the previous day.  This person didn’t know me personally.  She made a quick assumption and most likely assumed something about me, based on my Facebook profile picture.  And my first thought was to respond harshly and tell her just that.  But I waited.  I cooled down.  And I began to do some research.  Lord knows, my mixed family has had our own experiences with discrimination.

I had to ask myself, “What was my true intent?  Was it to combat this post from the Black Lives Matter to the All Lives Matters?”  My answer was clear.  No.

So I explained exactly that to her.  I apologized to her and told her that my intent was not to downplay the importance of “Black Lives”.  I shared with her a recent post that I had written in response to the current events and told her that I understand the hypocrisy in America.

https://onewomanschoice.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/it-all-comes-down-to-race/

As a child, one of the quotes that I heard often was, “Actions speak louder than words.”  The truth is we can say “All Lives Matter” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” but our American history tells us that just simply is not or has not been so.  It is a thought; it is a spiritual truth and principle.  But is not an action that we actively participate to create.

Let me explain the problem with the duality of these two movements.

When I gave birth to my first born son, Jaren, many of my family members were upset with me.  They had racist ideas and prejudice feelings towards my newly formed mixed-race family.  Some overcame their racism, some learned how to mask them in my presence and some refused to acknowledge me or my son.  We had been cutoff and were not welcome.  My step father, who came into my life when I was five years old and became my primary father figure while my biological father was in prison, took the longest to overcome his narrow-mindedness.  He disowned me and my newborn baby.  He did not accept his grandson, Jaren, until twelve years later.

We came face to face one time with my step father at the local custard stand back home, where he and my mother were sitting in the car.  My sister talked me into walking over to the car in hopes he would finally get to meet Jaren, who was two years old at the time.  My sister hoped our father would miraculously overcome his bigotry.  He didn’t.  He refused to look at or speak to me or my son.

Now during that time, I knew that my son’s life mattered.  And I am sure I made the statement a time to two to my mother and siblings.  I could have, maybe even should have said, “Jaren’s life matters,” to my father that day.  And he could have responded, “All my grandchildren’s lives matter.”  And while both statements are true, it still does not resolve the issue that one is being discriminated against and excluded solely based on his race and skin color while the others are not.  The issue is being ignored.

On top of that, my family could have said this is not right.  Karen and Jaren are family.  They could have voiced their opinion and acknowledged the wrongful acts.  But they did not.  My older brother, sister and their spouses were the only ones to at least acknowledge to me that they didn’t feel it was right for the way I was being treated.  However, they would not voice their opinion or outraged to our father.  Why?  Did they fear he would exclude them from his graces too for speaking up?  Or did they believe deep within that it was okay for me and my son to be treated that way?

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”  ~ Dr Martin Luther King

After the Dallas Police shooting, our church hosted “A Call to Action.”  I quickly began to see “Blue Lives Matter” social media memes along with front yard signs with this same campaign slogan supporting police officers.  And while I know it was criminally and morally wrong for someone to shoot those police officers, it seemed to me that those who did not want to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement could now protest with their Blue Lives Matter movement, just like the All Lives Matter movement was attempting to do.

On the other hand, sadly, when nine church members were shot and killed sitting in their church, where was the outraged?  Where were the protests?  Where was the Call to Action?  How many shared a Twitter or Facebook post of sadness or support of the innocent lives that were taken that day?  I can tell you that my church was pretty silent on the issue.  There surely wasn’t any Christian Lives Matter movement, hash-tags or memes floating around social media.  And why?  Because they were nine Black Christians?  If a gunman, especially a black gunman walked into a white church and killed nine white church members, there would be an outcry and outrage.  No doubt in my mind.

I’m not sure I understand how some can dislike the Black Lives Matter movement because it sounds like it excludes All Lives (Black Lives Matter has never, ever insinuated that other lives don’t. ), but then support or hash-tag Blue Lives Matter which also happens to be a select group.  I’ve even recently seen All Dogs Matter.  But the actual movement was created by and for Black Lives.  To use it for ones own agenda is a form of plagiarism and appropriation.

A few months back, Jaren and his friend had a very real experience and encounter with police.  He and his friend were stopped and questioned for “suspicious behavior”. It was late, after mid-night.  They had been walking around catching Pokémon and were on their way back home, walking through a church parking lot when two police cars surrounded and cornered them.  Two white police officers got out of one of the cars. One officer had a rifle in his hand with his finger on the trigger.

What is so suspicious about two grown kids (18 year olds) walking around that police felt they needed to be armed and ready to shoot? And they needed two cars? Does my son look that scary or like a criminal?

Jaren said one officer was calm and cooperative.  He had heard about the Pokémon Go game.  However, he said the other officer, the one with the rifle in hand, was stone-faced.  This encounter shook up my son and he admitted he was scared.  I’ve encountered the police several times while in high school.  Two times, I was taken to the police station because drugs were found in the car.  Not once, even when the car was full of white teenage and young adult males and females, did they ever pull a gun on us ready to shoot.

Jaren has been taught to respect the police.  In elementary school, Officer Tommy would come to the school and visit with the kids.  Officer Tommy also worked at our local mall.  When Jaren saw Officer Tommy at the mall, Jaren would always say hi.  And sometimes Jaren would want to stop by the police shop located in the mall just to say hi to Officer Tommy.  Jaren had no reason to fear the police and has always been respectful.  On top of that, Jaren’s father and Uncle are both police officers.

I am so very thankful that our boys got home safe.  But not all boys or men who are unarmed do.  Some get shot.

I’ve wondered, if something happened to my son that night, would my family, friends, church members still stand silent?  Would they think that my son and his friend must have done something to cause their fatal fate?  Or would they believe that sometimes innocent or non-threatening people, especially black men and get shot just because they are black?  Would my community protest on behalf of my son and his friend for their injustice?  Would they stand firmly with me and host a Call to Action on their behalf?

We all have aspects that connect us; it may be our language, religion, ethnicity, race, country, community, or social or economic status.  It could even be our disability.  That’s natural.  That’s human nature.  But…when we are unable or unwilling to see another side of the story, when we ignore the facts, when we allow that which connects us to also separate us from others we create or perpetuate issues in our society.  When we honor or value the lives of those with certain job titles over that of the average civilian, when we feel more for those who look like us than those who don’t, that’s an issue.  When we become distrustful of someone solely because of their race or differences we are not acting in the true sense of the slogan that All Lives Matter.

The truth is America has had a history of systematic racial discrimination against black lives.  Black lives have been stolen, kidnapped, owned, enslaved, bought and sold, traded, beaten, raped, oppressed, marginalized, hung, and killed with no regard.

So the question is do all lives really matter?

It not just words on paper, or a Facebook or Twitter post.  Real lives are at stake here.

Can The Hearing Lost Be Found?

Living With Hearing Loss

Everywhere I go there are people with hearing loss, but they don’t want to be found. They will reveal once I do, but not before, and only to me — not more broadly. I find them at conferences, school events, lectures — always sitting up near the front, just like I do — but silent about the need for the speaker to use a microphone or to not turn his back to the audience. How can we change this mindset?

lost-and-found-pic1

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Hearing Loss: Stand Up And Be Counted

Living With Hearing Loss

It is exciting to see hearing loss getting more attention. I recently wrote about the groundbreaking report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) which declared hearing loss “a significant public health concern” and made a series of recommendations for “institutional, technological and regulatory change to enable consumers to find and fully use the appropriate, affordable, and high-quality services, technologies, and support they need.” You can read that post here.

Several members of the NAS report team were at the most recent HLAA Convention, and each encouraged the sponsors of the report to work together to spur action. “Without implementation of the recommendations,” one of the NAS team commented, “the report is not worth much more than the paper it is written upon.” I left the Convention feeling a growing sense of urgency from the attendees as well as the leaders in the industry that now is the time to make change happen.

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Are Audiologists From Mars?

Living With Hearing Loss

Sometimes it feels like audiologists are from Mars and their patients are from Venus. Audiologists want to sell hearing aids, but people with hearing loss want complete hearing solutions. Audiologists have limited time to spend with each person, while consumers have a large number of questions. For audiologists, hearing loss is all in a day’s work, but for us, it is a life-altering and emotional experience.

How can we get the two groups on the same page in order to provide a more productive patient experience for both? I hope that by sharing my hearing loss journey, we can take steps towards doing just that.

Living With Hearing Loss - A Hearing Loss Blog

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Adoption—Individual Choice verses Collective Action

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

Why is it that so many individuals in leadership positions are so impassioned about adoption issues and zealously exert their authority with such an overtly feverish intensity? Is it even possible today to make a personal choice about adoption without being overwhelmed by wholehearted individuals representing dozens of agencies and organizations with a myriad of contradictory points of view depending on their professional background and the side of the adoption triangle they are on?

Judith Land | Adoption Detective | Collective Action “When faced with a difficult decision pertaining to adoption unclutter your mind and unleash your willpower to do what’s best. Stop to think before jumping to conclusions. Focus selectively on issues of importance. Never give up hope of a favorable outcome.” —Judith Land

Let’s face it. Everyone is vulnerable. Most individuals have no first-hand knowledge or experience dealing with many of the complex and unforeseen issues associated with adoption. Adoptees whimsically daydreaming of reuniting with a lost…

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“Woo Hoo!—I found my Grandparents.”

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

Adoption Detective | Judith Land | Grandparents The overwhelming majority of grandparents think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.

I recently discovered the identity of my maternal grandparents. My mother was adopted. She had never seen an image of her parents and was uncertain of their names. When the mystery of their identity was eventually solved and I viewed their faces in a photograph for the first time, I felt immediately connected with them and culturally linked to the past. My reaction was quietly introspective, overtly affirmative, and genuinely positive. I was overcome by immense feelings of joy, healing, and understanding produced by a deep sense of connectedness, belonging, and genealogical closure.

The cognitive knowledge and reactivity in response to those who are familiar to us is heart-rending. Emotional intelligence has a profound influence on our instinctual confirmation of identity. The psychological reactions produced by great works of art…

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Kaepernick is asking for justice, not peace

“And there’s nothing American about muzzling a dissenting voice, especially one whose life is the sort of story people cite as an example of the American dream. A black child adopted by white parents becomes a rich celebrity, praised for his talents and giving credence to the idea that anyone can make it. But nothing in that heartwarming tale has protected him from racism, nor will any of that make him safer when he’s pulled over by the police. His parents may be white, but that didn’t matter a bit when cops pulled a gun on him, a story Kaepernick relayed Sunday.”

http://theundefeated.com/features/kaepernick-is-asking-for-justice-not-peace/

Having a Voice

Having a voice (whether spoken, written or signed) is an important aspect in a society.  We as individuals and as members of a specific group or gender have always had a need to express our voice.

I was watching the TCM channel over the weekend.  One movie was going off and another was getting ready to come on.  The movie ending was a movie about the old west, a Cowboys and Indians kind of movie.  The movie coming on, ‘Murder Ahoy’, a black and white film, released in 1964 was based off of novels and characters written by Agatha Christie.

The movie began with Miss Marple, an elderly female fictional character who appears in numerous novels and short stories by Agatha Christie.  Miss Marple, dressed in a white collar shirt, jacket, and tie, is sitting at a table among all men discussing matters when one of the men suddenly drops over dead.  This sparks her amateur detective instincts to investigate.  As she is following a trail, she slowly walks backwardly down a fire escape.  Two men, who meet her at the bottom, startling her a bit, question her about her motives.  She becomes stern with them and tells them they do not know what has just happened.  They reassure her that they are well aware of what has just happened and then attempt to scoff her off.  She asks them what they are implying.  (We as viewers know what they are implying.)  They deny they are implying anything.  Then they tell her that maybe she is “not herself.”  Miss Marple quickly and sharply responds, “I have always been myself.”

This is a classic example of a woman being presented as equally important as her male counterparts.

Agatha Christie, being a female herself, creates strong women with dialogue that expresses our own ideas and self-worth.  Agatha Christie does not shy away from showing how women may be perceived and the stereotypes or the subtle oppression that exists, but she is able to use her platform to demonstrate how women are resilient, intelligent, have an important voice and are an equal contributor in any society.

Shonda Rhimes is a modern day example of this.

However, the old western movie that was going off, who had imitation Natives, got me to thinking about all the times we have allowed someone else to speak or portray an image for another race or group.

There are so many that I am afraid I will inadvertently leave off some so I will focus on these key groups.

Slave, Black African American, and old western movies, depicting Cowboys and Indians (Native American Indians), were more often written and directed by white men.  It was their vision, their voice, their interpretation, and their dialogue that was written for the world to see, whether it was accurate or not.

I don’t doubt that “some” had good intentions of trying to capture that reality of a time in history but if we are writing from one side of history, we are not truly portraying a true sense of reality.  If one has never been a slave, then one cannot truly understand or comprehend the intensity of what it means to live as a slave or being a direct descendant of a slave.  Can you imagine a white director or writer telling a black man or woman, this is how slaves acted?  Especially during early American film history, when the Black American voice was silenced and oppressed.

Alex Haley put names and faces to the American Slaves when he told his true story in Roots, which made a huge impact and won one Golden Globe Award and another 16 wins and 35 nominations.

Same goes for the Wild West movies but with one added element, we didn’t even allow Native Americans Indians to act or portray their own roles in our films.  And if we did, it was minute, with possibly one or two key members among hundreds of imitations.  We either used other ethnic groups with similar characteristics or worse, we used white men and painted them brown.

Our American stories, were written to honor or glorify the white Europeans and early Americans about their fight for this country.  But at what cost?  These stories, whether for politics, for the news, for historical preservation or for entertainment, were written from one side, the white mans.

Sure, we’ve always had sympathy characters to tug at our hearts and make us question our motives and morals but when we turned the last page of the book, or watched the credits roll the screen, Americans went back living life as they always have.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends shared a YouTube documentary video of the history of the African-American Cowboys.  In this video, real American black cowboys shared the history and the stories of their parents and previous generations, stating the origins of the American Cowboy is a culmination of the West African heritage and the Spaniards.  They even shared about the history of the term ‘cowboy’ and how it came from the early American slave days.  As commonly known, black males were referred to as boys, no matter if they were young boys or elderly men, during slavery and even up to the Civil Rights era.  So the term, cow-boy, actually started back during slavery and had a whole different connotation than what it later came to represent in movies and folk-lore, which was a strong, rugged white man, like John Wayne, the Lone Ranger and many other western film icons.  Could that have been early appropriation?

Have you ever watched a movie or a news story, read a book or an article that was written or directed by another race, ethnicity or gender who depicted your race or gender from their perception and felt that it was not a true depiction of you or your family, your history, or your people?  How about when the white race is the minority in the movie?  Or a movie, where instead of hiring people who represent your race or culture, the film crew hired another race, costumed them up with paint and fake hair to depict your race?  And White Chicks does not count.  Has your race ever been eliminated completely from historical facts or were the facts grossly distorted to benefit another race or culture?  Not many of us White Americans have, especially in comparison to other groups?

Can you imagine going to a movie and having to watch people with your skin color or your culture being portrayed as subhuman, primitive heathens, being represented in a subservient manner, always obedient to the white man and when that does not happen, the consequences that resulted.  That’s a systematic oppression.

There are a few other examples of this, too.   Adoption is one.

For years, the books, the blogs and personal interviews relating to adoption were mostly by adoptive parents.  They shared their one-sided view on adoption that society seemed to view as the most worthy, respected voice.

The story or stories that were handed down to the adoptee’s about their original, biological family and why they were available for adoption was communicated by adoption professionals to the adoptive parents who then passed the story to the child, if it was even shared or communicated at all.  We’ve since learned over the years, that many of those stories were not true but a false misrepresentation of the facts to appease a need for a separation and relinquishment to occur.  These false stories were needed in order to create a scorned, bad woman, someone who was lacking moral value, who was poor and negligent and was incapable of loving her own flesh and blood or turned away in cold malice.  Adoption movies also played into the roles and stereotypes.  Ironically, these stories conveniently left the males unmarred, who coexisted in the process of breeding.

Adoptees and biological/relinquishing parents are now speaking up and speaking out in great numbers to set the record straight.

White Americans but mostly White American males have been steering the course of our society for hundreds of years and have been exhibiting their white power and privilege over many centuries.  White Americans started out as a minority in this nation and yet have managed to populate this entire country, almost wiping out the Native American Indian culture.  White Americans have dominated politics, literature, media, and entertainment for years, have exhibited many atrocities on this land, none as great as the atrocities than to that of the Black, African American men and women, and yet somehow still seem to find ways to blame others for the demise of American culture and the American dream.

There is this need in our society to create a good people versus a bad people, a hero and a villain, a sinner and a saint, a better than or worse than, a systemic hierarchy, whether it is true or not.  As in all things, there are always exceptions, there are always some truths.  But when those truths are watered down, diluted or distorted to benefit another person’s ego or personal agenda, this is when we begin to create an oppressed, disturbed and dysfunctional society.  We begin to honor the lies and deny the truths.

Here’s the thing, no matter how many lies are told, how much oppression is exhibited, how many times the legal records, history books, or the legal system tries to distort the facts, sooner or later, the truth will reveal itself.  A lie can never change who we are, from the time we enter this world from the time we bid this world adieu.

The truth is White Americans (both males and females) have also protested and fought for the rights and equal treatment of all humans.  This has been documented and we know this to be true.  There is never an all or nothing in our society.  That’s that great thing about living in a free society and country.  But, as many who have fought for the protection of our equal liberty in our free society, there have been just as many fighting against it.

As humans, having a voice and sharing our voice is as old as life itself.  From early biblical stories to folk lore to early American history, speaking up for things that matter to us, especially when we feel we have been forgotten or neglected or oppressed is a natural human instinct.  We all have the same basic needs and our voice helps us attain that need.