Friday, July 26, 2013

Two wrongs can make a right

In the wave of public discourse and debate about everything and anything I have come to the conclusion that people really struggle with being wrong......about anything. You hear things like, "I'm not an expert, but..." or "even though this never happened to me let me tell you how....."  It's really interesting. And sad. And, well, dangerous. At least if we are looking for progress.

I am forever grateful to my cherished friend who taught me how brilliantly things can turn out if being right is not your primary motivation; that would be saved for making things right.

Imaging agreeing to meet a stranger that had publicly called you out, by name, in the middle of the newspaper! Imagine initiating the meeting. I can't. But she did.

Years ago I I found myself especially frustrated with local school politics. I mean anybody with no training could sit on a board of education that is responsible for millions of dollars in tax money. (ummmm, this is still the case.......anybody, with no training,....I digress)

After watching some of the less than stellar candidates talk from space on their body better used for sitting my frustration grew. The pressure cooker exploded when I saw an unadvertised removal of a voting location. A location with one of the largest minority populations in the town. And like an explosion I moved into to action. The gall......the nerve......I took it straight to the newspaper! (this was before the Internet was popping) I wrote my scathing letter and named names! Yes I did. The blondie that was the President of the Board had to take responsibility! I mean, she is the leader!

I don't want to but I should mention now that I had never been to a board meeting a day in my life. I only followed through the press and local get togethers. (I know what you are thinking........tsk, tsk, tsk) Ummmm, I should also mention, I never reached out to ask for more information. I mean, why would I do that.....I was hot! And rightfully so! Changes were being made and incompetent people were going to walk right onto the board uncontested and no one would even be able to vote because the polling location was closed!!! I reread my missive, licked my envelope and my letter was sent!

A few days later I answered my phone to a cheerful voice asking me to breakfast at the local mall's  Friendly's. (a very public It was the President of the Board. OMG. Stop. Right. There! Stop. I need to tell you that in the morning's paper was my letter with a huge outline, center page, top fold.............yep. It's there. All of it. Even her name!!! OMG OMG OMG

Breathe. The voice was cheerful enough. And, I am a tough chick! I'll go to your breakfast lady! Heeheee.....that's what I kept telling myself to stop my knees from shaking. And off I went.

We met. She was, well, just like her voice. Cheerful. And she was smart and clearly committed to the children in our town and them all getting a quality education. We talked for over 2 hours. In conclusion we agreed that the closing of the polling station could have been better communicated (but it did need to close....sadly, with all of those folks living within walking distance less than 2 % of them came to vote...smh) and that I could have reached out to get more info before going to the paper.

Never had I felt so bad about moving on something I was so passionate about. And while some of what I was feeling was right......I had gotten it all wrong.

So why, I asked her, did you ask me to have breakfast with you? Her reply has been one of my life's greatest lessons and her continued friendship one of my life's greatest gifts.

She told me she knew I must care deeply to take the time to share my thoughts. She said she was willing to listen and perhaps see things differently and if needed, do things differently. She said, "passionate women must support each other......I wanted to know who you were."

She then quickly persuaded me to put my own name on the ballot and I went on to be elected and later hold the title of President. Sometimes you can not just talk about what you want to see you must do some of the work.

Her ability to remove her ego from a situation and really look for progress is one of the best examples I have ever seen. Almost 20 years of friendship later I know that if there is a battle to be waged, and surely if it has to do with children, she is the one I want on my side.........leading the charge.

Tomorrow I will join her for an overdue visit, and we will guessed it, with breakfast. Being right is important to 1, making things right is important to many.
Real talk! Follow me on Twitter @realtalknic

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is your backpack of privilege weighing you down?

While one man was found not guilty I was overcome by shock and disbelief not only at the verdict, but the divide that still exists. And how close the dissension is to my own heart.

Just like social media was used to draw attention to a teen being murdered and the shooter not being arrested folks took to FB and Twitter to share their reactions. This is where it became personal and painful. National news is one thing and Florida law is one thing but personal friendships is quite another. Giving space for hurtful and racists comments? Hmmmmm, does that make you guilty of sharing the same thoughts?  Do you hold everyone guilty by association? Time for me to delete some and take an inventory on the rest. But 1st..........

When faced with disregard and flippance from those I care about I don't immediately charge it to racism. In fact, in most cases I charge this bad behavior to privilege. This invisible backpack of privilege we all wear, some fuller than others. An inventory of this pack reveals so much. Let's look inside:
1. Always treated respectfully by the law? Yes? Go ahead put that in!
2. Never been hungry? Ok, great. Add this.
3. Quality education? WOW. make room, in this goes!

The list goes on and on and based on experiences, economics, and in some cases geography many are lucky enough to have a bag that runs over. But that privilege can be a burden as well as a gift. A bag so full as to not allow you to be compassionate or understand how someone else may feel. A bag so full that you are content in thinking a young minority teen must have been a thug because surely our good friend the watchman didn't shot him for no reason. sigh.

I tell folks often, my lovely home and great job? These don't go to school with my son. Nor are they on the passenger seat when he gets pulled over by the police. My love for them? Well, that's not there either. That is why it is so critical to connect and demand and remind folks to make room in their privilege bags for understanding and compassion. To throw out judgement every time you realize it has sneaked its way inside.

History shows us what happens when we don't do this. Holocausts and was friends and neighbors that turned on each other. A survival of the fittest environment brings out what is ugliest in man. In Rwanda alone, 800,000 killed in 100 days. In some cases even priests turned against their own congregations. 

So when I hear people say, "what is the big deal?" or "look at his FB page, that kid was no angel" and these comments go unchecked I want to remind the whole world, It is not the action of this one man, this one case that will be our unraveling. It is the inaction of all the rest. And that is real talk. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


There's a party going on right here....a last ..ok, ok, you know the words. And it seems like I am singing that song all the time. We love to entertain. Any occasion is a good enough occasion to celebrate. Sunny day? Let's party. Rainy day? Let's celebrate. The more the merrier.

But this holiday had me feeling anxious. The list was growing longer, folks I didn't know. And I am a worrier. I worry about things that may never happen but I cannot turn it off. Like a pesky leak it just doesn't stop and it seeps into the corners of my mind.

A few years ago we readied the house for a party, our 1st in this home. It was picture perfect down to the napkins and flowers and scented candle in the bathroom. Sometime during the evening the candle was dropped and the toilet seat burned. (even a reader here for the 1st time knows that I cannot make this up) Yes, the brand new house toilet seat cover marred with brown burns! I found this the next day doing my after party assessment and clean up. Lord I talked about this incident. I fumed over it. I was as hot as the flame that burned it! And....I am writing about it now. lol It scarred me more than the seat cover. It wasn't the damage as much as no one telling me. I felt taken advantage of...and occasionally that incident creeps into my mind and lives there, rent free, causing mayhem!

The guest list was growing longer and I was getting anxious. I will watch the pool like a hawk....what if the children can't swim? Ugh. I will watch the floors like a hawk....surely they won't dry off coming in. I will watch the food like a hawk, what if there isn't enough. Finally, I realized....I am not a hawk! lol
And so on this Independence Day I declared my own Independence from worry!

I believe that love is in the details. I like to make everything just so. But sometimes love is in letting go.....and I did. These are a few of the things I tried for the 1st time:

1. Let people bring things. Yep, I said it. It goes against every controlling fiber in my body but it's ok. Let them bring things and make room on the counter for all of it. So what if it doesn't match. Fit it in!

2. Let them take things! Yep....don't hide the foil. Put it out. Help them wrap. My inner dialogue around wrapping things to go has always been muddied. I have been victim to the ferocious wrapper that packs full platters up before the 1st guest arrives and my nerves have been irked ever sense. One bad apple shouldn't keep all that food in my house long past when it's appealing. SO....wrap, and send it off. Double up. At the end of the party it makes clean up so easy!

3. Let the towels hang on the fence and the red cups litter the lawn. I know, I know. The nerves in my neck start to twitch. That is so not what it must look like in Martha Stewart's back yard. But hey, this isn't her back yard and while I do sweep the scene on clean up runs I didn't become my normal obsessed with it and I am still alive today. Amazing! lol

4. Be present. I realize that with all I do to prepare for gatherings I am rarely "present" at them. My mind is on all of the details and possibilities that may need my attention. This time I sat down and stayed awhile. I got to know some new things about a nephew I hadn't see in a while. I made a baby cry and shushed him back to peace. I held my mother's hand. God, when was the last time I did that.

In all of this I remembered the reason I love to entertain so much. While I can get dreamy over the right invite, and I have been know to swoon over table settings, I love my friends and family and want as many opportunities to connect with them as possible. When schedules are hectic I love that our home is always a connection point; a place where it's safe, and fun, and familiar. And may even see fresh flowers and a magazine ready cocktail spread! Happy Summer! Let the celebrations continue! Real talk!
Getting ready to fill up. 1st guests have already hopped in the pool