June 20, 2016

When Easy Is Anything But Easy

I’m not taking the easy way out today.

Easy would be ranting about how my post from last year at this time was about a mass murder and this year, this week is only a week after another mass murder, and today is the day that legislation controlling firearms was voted down even as funerals are being held for people killed in the latest mass murder.

At this point, Easy would force me into a corner, curled up in the fetal position while sucking my thumb.

Instead, I’ll tackle more palatable topics because there's just too much insanity right now and I'm just unable to can with Easy.
Thank you, Awesomely Luvvie for creating the mug we all need at one time or another.

What's Easier than Easy? Things like...

Where Did My Eyebrows Go and When Did They Leave?
No really. I used to have eyebrows. Like, on each side of my face.
Sometimes they’d convene in the middle, conversating and strategizing ways for them to be the best, most efficient unibrow they could be. On occasion, they’d crawl down the bridge of my nose, bid my eyes hello and then scurry back to their respective sides.

Then one day, I looked at a picture taken when I was feeling pretty darn good about myself, but there was something wrong. I grabbed a flashlight on shone it on the image. Surely dim lighting was to blame. I enlisted my daughter to hold the picture an additional foot away from my vision because sometimes it’s just the angle at which you see things…right?

It wasn’t the lighting and it wasn’t the angle. My eyebrows had taken leave. They had given up on the Unibrow Dream, packed their bags and left my face without so much as a Having-A-Good-Time-Wishing-You-Were-Here postcard.

The Eyebrows Quite Most Possibly Most Likely Relocated to Dormant Hair Follicles Elsewhere On Your Person
Like the ones you find in…um, let’s just say: A FACE. In particular those dormant follicles found on the cheeks and/or immediately above the lip and/or under the chin.

All I’m saying is if your eyebrows have taken leave and you want to find them, assume an I’m bored posture. Put an elbow on your computer desk. Go ahead. Do it. Now, nestle your chin in your open palm. No one will suspect a thing. They’ll just think you’re exhausted which is nothing out of the ordinary anyway.

Now...did you just hear yourself say OW or What in the what was THAT or WHY IS A HAIR GROWING OUT OF THE SIDE OF MY FACE? Congratulations on finding your prodigal eyebrows! They live there now. Get used to swapping out your bikini depilatory budget for the facial depilatory budget.

The Eyebrows Most Definitely were in Collusion with Leg Hair
Truthfully, Leg Hair and I have never gotten along, but we forged a delicate detente in my teen years: I’d shave Leg Hair at 7:00am and Leg Hair would return WITH A THICKNESS approximately three and a half hours later. Then we’d repeat the cycle the next day. Shave. Thickness. Shave. Thickness.

But apparently, Leg Hair and the Eyebrows conspired unbeknownst to me. Per our detente, It was the normal shave cycle when I discovered the Eyebrows were missing. Even as I lamented, mourned and pleaded for Eyebrows’ return – or at least a We-miss-you communication, Leg Hair was all Whatever. We’re in reverse mortgage, Lady. We are done with the thickness and the shaving.

And that was it. Leg Hair only drops in once or twice a month now. I don’t miss Leg Hair; but please, let’s keep that our secret, otherwise Leg Hair may break the d├ętente and collude with dormant face/lip/chin follicles; and things could get uglier. And HAIRIER.

Funny how this hairy stuff is more palatable than the reality that matters right now. And sad.

And sad when I stop and think that buying stock of Nair and eyebrow wax to fund our retirement and my daughter’s college fund is easier than thinking about where we are as a country right now, and where we could possibly be in the future.

I guess sometimes Easy is anything but.

June 12, 2016

Born on Third Base

Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.
- Barry Switzer

Whether that quote evokes thoughts of privileged heirs claiming they worked for every penny they've earned, or if it calls to mind superior attitudes of a people or nation that have forgotten rough-edged forebears who laid their foundation, it smacks of an embarrassing truth.

No one is immune to adopting this selective remembrance or air of superiority.

Including me.

Fifteen years ago, God saw I needed a life partner and in His time, He gave me one -- a guy who happens to be white. Together we made the most beautiful, talented, kind-hearted baby who is now a teen. While color wasn't an issue between us, or in my or my husband's family, the world outside our familial bubble did have issues here and there, but we handled it.

We'd talk about our collective history and reconcile the past against the present. We'd talk about how even though our daughter's African side of the family was riddled with slavery, rape, lynching and discrimination of the day, that these facts could co-exist alongside with her European side of the family.

As a family, we understood history was history in all its glory and crappiness; and we overcame it. Our open communication and our beautiful, talented, kind-hearted teenager was proof of said overcoming. We were evolved. We were the model interracial family.

Weren't we fancy.

Then, sometime -- today, maybe it was yesterday - whenever it was, I heard myself bellow for my husband. He responded Whaaaat! It was the kind of Whaaaat that people scream through their nasal passages with a throaty grind to let you know you're getting on their last good nerve.

For a minute, my bellow, his Whaaaat cracked me up: I mean, look at us with our open communication with our beautiful offspring, and we were still being all normal and married and secure while getting on each other's nerves and stuff.

But someplace in the back of my mind, I knew June 12 was coming up. That date meant something; but I couldn't remember exactly what. Was our daughter supposed to be somewhere? Was my husband working late and I was supposed to be home early from work? Was there a submission deadline? WAS IT FATHER'S DAY?

In a bona fide panic, I desperately Googled June 12.

June 12, 2016: National Loving Day. The day to commemorate the 1967 ruling of Loving v The State of Virginia that said mixed marriages - like ours - were no longer illegal because Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who had to leave their state or FACE JAIL TIME BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO BE MARRIED TO EACH OTHER, said enough is enough and took their case to the Supreme Court.

Mildred and Richard Loving

It was the day that put our present day lives into motion -- from my bellowing, to my husband's irritated nasal response, to the person my husband and I created, to our fancy intellectual, open-communication, model interracial family -- and secured it not only for us, but for our descendants too.

Us, being all fancy.
I don't know how the date slipped my mind.

But I do know that we were born on Third Base. We didn't hit a triple. Richard and Mildred  Loving did.

May 28, 2016

Lessons Learned From My Optician Gig

Now look right here, I said, touching the space between my brows. Picking up the t-shaped millimeter ruler, I looked directly into the eyes of my patient and measured.

The t-shaped millimeter ruler had a name, but I still don't know the technical name for it even twenty-some-odd years later. It was a tool used by opticians like me way back in the day who worked at optical stores. The place I worked was a franchised shop in the neighborhood mall.

Optician training was trial by fire, but within three years, I learned the difference between progressive lenses and bi-focals; the difference between base curves and diameters; I knew how to UV coat an unfinished lens, set it into the chuck, run the edger and rotate the lenses into the frame according to an axis dependent upon the patient's astigmatism.

Impressed yet?

Of course, there were other things I learned too, unrelated to the fine art of Opticianing. (And no, that is not a technical term. I just made up that word.)

Leave the front lights off and stay in the back of the store until 5 minutes before opening.
Maybe 3 minutes. This is why: in the wonderful world of malls, when a store's doors are closed at 9:52 and the store opens at 10:00, people are drawn like moths to flame at the mere sight of fluorescent lights and an employee standing there in plain sight. The masses will stand outside the doors, begging, clamoring -- pleading -- for whatever is being sold, even if they don't need it or even know what is being sold.
Stay in back. Stay in the dark.
Artwork by My Daughter. #MomBrag

Hexes are Harmless
At my franchised optical shop, special frames or lenses would be ordered from corporate headquarters. The goods would be delivered on a specific date and time each week. This is exactly what I explained to The Hexer. She, in turn, showed up a day early, ready to pick up her glasses which were still enroute to our store from corporate.
The Hexer wanted no part of my exasperated gentle reminder/explanation. Her head briefly exploded and she then eerily calmed down, narrowed her eyes and hissed: The blood of Christ be on you and your children!
I felt a little like Mister in The Color Purple.

Maybe The Hexer believed it was a hex, but I'm a Christian, so um...Yeah. Either way, she finally got her glasses on the appointed day and time, and I was no worse for the wear.

Everyone has a Doppleganger
In the middle of my song and dance about the seasonal frames and lenses sale, I noticed my elderly patient had zoned out and was smiling at her husband. I stopped and asked whether she had questions. Instead she asked her husband Who does she remind you of? ("she" meaning ME) Without missing a beat, her husband replied: Cousin Dodie.
We all laughed, and they ended up ordering glasses. When they came to pick them up, they brought in a picture of Cousin Dodie. Was Dodie even black? Nope. Was she my doppelganger? Absolutely. Chances are, you've got one too.

People Don't See Color When They Need to See
She had Title Nineteen -- a kind of government entitlement to cover vision needs. I had always made a point of making sure anyone using that benefit didn't feel shame or embarrassment. I made sure to be discreet when showing her the velvety black box containing the restricting frame selection from which she could choose under her particular entitlement. And I could tell she appreciated it...until she said:

Wait. Are you black?

I paused for a moment and then answered her question with a question:

Do you still want the glasses if I am?

Turns out she did.

May 8, 2016

Expecting a Baby - How This Mom's Mother Day Began

It's Mother's Day, an appropriate time to not only give a nod Heavenward to moms who have gone on before us, but to also acknowledge how we got here as moms. And by we, I mean women, men, adoptive moms, aunties, uncles, grandpas, grandmas and a whole host of people whose path brought them to motherhood.

It's in this spirit I share a story I had the pleasure of telling at Milwaukee's fourth annual Listen To Your Mother Show.

Because it's all about the journey; and sometimes, despite all the preparation we think we've done, we find out that getting to the destination we call Motherhood is half the fun...depending on your definition of fun.

Expecting A Baby
13 years ago, my husband and I found out we were going to have a baby. Actually, we were expecting a baby. I was going to have the baby. I’d be a first time mom; and my body - this baby’s first home.
When the doctor gave us the news, I thought to myself:
There’s a tiny human inside of me.
Can it hear me?
Is it bored?
Do I tiptoe while it’s napping or sit perfectly still?
How do I even know when it’s napping?
CLEARLY, I was clueless. 

So this clueless mother-to-be began reading the Rosetta Stone of pregnancy otherwise known as What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
I was like a college student cramming for finals. I read that book first thing in the morning, during my lunch break, before dinner, after dinner, memorized passages and highlighted paragraphs.
And soon, I was thee subject matter expert on all things pregnancy. And like a schoolgirl who makes everything about her latest crush, I could turn any topic of conversation into a pregnancy factoid:
Sorry about your headache. You know…headache discomfort reminds me of the tightening of the abdomen that happens as pregnant women approach their delivery date…
Yeah. That.
But there are things What To Expect When You’re Expecting doesn’t to tell you to expect.
Like labor. It says you should expect pain. Like it’ll just be good old generic pain. It doesn’t tell you this pain feels like the tiny yet-to-be born person is twisting on your innards.
It also says you should expect pain will increasingly make it hard to carry on conversations. Like you’ll be chatting it up with Jimmy Fallon while you’re in labor. The fact is you won’t want to carry on conversations because the tiny yet-to-be born person is twisting on your innards.
It tells you to pack a bag for the hospital in advance to make check-in easier. Packing was easy, but the hospital check-in was another thing not covered in the book.
We arrived at the emergency room, and soon, I was in a backless hospital gown reclining on a labor and delivery room bed. An admitting nurse came in to gather information.
Name? Rochelle Fritsch
Address? I gave her our address.
And you are? . . . Tired of this tiny yet-to-be-born-person twisting on my innards?

What was she getting at, anyway? She went on…

You’re black...right? Uh yeah…last time I checked.

Now on to my husband.
You’re the baby’s father? Yes.
Same address? Yes.
And you are?...Seriously wondering if we’re being punk’d right now.

My husband responded: white.
And the baby will be?

Now, what I really wanted to say was:
Healthy; or,
Loved; or,
Someone who will make the world a better place.

Instead I said “We’re starting this and the baby isn’t even here yet?”
I’ll just say both black and white.
The tiny human twisting on my innards didn’t get here by immaculate conception. My husband didn’t click his heels together and magically make a baby for me to birth. We both were…involved in making the baby, so yes the baby is both!
Soon, I was pushing. As suggested in Chapter 9 “Labor and Delivery” my husband was my coach. With the final push, there was another thing the book didn’t cover.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting says nothing about this – the announcement your husband makes, as if by surprise, when he witnesses the very moment your child is born.
He’ll say  IT’S…IT’S A…BABY!!!”
Which is all we wanted our admitting nurse to understand in the first place.