February 23, 2014

What the Commode Said

It came to me in the space between our commode and bathtub, which is about six inches in older, smaller homes like ours. The area rug had been removed to expose the tile floor for its weekly scrubdown. (If you're thinking What type of slovenly person only does this weekly, stop reading here because you're way beyond my pay grade.)

After gathering a plethora of multi-colored, pungent toxins, with my right hand bracing the tub's edge and the left bracing the porcelain throne, I took the knee and began scrubbing, rinsing, re-scrubbing and rinsing again over the pop and crackle of patellas, rubellas, nutellas and other assorted bones.

Soon my forehead was in this tight spot, around three inches from the floor. Geez, it probably looks like I'm praying down here or something. I shook off the thought and craned my neck to inspect the underside of the bowl.

Wait a minute...really? Wasn't I just in a board meeting a couple of weeks ago, spouting off a super-important report in front of super-important people?

Maybe it was the fumes, but I swear that's when the bowl spoke. It said:
Yes, you were in a board meeting. You were all dressed up, and even wore make-up that day, if I remember correctly.
Well, yes that's exactly what I was getting at. I mean --
The commode interrupted: You say you believe in Jesus right?
Are you kidding me? You're bringing up Jesus at a time like this? I'm doing the crappiest job in this house, and you're bringing up...HIM? It's not enough that I feel like the maid  or a servant right now...
Exactly. You believe He was the ultimate servant...right?
I seriously am hating this toilet right now. Yes.
Well, what do servants do? The easy stuff, or the stuff the masters don't want to do?
Rolling my eyes. The stuff no one wants to do.
Now, you got it. Remember when He washed --
My turn to interrupt Yeah, I know: He washed His disciples' stinky feet.
And you want to be like Him?
Yeah. I get your point. Now shut up so I finish up.
Um...if I'm remembering correctly, He did it gladly.
Step at a time, Tidy Bowl, step at a time....
It wasn't the fumes, and it wasn't the toilet. Sometimes God just uses the mundane stuff of life and positions -- in my case a literal position -- to remind us of what He expects us to do for others and the messy-ness involved with those expectations, physical and otherwise...and the spirit in which we're supposed to do it.

Message heard.

But for the record, I'll be transferring bathroom cleaning duty to Jamie and/or Georgia...wouldn't want them to miss those rich reminders which sometimes can only be heard in the space of six inches.

February 17, 2014

The Other Side of Anger

Sometimes second-guessing is a good thing. Yesterday was one of those times.

Jamie read the post in which I borderline ranted about what I perceived as my daughter and her basketball team being racially painted with a broad brush. Even though I don't take back what I said, our conversation was what I needed to self-reflect.

I was angry about Street Ball being used to describe how our daughter's team played, and to an extent - the individuals on the team. Now, in my mind, Street Ball is just code for poor and black. What I didn't know, and what Jamie told me, is that the term can also be used to describe a certain type of aggressive play.
I don't know Rochelle...maybe she was just using the term just for what it is and not any kind of code. Maybe it's just what she really meant. 

I hadn't thought about that. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't.
Maybe she brought her experience with that as a technical term and used it in this particular instance while I, on the other hand, brought my experience of years of race-related slights and run-ins as I heard it.
I'm still sure about what my gut told me at that point in time. But, if I'm being honest, the only known thing are the words I heard. I can't get inside someone's head and know intent

Well, if she didn't mean it in that way, she certainly shouldn't have said what she said within earshot of parents or especially the team who could think it was code.
He agreed and then tossed another maybe:
Maybe she does regret it. I mean, after you said what you did, maybe she walked out of there wishing she had done things differently.

Crap. Maybe she does.
While I'm seething, she could possibly be replaying the whole scenario and wondering what the heck she was thinking.
My gut tells me probably not, but I'm not a psychic and don't play one on TV, so really...truly: I don't know.

Understand that my husband wasn't trying to defend or downplay what happened.. Remember, he's got a stake in this too: our daughter. If I'm the scary momma-bear, then he's Prince Charming liable to turn Mr. Hyde in her defense.

But what Jamie wanted me to do was think -- think about words that will live on in perpetuity in cyberspace. And I did. 

I thought about how I don't want anyone broad-brushing me based on race when they don't know who I am on the inside. You know -- that whole content of character thing. Yet here I was doing that very thing to someone else when the only thing I knew about that person was the name on a coaching roster.
Humbling.

You know, our invisible baggage follows us everywhere we go. It colors (no pun intended) everything -- from how we carry ourselves, to our choice of language and phrases, to how language and phrases fall on our ears, and to how we respond to all of the above.

I guess I had forgotten that even as I was smack dab in the middle of it.

Now, back to the Great Street Ball Incident of 2014: I am still convinced my gut was 99% right about it, as well as my response to it, as is Jamie.

But there's always that 1%...

February 14, 2014

Forgive and...Remember

Does anger have stages? You know, like the five stages of grief?

Maybe there's just two: the Anger itself and Forgiveness. I figure Forgiveness either happens quickly and replaces the anger, or it slowly sidles up to anger and co-exists alongside it.

Forgive and Remember. It can happen.

Right now, I'm angry. Forgiveness is inching its way to my anger but right now, that emotion is so wide, it's not leaving a sliver of space for forgiveness. Not just yet anyway.

Georgia's little school participates in basketball tournaments against other little schools, some suburban and some city-based, like hers.  It's great for these kids to interact with each other, especially since our community is very segregated: whites in one enclave -- many in the suburbs, blacks in another - many in the city and a few sprinkled in the suburbs, then Hispanic/Latinos over there, and Asians over here. 

Tonight, they played a suburban school -- mostly white. Georgia's team is all shades of brown and a few white. But more than anything, all those kids are so girly: some awkward, some gangly, some tween-like chunky, yet others who are still waiting on that adolescent growth spurt.

They played more like a team and less like the Keystone Cops (you should've seen them early in the season) and won. She was ecstatic, we were proud and then...


As we were leaving, we walked past the coach of the losing team when I overheard the coach say to some spectators:

 Oh it was just a lot of street ball, lots of elbows being thrown... 

That was code, I can sniff it out anywhere and I hate it.
The code for Black is Urban.
The code for nigger is Thug.
and
The code for poor and black is Street.

She was calling these girls -- these nice girls who still look to their moms and dads in the bleachers when they score a basket or when they turn an ankle: Street. She was calling my girl -- my baby daughter who has wisdom beyond her years, a kind heart and advanced artistic talent, my baby girl who just got her legs under her at mastering this game: Street.

My face reddened and anger crept up into my shoulders, gripping and tightening. I whipped around, butted into that conversation with an icy cold smile, looked her dead in the eye, and said
I'm quite sure our girls didn't mean it in that way...and your team did play a really good game.
Repeat icy cold smile.

She replied Oh...um...well thank you...and so did your girls.

We got to the car and Jamie said You handled that really well. I mean...you were gracious.

I know I was gracious.

Grace is a practiced art in the face of stuff like this. I'm used to pulling out my gracious after being in this skin for forty-some-odd years. I'm used to things like a waitress asking me to spell my own last name to her before giving my credit card back to me because I don't look like my last name should be Fritsch and I may have stolen it from a bona fide Fritsch.

Yeah, I can be gracious.

And I can be gracious as I worry that my baby girl and those other brown girls out on the court and other girls like them have to learn how to be gracious before they even start high school.

And I can also be angry. Forgiveness will happen eventually...and I'll still remember.


There is another side to this story. This is it.

February 8, 2014

Isn't It Romantic?

It's no secret that I'm no fan of Valentine's Day.

Grocery store card aisles bathed in red and pink give me a nervous twitch. Despite that, each year I find myself standing there on Valentine's Day after work skimming through picked-over cards in a panic. Maybe its because they're all picked over, but it seems the only ones I find are the You are the air I breathe and I can't live without you variety. For whom are these cards written anyway? God?
And do I really want to tell Jamie via Hallmark that I think of him as little more than a glorified ventilator?

Sappy love song lyrics like When we're hungry, love will keep us alive evoke a knee-jerk response of No, when I'm hungry I don't want a big bite of love, I want some food.

Then there are lyrics that, in the name of love, write checks that no one's butt can afford to cash like The Fabulous Thunderbirds'  I would walk ten miles on my hands and knees just to come home and kiss your cheek. Ain't that tough enough?
No, it's not tough. It's a lie at worst and hyperbole at best. I ain't doing that and neither is Jamie. So stop it. Just stop it.

Popping the question scenes at this most romantic time of the year makes me wince too. Seems it's all about atmosphere, mood and butterflies and he-went-to-Jared!
The practical side of me can't help but cringe and wonder if the asker and the tearful accepter understand that a yes means both people are going to be together. Forever. That there aren't any more Hey, so I'll give you a call tomorrow. No more anticipation of seeing the person the next day because that person is there the next day...and the day after that...and the day after that...and...
True, there's a security in it all, but you can't tell me that married people (whether or not they'll admit it) sometimes look at the other person and think don't you have someplace else to go?

Now lest you think I'm a crabby, jaded person who doesn't believe in romance, I do. It's just that at this point in time, I define it very differently than the brand pop culture shoves down our throats.
Diamonds? Oh they're pretty enough, but a snow-cleared, gassed-up car sparkles brighter than the blingiest of bling.
Romantic music (Luther Vandross anyone?), can't give me the warm fuzzies like the sound of Let mom sleep in this morning can.
Sweet nothings whispered over an intimate corner table at a cozy restaurant can't hold a candle to the text that says Don't worry about dinner tonight, I've got it handled. Even if said dinner is frozen pizza.
What's more romantic than delousing the bathroom after the kid's violent episode of norovirus? Nothing. Seriously nothing, because the other person says I'll take care of it, just so you don't have to.
And as much as beautiful flowers lift my mood, I'll take a reassuring Everything's gonna be alright when I'm stressed out rather than receive the biggest bouquet of roses.
And that my friends, is reality. Not romance.

You see, romance can't help but erode and reveal reality -- the hard stuff, the day-to-day humdrum routine, including the messy, goopy and stinky business of living.

Romance can't handle any of that.

But real love can and does; and if you can find real love, then you've got something to celebrate on Valentine's Day...and on every other day of the year too.