November 2, 2016

Still Hanging On


Funny how we hang onto relationships, habits, things…one-sided conversations when words spoken tumble through the air and waft like a feather into un-hearing.

That’s how I feel about you. I’m hanging onto you.

I throw stray thoughts – some spoken, some unspoken – in your direction. You know what I’m talking about: the thoughts and mumblings that pop up on birthdays, holidays and the in between spaces. And you respond with annoying silence and a comforting steadiness.

I imagine the stories you could tell about the nervous first-time mother who picked you – you specifically – just because you were you.

Nearly sixty years ago, that first-time mother picked you because you didn’t have sharp corners. She’d later say you were perfect because you were just the right height to support little people who’d be liable to fall at any moment and gentle enough to break the inevitable falls without damage.

Three babies followed the first and I wonder what conversations you heard that mom having with her husband about the other babies, with the other babies…and with herself. You still bear stains from shoe polish the last baby found, and unattended for a brief moment, opened and spilled.

In your 57 years, you’ve lived at the center of four different living rooms. You’ve known family who I scrape my memory to remember or even identify from pictures. You know the sound, tenor, timbre, pitch and rasp of their voices.

Now you’re in the center of my living room, my life. I know you’ve seen the ebb and flow of life. Its losses, joy, indifference, passion and silence. I know you could probably predict the phase I’m in right now as if it’s a predictable B-movie you’ve seen a thousand times before.

Because you have seen it before at least a thousand times over. Just with different people with slightly different paths. And I’m sure you’d tell me that if you could only talk.

Doesn't matter. I'm still hanging onto you because I can't let you go.

You know way too much.

The coffee table my mom bought 57 years ago, now in my living room with leftover Halloween goodies.





NaBloPoMo November 2016

July 30, 2016

This Year's Check-Up

The clock’s minute hand in the doctor’s office echoes as I wait clad in those flimsy paper gowns hastily designed for privacy. My feet swing back and forth nervously off the examination table's side.

Soon enough there is a courtesy knock, a Hello and the doctor emerges. Just a few family history questions, says the doctor glancing at my chart.

I see here you have a daughter. I nod and smile. What I’m about to ask isn’t just for our records, but for your daughter too – there may be hereditary conditions of which she should be aware.

That hits me hard, and I volunteer information in rapid succession: Well, my mom, grandmother and great aunt died of cancer. I’m also realizing my mom dealt with depression, sometimes I struggle too. I make sure to watch what I eat – kind of – because people are overweight in my…STOP. STOP NOW the doctor interrupts.

My feet haven’t stopped their nervous swing, and I shrink into a ball of bewilderment and irritation.

The doctor continues, This is too much – cancer, depression, weight issues. Ms. Fritsch, think about it: this is absolutely frightening! Is there anything uplifting – or at least not so dramatic -- in your family history? My mind swims so fast with outrage and confusion that I can’t even spit out a word. All I can think is:

Dude, you’re supposed to be helping me – and by extension – helping my daughter. You asked for my family history, and it happens to include cancer, depression and weight issues. You think I like owning up to all of these risk factors that could put my daughter in peril? Help me help her so I can act sooner rather than later.

Settle down. That whole conversation never happened.

Although a form of that very conversation is happening right before our eyes, and it has been happening for generations.

Every four years, our nation gets a check-up. Flag pins, flag hats, flag cakes everything flag and patriotic is waved by folks vying for political office. We, the people, stop for a moment and test the nation’s blood pressure, heart rate and other vitals.

If there are odd growths, we take a biopsy or x-ray in hopes they aren’t malignant or metastasizing. Sometimes we demonstrate, or protest, or work with our elected officials to excise the abnormality.

Sometimes someone speaks to draw attention to a risk factor, and like every MDA telethon, they reassure us that while progress has been made, there is still work to do to eradicate the disease. Which is what FLOTUS did so eloquently when she said this:


She was acknowledging a risk factor within the nation’s history, but at the same time, pointing to progress on beating the collective illness.

Yet there were cries of Slavery wasn’t so bad or Move on and that’s just history.

Seriously.

And that’s the point. It is history. Our history.
From The Trail of Tears, to Jim Crow, to five thousand lives lost to lynching, to chattel slavery so horrific and entrenched, the only way I can trace my lineage is to refer to the will of the man who owned my family; to housing restrictions, to a segregated military up until the mid-1940s, to resettlement of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, to voting restrictions -- y’all, our risk factors are HIGH. 

It's crazy to glaze over risk factors in your family like cancer, depression, obesity, 
alcoholism or any other disease, and brush off the possibility it might be passed down.

It's just as crazy to glaze over, gloss up or ignore the frightening part of our nation’s history in political conversations, blogs like this one or, for heaven’s sakes – our kids’ history books -- in hopes it will erase these risk factors altogether.

The real question is whether we address our national risk factors during this year’s doctor visit, or let them remain unattended and a potential full-blown disease for the next generation.

July 15, 2016

Seven Days


Dear Citizens of the World:

The past couple weeks have been a lot. Really.

I’m not here to shake a finger in your face and tsk-tsk you, but geez, folks, I need air. AIR.

Can we please have seven straight days of no mass shootings, no public executions, no drone strikes and no conversations dominated by deafness and shouting?

Please. It’s just. Seven. Days.

We don’t have to hold hands and sing Kum-ba-yah. We don’t have to like the same music or even pray to the same God. Really we don’t.

But can we please see each other as human beings?

If we can do that, just think of the possibilities:

Maybe the hungry might not be so hungry for a week because we’ll feed them; and we'll feed them because we’ll see them as starving human beings instead of The Hungry.

Maybe we’ll rally around the homeless, give them shelter, and help them reclaim their God-given dignity because we'll see them as human beings who are homeless instead of seeing them as The Homeless.

Or, maybe our words and actions will finally spring from a font of understanding that we are all traveling a common journey as human beings, instead of our doings and sayings being rooted in fears, biases and insecurities.

Maybe.

Maybe it could happen.

Then again, maybe it won’t happen. Not even for seven days.

But that won’t stop me from dreaming about it.

Sincerely,

je suis epuise’
(translated: I Am Exhausted)


July 11, 2016

Enough Fireworks, Already

From shoulder to floor, he stands a little less than two feet tall. He is small, cuddly and a bit insecure. He is our fur-baby, Charley.

Charley is no fan of fireworks, so Fourth of July weekend was traumatic for him, as it always is. I do what I can to ease the anxiety from periodically checking on him during our backyard cookouts, to letting him use our basement as a bunker, to closing all windows and doors, to just holding him when he naps.

Because I'm THAT person.
The weeks following official fireworks are somewhat easier on the poor little guy, but not completely. Neighborhood kids and adults occasionally let off bottle rockets, firecrackers and fireworks that briefly light up the night sky.

Charley tattles on the pyrotechnic amateurs with a strange, guttural growl and a quick bark. I then repeat the shuttering, closing and holding until peace reigns again.

Lately my fur-baby, however, actually meanders into the very rooms where I've left windows open. It's as if he's waiting for the pops and crackles whose sounds are larger than his tiny body. He gets upset just the same and I lead him away from the noise and back into the quiet.

We repeat the drill over and over. Silly precious little dog.

I mean, WHY? Why go into a room where it is loud, menacing and more than you can handle?

The past week taught me that I can be a lot like Charley.

As much as social media has an outpouring of support for #BlackLivesMatter and the latest victims of public executions, it also harbors counter-sentiments, justifications and outright bigotry.

These sentiments cross my timeline every now and then, and each time I read them, I leave deflated and sometimes disappointed in these thoughts lurking in the minds and hearts of some people within my social media circles.

And I guess those same people are probably disappointed in me too.

Either way, I've decided I'm smarter than my Charley. Until I'm stronger in heart and mind, I'm making a conscious effort to stay out spaces that drain and deplete; and, to live in blissful ignorance of -- well, the blissful, willful ignorance of people.

If you're feeling like I'm feeling, I encourage you to hop over to my friend Alexandra's blog and read her piece Because We Need to do Better. Her piece isn't about hand-wringing, it's about taking steps forward and problem-solving. It's really good: READ IT.

Charley's right about one thing though: sometimes the fireworks are just too much.


July 8, 2016

Simple Gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.
-Elder Joseph Brackett

The television is off and tragic reports continue without my attention or eyes.

Twitter is still tweeting assorted fact-checkers, trolls and encouragers alike and continues to do so without me scrolling.

Facebook is buzzing about lives mattering, hashtags, apologies, defending and continues to do so whether I check notifications or not.

Right now, for my sanity and hope, I'll relish in the simple things and pray Elder Joseph Brackett was right.

Simple is the road that leads home

Simple is the color purple.

Simple is a good meal and good conversation.

Simple is blowing bubbles with your dad.

Simple is haircuts at home.

Simple is knowing what we need.

Simple is love...even when waves are crashing.









July 7, 2016

We Used to Send Postcards


I pretend to be a tourist and poke around in one of the mall’s tourist kiosks. The tri-level display turnstile is adorned with them – postcards. Postcards tourists will send back home or save as keepsakes. The scenes vary, but all highlight landmarks and historical markers.

The messages vary, but the common sentiment woven throughout is We’re having fun in and we’re kinda proud of it.


Seems we’ve been sending postcards for darn near an eternity.

Even when scenes and messages were dark.

Men, women and children posed around mangled human beings.

How cold does one’s blood have to had run to purchase these picture postcards, buy postage and mail them to friends and family?

To say We’re having fun and we’re proud of it?

To willingly be captured in these scenes, to willingly be closely associated with the inhumanity and hate mustered to create these scene in the first place.

I’d like to think we are better and more sophisticated than that now, but I’m beginning to believe the only thing better and more sophisticated about us is the technology we use to record inhumanity. Now we capture it by cell phone video, dash cam or body cam.

But the result is the same.

More often than not, we see a human being in the process of dying – right in front of our eyes. Often – too often – it’s a brown human being whose life is expiring during police encounters when they are: selling cigarettes, running, lying dead in the street, sleeping in a park, selling CDs or driving with a broken taillight.

And now, we’re even privy to dying cries and heartbreaking last words:
I can’t breathe
Help me, I need help
Why am I being arrested
Officer, why did you shoot me
I’m just reaching for my ID, sir

Our new postcards even come with rationale for scenes and sounds:
They should’ve complied.
They had a record.
There was more to it than we know.
What about black on black crime
That's only one side of the story.

As a brown person who has brown and white friends and family, and as a human being, the rationales fall flat on my ears and in my heart.

There is no degree of incompliance, no record long enough, no evidence stacked high enough, no story complex enough, or no false equivalency to justify or distract from the killing of a human being.

Right in front of our eyes.

I don’t claim to know what the solutions are, and I don’t know how to help people understand.

I’m just flummoxed, sad and drained…and tired of our postcards.

July 1, 2016

Let the Record Reflect: Trusting My Gut

My gut is all I have. This doesn’t discount my family, friends or my faith, because my gut instinct is tied inextricably to all of the above. It’s the second voice that whispers a welcome or a warning in the interest of keeping family, friends and faith intact.

Teaching my daughter to trust her own gut is critical. I won’t always be here to give her the answers she needs. It’s gut-wrenching because I want to give her the right answers, but I know if I do that, she’ll never learn to trust her gut, or make decisions that grow into convictions.

Most of the time, I end up sprawling myself strategically along the sidelines, allowing a toe or a foot or a half-shin to cross over into her decision-making territory while I pray she hears her gut and God’s voice and listens to them both.

You’d think I was an expert at gut-listening-gut-heeding.

You’d be wrong.

Let the record reflect that I turned a blind eye, deaf ear and mute tongue during the relationship that was anything but good for me. My gut had turned hoarse from screaming to deaf ears for five long years.

Let the record reflect that I did listen to my gut in a different relationship – a healthy one – although one without a promise of future stability. I hated my gut for pushing me to ask the million dollar question after two and a half years in: Are we ever gonna get married? We weren’t. We didn’t. He was miserable about it and so was I.

Let the record reflect that years later, my gut elbowed me in the gut about a cute, quirky, intellectual friend-of-a-friend I met by happenstance. Then I loved my gut. That guy’s been my husband, parent-partner, advisor, friend, entertainer and protector for nearly fifteen years now.

Let the record reflect there was a time when I allowed the almighty dollar to drown out my gut’s urging. While my gut, not completely unlike the Amityville Horror house hissed GET OUT of that job. I was like, Shut up, Gut. I have diapers to buy, tuition to pay and a perfect childhood to create. Later, my gut shook its head with a winsome, relieved smile when I finally left that job, a shell of myself, forty pounds heavier and world-weary.

Let the record also reflect that I ended up landing in a good job, with good people and where I learned to relegate the almighty dollar to not-so-almighty status. But I’m still not sure how my gut felt about it all because I was in too much of a hurry to get back to full-time work to listen.

Let the record finally reflect that as good of place, job and people, my gut poked, prodded and toddler-whispered which is basically talking out loud into someone's ear while slobber flies everywhere:

I DON’T THINK THIS IS FOR YOU.

Seriously, Gut? SHADDUP. Shaddup NOW, because I’ve only been here three months. THREE!

My gut rolled its eyes and I rolled my eyes right back.

Then I reviewed the record.

My gut wasn’t smug, but the look it gave me made me stop and think of all the times I didn’t listen to it the first time around.

I decided this time, right now, at this age of clocking in at nearly the half-century mark, I will listen to my gut the first time it poked, prodded and whispered (outside of the time I listened to my gut about that one guy).

So, here’s to the new adventures and conversations my gut and me will have about whatever the future holds.

Cheers!

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.
WELL, DUH.
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.



May 2, 2016

Bus Stories From the Sidelines and the Stage


Nearly twenty years ago, I climbed aboard the city bus I always took to get home. I said hello to the driver and smiled at a lady sitting across the aisle. As the ride continued, I could feel her eyes on me. Staring.

You’re The Babygirl, aren’t you? You’re Geneva’s Babygirl.

Here I was on the brink of 30 years-old, but someone knew that I was The Babygirl from long ago. She was a long-time church member who I didn’t recognize or know.

She began to tell me about my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my only cousin and an aunt and an uncle – all of whom passed long before I was born. The bus rattled on, and I sat open-mouthed as she then told the story of my siblings and me being born.

…and that oldest boy, Geneva nearly missed the Christmas program having him. She went on about my sister’s birth, then my other brother and finally me. …we didn’t even know Geneva was pregnant, and one day she came to church with a baby. That was you.

Past generations told stories face-to-face or experienced them from the sidelines like my bus friend. Nothing about anything I had done hopping on the bus that day earned her endearment; her smile and genuine warmth toward me was purely because she knew my story.

I thought of this as I remembered walking in an auditorium yesterday as a fresh-faced young man held open door. I loved him right away and wanted to hug him because I knew his story.

He’s my friend’s son, and I had never met him before, but I knew him through my friend’s stories and from social media pics (albeit few) of him, as well as his sister. Which is why I had to hold myself back from instinctively hugging him. That would’ve just been creepy.

I felt like what I imagine my bus friend from twenty years ago must have felt when I politely smiled at her from across the aisle.

The irony of it all is that this happened yesterday at Milwaukee’s Listen To Your Mother Show, a nationwide series of shows that give a microphone, a spotlight and a stage to moms and non-moms who tell stories of their motherhood journey.

Photo credit: K. Miller
We told stories – some of them painful, others redemptive and introspective, and still others, funny. The audience connected to our stories, and took away whatever resonated with them personally.

We felt the freedom that goes with telling our personal story and having it be heard, and the opportunity to be known – not defined by -- our occupation, or to whom we're married or if we're married at all.

But I’d like to think yesterday’s storytelling even went beyond that. It fell on ears of people who will know our children through us and love them because of the stories we shared.

Who knows? Maybe one day twenty years from now, our unsuspecting kids will have a bus friend of their own to remind them of the stories that make them who they are.


Preshow Shenanigans

April 21, 2016

Prince Brought Out The Florida Evans In Me

We didn't watch a lot of Good Times in the 1970's because my mom didn't approve of the way it portrayed black families as poor, uneducated and living in substandard housing.


But for whatever reason, we did watch the episode when James Evans, the family patriarch, died.

His wife Florida, true to the strong black woman trope, unflinchingly carried on with life. No tears, only work and shouldering the burden of children in mourning over the loss of their father.

Until...until she broke. She broke not in tears, but in anger.

I was too young to understand the many layers of Florida's anger bursting through the screen that night, but I could feel it; and I can still feel it even now, some forty-odd years later.

Today, I felt Florida's anger when I heard that Prince died. It came to me as an overheard byline while I was about to scoop up the salad I brought for lunch.

Internally, I broke down like Florida:

damn!!!
"Damn, Damn, Damn!!"

But I swallowed it back, and for the rest of the day, I was irritated and stumbling for a reasonable explanation why I was angry over a stranger's death, untimely and unexpected as it was.

The reason hit me in waves as I listened to streamed coverage of his death, his music and celebs interviewed for reaction: his music served as ties that bound me to a different place in my life's arc -- whether or not I realized it then -- that are slowly, but surely being erased.

I saw Purple Rain at Capitol Court Theater. Back then the Capitol Court complex was the place to be. Now, it's just a shadow that hovers in one of the ZIP codes with a high poverty rate. Now, if you're a certain age, you don't even remember Capitol Court because it's been renamed.
It's gone.


Then there was the song Purple Rain. I never understood what it was talking about, and it was always kind of a sleepy song in my head. Yet, when I hear it now, I remember my mom loving it. Outside of Bohemian Rhapsody (because chorale, and she loved chorale) and the video for Atomic Dog (I don't understand it either), there were no pop songs she liked.
But mom's gone too.

And then there's Let's Go Crazy. If I close my eyes, I can still see myself in stocking feet, lashes caked in electric blue mascara under dimmed lights and dancing like a maniac to it with Jenny and John at one of the junior year sock-hops. I didn't have a clue that life's downs (and ups) would knock on my door in as little as eighteen months later.
That invincible feeling: gone like Capitol Court and gone like my mom.

The feelings that whispered security and invincibility to me are slowly fading one by one; but I guess there's something in remembering what they felt like and that they were even there to begin with.

But still: Damn, Damn Damn!!

March 24, 2016

The Least of These


"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

The breeze whispers through open windows on a clear summer day. It carries with it the aroma of freshly cut grass and the lawn mower’s steady drone as my husband paces back and forth, following our backyard’s perimeter.

The drone abruptly stops. In minutes he appears at the back door.

Get out here NOW, he shout-whispers. I race outside following where he leads, praying we’re not looking for detached toe in the grass.

There were no toes, just bunnies.

We coo and fight back every urge to pick up the baby bunnies because we know their mumma will return for them. And she did. Thirty minutes later, they were gone.

*********************

The skies are purplish gray. Scattered spots of orange promise sunshine’s return after the afternoon’s violent windstorm. Sidewalks are littered with snapped branches too weak to cling to their mother trees; and my husband goes out to rake them curbside, each scrape of concrete breaking the eerie silence of the storm’s afterglow.

The scraping abruptly stops. In minutes, he shout-whispers in the front door. Get out here NOW.

This time, I don’t worry about detached toes. He leads, I follow, and he points to the small and hairless baby squirrel siblings, probably blown out of their nest during the storm.

We place them in a makeshift NICU made of Tupperware so they can warm each other.
We station it at the home tree’s base where their mumma can get them. And she did. She scampered down, grabbed a baby, then scampered up, then back down, grabbed another and so on until the NICU was empty.


*********************

That’s a person. Why is she there?
It's past midnight on a subzero night when we see an elderly woman standing motionless behind a parked car. She's wearing a spring coat, is gloveless and her head is protected only by a kerchief.

We stop our car and I get out to talk to her. She isn’t an English speaker, but we know she’s disoriented.

We know her mumma isn’t coming for her.

We bring her in our house and out of the cold, call the police and they help her get back home.

*********************

HELP! HELP!
First it was a scream in my dream, but soon it cuts through my sleep and startles me awake. It’s 4:30 in the morning and I sprint to the living room and blink back the sleep crud to see my husband at the front door.

He’s startled, speaking – questioning loudly to the person – a woman about my age -- who screamed for help.

She says she's having a seizure. Call 911.

I call and he interrupts my conversation with the dispatcher: She’s unconscious.

EMT’s are dispatched. I wait for help with her as she lays unconscious on our threshold. I hear her take short breaths. I know her mumma isn’t coming.

*********************
With so much going on in the world -- in my own community -- so often I wonder What can I do? How can my voice matter? Should I be protesting? Should I be volunteering?

How should I be giving more than I take out of this life?

Then I remember the bunnies on that sunny day, the squirrel siblings after the storm, the immigrant elderly lady in the polar vortex’s grip and the woman – my peer -- who literally showed up on my doorstep.

Of all the backyards, front yards and porches on our block, it was ours they all found and we helped in whatever small way we could.

Maybe part of the answers to my wondering can be found in all of them -- brothers, sisters -- even animals -- in the least of these.