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!