Friday, December 26, 2014

The Joy of Parenting

The mistakes are endless. If you think you haven’t made any, or that none were made while raising you, you are wrong.

I was older when I had Nick, in my 30s. Still, I made a ton of mistakes. We all do. And of course everyone jumps right in with their corrections.

 “How could you let him roll off the bed?”

“Um, I didn’t let him… it just happened. It was without my permission.”

I knew about babies. I had babysat most of my life and people used to call me a natural mom when my little sister was born and I hovered over her every little move. Once when my mom yelled at her for something like spilling milk, I looked at my mom sternly and said, “She’s just a baby.”  That was a bold move to make with my mother, but she retreated.

When Nick was a few days old I asked the hospital nurse to bring me a bath for him, and she said, “Yes, we will have someone show you how to bathe him.”

I said, “No that’s okay, I know how to bathe him, I don’t need a lesson.” They stood there and watched me anyway. Then ooh'd and aah'd when I didn’t drop or drown him.

I made big mistakes though. I fought with his dad in front of him. I drank and had hangovers and was cranky for no discernible reason. I smoked around him—a lot. When his grandparents treated him like the Prince of Japan, I over corrected and always knocked him down a peg. “No you are not the smartest kid in the world. You’re just very smart.”

When he mowed the lawn, instead of thanking him I would say, “You missed a spot.”  It was thoughtless really. I wasn’t always thinking about self-esteem or self love--or loathing. I just wanted the lawn mowed or the bed made.

“Take your stinky shoes off outside please.”


Please don’t bleed on the carpet, I’ll bring you a Band-Aid outside.


“I’m too tired to play Nick.”

Ding Ding

I quit drinking and smoking by the time he was 4 and 5 respectively.  It helped some, but not for everything. I was less cranky, but still tired. A single mom is always tired, I guess. There are no breaks. There is no, “Go ask daddy to read you a book.”

Once when we were driving down the street I saw a woman in the car with four kids, none of whom were in car seats or seatbelt, and all of whom were hanging out windows. At the stoplight I rolled down my window and yelled at her. “Put those kids in car seats or I’m calling the police!”

“Sorry, if I embarrassed you, Nick.”

“No problem. Actually mom, I’m proud of you.”

That was the first time I thought, maybe I’m doing this right.

When he was about 3 years old his dad and I took him to a fair and we got him a churro. He had to go potty so I told him I would hold it for him while daddy took him.

“Promise me you won’t eat my churro mom.” He knew me well.

“I promise.”

Then I ate it.

Ding Ding Ding

We bought him a new one of course. But, he still tells that story, almost 27 years later. Ooops.

As the years went by, I made a million more mistakes and did a few things right.

Last night when he was here for Christmas dinner he told me, he just told his friend a story of when one time when he was about 8 years old we were at the bank and found some money at the ATM machine.  He told his friend, “It must have been so hard for my mom who was dead broke back then to walk me inside the bank and have me give it to the lady that worked there.”


Parenting is moment by moment. You can have a grand plan but chances are each kid will be different and each response will fit the moment. The day I walked him into the bank I was broker than broke.  I’m sure I thought, if just for a second, about the pair of shoes I needed, or the coat he needed, or maybe some groceries. The fact that he not only remembers the day, but also recounted it to a friend means it was a parenting moment success. A rare pearl.

Recently, my son informed me he is going to be a dad. I know he will be a good dad and he will also make some mistakes, like I said, we all do. But, I have faith that he has a few pearls of wisdom he can share with his son (or daughter) to make up for the days when he’s tired or cranky or just says something stupid.
I know he remembers the time when he was 8 years old and I woke him up at midnight to go to Madrone Canyon and watch the meteor shower. Or when he was about 11 and I took him to San Francisco's Ocean Beach to watch the waves crash over the wall and the cliffs. Or the time we found a place called Skylonda and laughed so hard saying "I live in Skylonda man" like a stoned out hippie. Little pearls. I can't wait for him to have this joy.

I hope my skills as a grandparent are better than I was as a parent. Perhaps I’ll be the one to make him feel like he’s the Prince of Japan, and his mom will get him home and say, “We don’t have princes in this country but you’re the Prince of your Room.”  


Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's Good to Hear a Thank You

As a writer, I try to bring as much attention to myself as possible. Writers want to be read. Which is not quite the same as agreed with though I like that too. When I get a thumbs up, or a thatta girl, or more rarely someone that tells me they love what I wrote, I am always pleased. I always say I write for myself, and I do because I have to write—it’s what I do. It’s how I communicate, and it’s how I release the pent up everything that I walk around with every day. Believe me, you would rather have me write than the crazy lady alternative, but people liking what I write- really makes me feel good.

But, on a work level, at my job, I try to fly under the radar. I try to not make mistakes.  I’m fairly sequestered after the first two years of trying to do my job and support an office full of agents too. The bosses put me in an office on the 3rd floor in the Novato office, that I share with a couple of other women (agents) who get me, and understand my job requires concentration most of the time.

My job, is the Marketing Coordinator for Bradley Real Estate. We have about 450 agents and 13 offices in Marin, Sonoma and Napa. When I started, we had 9 offices and 250 agents. It’s a hands-on, detail-oriented job, which does not really come natural for me. Anyone that has ever worked with me knows I am a big picture thinker and usually leave the details to people who are better suited to that work. The Bradley’s gave me a job when there were no jobs though, so I was determined to not just do the job but also find better ways to do it.

On heavy advertising weeks I can build up to 12-13 pages of ads (in 3 days), which could be up to 125 ads.   In addition to building the ads for four newspapers, I write copy, I proofread, I correct images—or reject them if needed. Occasionally I talk to agents about different aspects of their marketing. I also read every MLS listing and correct any issues they may have that could get the agent fined, or Bradley Real Estate hauled into court. (As well as spelling and grammar errors.)
What I like best about my job is that my bosses let me do it. They give me guidance when I need it of course. They trust me to make good decisions and they trust me to be there. Because they have this trust in me, I try to not let them down. In almost 5 years, I have called in sick twice, both times for no more than two days. Once when my shoulder froze and another time when I had a terrible virus. I’ve left early a few times, but only if all my work is done.
Anyway, last night at the Bradley Holiday Party—a swanky affair at the Marin Country Club, I was awarded Employee of the Year. I have to say that I was surprised because I really try to fly under the radar. They brought me up on a stage with glaring lights in my face to announce this news and all I could think was – boy they sure keep a good secret. So I pretend slugged my boss, Jason, in the arm.
It really is nice to be thanked for working hard. It’s nice to be noticed since many of those 450 agents never see me and don’t know who I am when they are looking right at me. I try not to make a big noise, so I am generally forgettable from holiday party to holiday party I find myself saying, “Oh no, we’ve met a few times.”
If anyone out there is an employer, you should take a lesson from mine. Let people do their jobs, and say an occasional thank you in one form or another. A good employer lets people build on their strengths and lets them innovate to keep up with the growth.
Rob, Melissa & Jason

So, I want to thank my employers, Rob and Melissa Bradley and Jason Lytz for letting me be me, with my less than round edges, and my forthrightness, and my guard-dog personality. I appreciate them too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Black Lives Matter

My credentials:
  • Daughter of a police officer, great-grand-daughter of a police officer.
  • Have dated or been friends with many police officers.
  • Mother of mixed race (adult) child former member of USMC who served in Iraq.
  • Aunt of mixed race children.
  • Caucasian
  • Champion of freedom and human rights in all countries.
  • Witness to passive and overt racism, oppression, segregation and bigotry every single day.
  • Human Being
HUGE DISCLAIMER: I do not hate the police- in addition to family members, I have had several friends in law enforcement. But I don’t put anyone on a pedestal. I have known plenty of bad police. Plenty of police that thought nothing of beating the crap out of someone with a Billy Club, or molesting hookers because they were hookers. So I’m not in denial about the black community and crime and I’m not in denial about the white racist police.
I bet a few of you have been waiting for me to weigh in on this subject. I needed to wait until I had more information and until I could no longer stand what I was reading in the news and on social networks. Until I could write without anger.
Upfront: Looting is NOT protesting. Protesting is legal and an American right. Looting is illegal and stupid… mass hysteria never helps anything.
I know people (I’m sorry to say) that say “black” like I say “child molester”. To them being black is a disease, an inferior disease that thank God they weren’t born with. God… thank GOD because we all know he didn’t intend to make anyone black.  Having a black president has unfortunately widened the divide and increased the hate 10 fold. No one ever says, the President is half white. Never.  People seem to embrace their racism, and own it—“I hate blacks” they say. They call black people stupid and lazy, monkeys and apes, and of course they are all on welfare-- and don’t they know about birth control? They should all be spayed, like cats and dogs. I mean seriously, if you are dirt fucking poor why would you keep having kids? They keep playing the race card, when will they get over the whole slavery thing?  We haven’t had slaves for over 200 years.  (That would be incorrect.)  Or, I’m not racist but if they act like animals…
So, I decided to tackle some of these statements. And, I know- going in, I will not change one stupid racist mind. But, this is for my son, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews and anyone who would like to support the fact that we all bleed red and the color of our skin should not matter. And if we don’t wake up—and start treating people right, we are no better than any other country who subjects their citizens to various forms of tyranny. We might as well be the Middle East.
I read an article called How Often are Unarmed Black Men Gunned Down by Police? in the Daily Kos that was mind boggling. I’ll recap a bit here for you—but you should read the whole thing.
One source, in a report called "Operation Ghetto Storm" says that in 2012 that of the 739 "Justified" shootings shown above from 2012, 313 of them were Black.  44% of them or 136, were unarmed. 27% of them (83) were claimed by Law Enforcement to have gun at the time of the shooting, but that could not be later confirmed or the "gun" was in fact, a toy or other non-lethal object. 20% of them (62) were confirmed to have been armed with a gun, knife or cutting tool.
This report, which was gathered by searching media reports, obituaries and even facebook pages of deceased persons includes the following table as an example.

The report goes into much further detail- but here is where I want to interject my own thoughts.
I have a feeling that Officer Wilson was afraid of black people when he shot Michael Brown. I say that because of statements he made during his Grand Jury testimony—and well, his actions on that fateful day. But also because I see it in everyday life. I walk a lot. And I noticed that when white people see a group of black teens or Hispanic teens walking, they cross the street. But not if it’s a group of white teens. Personally, I think all teens have obnoxious potential, but when I stay on the same side of the street, this is what I hear almost all of the time. “Cute dog. Can I pet your dog?” Scary right? Big bad black teens. Or they say nothing. They keep their heads down and have no eye contact, because that’s what they have been taught. Don’t even look at white people… it makes them mad.  Now if you think I’m exaggerating let me tell you that many years ago I heard someone say when talking about black men, “You should see how they look at my daughter.” The truth is- everyone looked at her daughter that way because she was a looker, and she turned heads. That is a whole different problem—for another day. The difference though, when a police officer a “peace officer,” is afraid, the dynamic changes. Scared policemen are one of two things, they are either bullies, or nervous Nellies. Neither one is going to make them better at their job.
I’ve written before that I don’t think it’s always about race. And while I still think that is true I understand a little more now than I did at the time I wrote that and now I see how racism has permeated just about every walk of life. So it’s no wonder things come to a boiling point—and spill over from time to time. How could it not? Even if it doesn’t appear to be about race- I can see where it would almost always feel like it is.
I keep seeing this stupid meme floating around the internet about how white people didn’t protest when OJ Simpson got off. But the truth is there were marches, non-violent protests and certainly grand disappointment through-out Nicole Browns and Ron Goodman’s communities. The case was divided racially, and sadly, it’s because of that, that I believe justice was not served. How these racial divides started is history. Our American history that we often sweep under the carpet and try to sugar coat. I’m particularly appalled by the following things I’ve heard people say. “Not all slaves were treated poorly. Or  “Slavery ended 129 years ago, get over it.”  People have this “Gone with the Wind” view of slavery and the white folks loving their slaves (though whipping them if needed) and said slaves loving their white folk. Fictional half-wits, feet shuffling, numb-skulled, down right stupid black people. How would we feel if almost every portrayal of white people was like that? For 100 years – for 200 years? Mark Twain (Samuel Clemmons) wrote Huckleberry Finn and created a black character with honor and wisdom and heart. While the era he was writing about used words which we no longer find acceptable, his intent was not to demean when he used those terms. His intent was to enlighten his generation of bigots. He took some heat for that.
Bigotry isn’t just about black people. I see the same issues happening with Hispanic immigrants, and indeed, some Hispanics who were born here—since unless you ask for a birth certificate, like they did with President Obama, you really have no idea where someone is born. Interesting enough, this never happens with white immigrants. There are 1000s of Russian and Irish immigrants (some illegal) in San Francisco; I’ve never heard a soul complain or request a birth certificate.
In the historical, semi-guide book “The Cool Gray City of Love” Gary Kamiya speaks of the hatred towards the Chinese “in 1877 when more than 500 [white] men stormed San Francisco’s Chinatown from two directions and were beaten back by two phalanxes of policeman, one on Pine and one on Broadway.”
Five years after that episode the first significant immigration law, the Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted severely limiting Chinese Immigration.  An expression used at the time went like this: “We hate the Negroes because they are citizens and we hate the Chinese because they won’t be.” (Early Chinese settlers had no desire to be American Citizens.)  
Earlier this year, over 200 white protesters stopped busses full of Illegal immigrants (mostly children) who were being transported for processing to be deported. These unaccompanied illegal immigrants, predominantly from Central American countries, such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala were fleeing their country for one reason—they didn’t want to die. While the protests were non-violent, the anger was evident to me. The protesters didn’t even want the deportation process to be in their city because they were positive they would be over-run by illegal children.
People have been using the term “White Privilege” and many whites go into defensive mode when they hear that but its origins are legitimate. Common replies to that “accusation” are “I have worked hard all my life.” “I have never asked for a handout” – the point is being missed.  White privilege is not about how hard anyone works. White privilege is about the fact that white skin is valued more than black skin. White schools are better, white kids have more opportunities; fewer whites are arrested for the same crimes as blacks. And it goes farther than that—but that is a different article too. 
When I lived in North Carolina it took me a while to realize why there was a private school on every corner (across from the church on every opposite corner). That was how the South initially (and in my opinion, still) got around desegregation. I worked with a black woman who had a college degree and was married to a banker, lived in a good neighborhood and wanted her kids to go to the predominantly white school because that’s where the better teachers worked, and that was where the  most money was spent on education. This was a big topic of conversation on talk radio when I lived in North Carolina. A very heated topic because whites did not want blacks in their schools.

A week after Michael Brown was shot to death my son posted this on his facebook page. It made me proud.

Racism is a plague. It’s so deeply rooted that many of us don’t even know we are being racist. I said black person to someone once, and there was a black person within ear-shot and the person I was talking to shushed me. So let me be clear. You can say black to a black person. It will be another at least 100 years before we are color blind. If you can’t start talking to black people and Hispanic people and Asian people, things will never change.
This is not about Ferguson, this is not about Michael Brown. This is about disproportionate statistics and reality regarding crime and people of color.
From a ProPublica article by by Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones and Eric Sagara : The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.
And finally- today’s news from the New York Grand Jury to not prosecute a white policeman, who put an illegal chokehold on a black man for illegally selling cigarettes. It’s starting to look like it’s okay to kill people for stealing cigars or selling contraband, it’s starting to look like it’s okay to kill a kid in a hoodie that looks scary. Even resisting arrest—should not be an excuse to shoot someone when there are several other options to knock him or her on their ass.  It’s starting to look like white Americans would rather shoot someone than use the legal system to punish them for their crimes.
When my son was here last week he taught me how to say hi in Chinese. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to try it. I couldn’t believe I never knew, growing up in San Francisco. He picked up Arabic when he was in Iraq, and speaks it fairly well. Whenever he hears people speaking Arabic and it’s not a private conversation, he always says hello and a few pleasantries. Nice right? Bridging the gap—making friends. He has friends from all walks of life, and I’m so glad that both his dad and I were able to surround him with many different cultures and let him learn—we all bleed red.
I am calling out racists. I’ve been doing it for a few years. It’s not right to judge people by the color of their skin – whether you are morally guided by a religion or intellectually guided you should know for a fact that racism in any fashion is wrong.
Do you think you are a racist?