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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Angry White Man

For the past year Stan has been dealing, on and off, with back pain.  Last year about this time I nicknamed him "Angry White Man."  In my mind, it was an appropriate way to describe him to a tee.  He was angry, irritable, snappish, bitchy (yes, bitchy) and basically a pain in the ass.  He was in pain and on prednisone, couple that with the weight gain on prednisone and it was a truly terrible combination.  Toward the end I started calling him Fat, Angry, White man ~ at least behind his back, but shhhhhh, don't tell him that.

His back pain eventually eased a little and Stan went back to life as normal.  He stopped being Angry, White Man and went back to being Stan.  I like him much better than AWM.

The other day Stan tweaked his back and tweaked it HARD!  He was in excruciating pain, writhing on the floor and not able to walk.  It was not a good sight to see.

He's back on pain meds and prednisone so I'm waiting for Angry, White Man to reappear.  So far he hasn't.  And I'm hoping he doesn't.  

As I was talking to one of his friends today, my term of "endearment" for Stan's predicament came tumbling out, and I stopped short wondering who I was offending.  (I know I'm not offending Stan, he's heard me call him AWM so many times ~ without the "fat" part, anyway.)  So I had to reel myself in and think, would I offend someone by calling Stan an angry, white man?   I hate thinking I've upset anyone with my term for Stan.  I'm just describing Stan and his behavior.  But in these overly politically correct times did I cross some sort of imaginary racial divide?  Did I say something completely and utterly taboo by calling Stan an angry white guy?

I truly hope not but it got me to thinking...

What's an OK way to describe someone?  Stan is white, that's part of who he is.  He was also angry and a man...all of the components of Stan.  But if I saw someone who was an angry black man and called them that would I offend them?  A man who is black is black.  I'm not saying anything that's not true.  If he's angry and black I'm not saying anything untrue.  So is it derogatory and if it is how did we get to be this sensitive?  Color of the skin is not something we can change (unless we're talking about Michael Jackson) so, to me, it shouldn't be considered offensive.  To me, it's just a descriptive part of who we are.  I understand the derogatory terms for color of skin shouldn't be used, but do black and white fall into those categories?

Or, am I reading more into my description of Stan than I should?

I want my kids to grow up understanding that everyone is different.  We all have different colors of skin, hair and eyes.  Those parts of us are also descriptive parts of us.

Right now, in life, I'm a very white girl with reddish hair and greenish eyes.  I wouldn't be offended if someone said " are glow in the dark kind of white."  It's just who I am.

Years and years ago, I remember cringing in horror in the checkout line at Target.  Lucas was in the seat of the shopping cart and Zach was walking beside me, to my left.  I turned right into a lane to checkout, and that's when it happened.  Zach whispered, in that loud way only a kid can, "Mommy, we can't go in this lane.  She's a bad guy.  She's black."  I think my face must have flamed 500 shades of red as I said as calmly as I could, "Zach, that doesn't matter.  We're staying in this lane."  I paid for our things and got out of there as quickly as I could.  It wasn't until we were in the car that I had to wonder if Zach was talking about the color of checker's skin or the color of her shirt.  Unlike every other checker, ever, to work at Target she had on a black shirt.  Back when the kids were four, it was easy for them to tell the difference between the good-guys and the bad-guys.  Bad-guys always wore black.  But it was a cringe-worthy moment when Zach blurted it out for, what seemed like to me, the whole world to hear and one we corrected with a great, albeit embarrassing, teachable moment.

Now, I feel like I'm cringing all over again.  Is it because how extreme I think we've become with political correctness?  This time it was all brought to a head, in my mind, by me calling Stan AWM out loud and in a public place.  Did I cross a line or is it just in my imagination?

I want to teach my kids the right and wrong way to describe someone without offending, but I'm not sure that's possible.  I found myself amusing when I called Stan "Angry White Man."  I'm not sure other's share my amusement.  Have we become that serious about who we are?  Are we becoming incapable of laughing at ourselves a little?  Call me "Casper the friendly ghost" when referring to how white I am.  I don't care.  To me, it's not derogatory.  It's who I am.  And I think it's a little amusing.

So is it OK to teach my kids to use non-derogatory descriptors to help identify others?  I think it's OK to call someone an Angry Black Man.  I know it's not OK to describe someone as a fat, ugly witch.  That might be an accurate description, but it's not nice.   The ability to cross these fine lines is tough to navigate. I think I'm up to the task, but maybe I'm not.  Let me know what you think...did I cross a line by calling Stan AWM?  Because I want to teach my kiddos the right way to describe someone...for the love of my children, and those everywhere....

Monday, February 25, 2013

Happy, Happy Birthday, Zach

Dear Zach,

You never cease to amaze me and put a smile on my face.  Today is no exception.  17 years ago today you came storming into my life and turned my structured, orderly world upside down with your demanding, sometimes overwhelming, but always loving presence.  The smile on my face grows broader as I think about how much joy you have given me.

From the minute you came screaming, and I do mean screaming, into this world you have only wanted to give.

The minute you popped into my life, you began to give me stress, making me always wonder if I am doing the right thing as a mom.  They were just little stresses in the beginning...things like, are you getting enough to eat?  Are you getting enough sleep?  Is my schedule too structured or not structured enough?  And now they have morphed into bigger did I do an OK job of teaching you right from wrong and when teenage temptation hits will you be able to walk away?  Or have I forgotten to teach you an important lesson and are you well equipped to handle the big wide world?  I think you are well equipped for the big wide world, but I have to tell you the selfish part of me doesn't want you to go there.  The selfish part of me wants you to stay here with me ~ stress be damned!  But I know that's not possible and you will go off into the big wide world.  I also know there are times when I've not done a good job controlling my stress level when it comes to raising you, but I want you to know I've always tried hard to be the best mom I could be during these 17 years.

From time you learned how to smile and laugh, you have given me joy.  Your baby giggles were precious and your man-child smile is infectious.  I remember the first time you giggled and giggled and giggled.  You were seven months old.  Dad was in Bosnia.  It was just you and me, the two of us together.  It was bath time.  Both you and I loved bath time.  I loved it because you loved it.  You loved it because of the toys floating in your little inflatable bathtub.  You had squirtie whales and fish.  You had Little People sailors and boats, complete with big life preservers.  Your fat little hands kept reaching for the yellow life preserver floating around in the water.  I picked it up and said "life preserver" and you giggled a big ol' belly giggle.  I said it again and your giggle got bigger.  I said the words again and again and each time your giggles got louder.  I didn't want to stop saying the words because I didn't want you to stop giggling.  I reveled in your giggles then and now I relish hearing your man-child laugh.

But most of all, Zach, the thing you have given the most of is love.  From the time you understood the concept of love, you've given your love freely, easily and unconditionally.  You give your love to anyone who asks for it, and it's been a joy to watch you grow and give so much.  The first time I saw your unconditional love was when you were in second grade.  You came home from school telling me you got to go to the treasure box because you did something fabulous at school.  I can't, for the life of me, remember what the fabulous thing was that  you did at school, because as you told me about what you did, you pulled out the "treasure" you picked out of the treasure box...a pair of earrings for me.  You didn't get to go to the treasure box often, so when you got a rare opportunity to go you chose something for me.  I still have those earrings in my jewelry box.  They are just cheap, little gold-plated earrings but they are one of my biggest treasures because you chose something for me when you could have easily chosen a treat for yourself.  It's been a joy to watch how you give love to others as well.  Watching you this past Valentine's Day was a true treat.  You fretted so much about which flowers to buy for your sweetheart.  You called and texted to me to make sure what you were picking out would be perfect for her.  It was so sweet to see how much you wanted to give her something to please her.  I hope you never stop giving your love freely, easily and unconditionally.  I have been blessed so many times over by the love you give me.

I can't believe you're 17 years old today, Zach.  Time has flown by, just like all of the older parents told me it would when you were a newborn.  "Enjoy these days," they said, "time flies by so fast and he'll be grown before you know it."  The days when you were a newborn, toddler and preschooler sometimes seemed to crawl by and I thought they'd never end.  The saying "the days were long but the years were short" has proven itself to be so very true.  I blinked and 17 years slipped from the present to the past.   17 years has gone so quickly.  While I can't believe how quickly time has gone, I look at you now and my pride in you knows no bounds.  You are one stellar young man.

I wish you a very Happy Birthday, Zach.  I love you ~ now and always.

With love,


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Really Don't Want Them To Go

The other night, I sat down at my desk in a sea of tears, realizing I have no desire to see my kiddos grow up and leave our house.  What the hell is wrong with me?  I couldn't wait to grow up, get out of my childhood home and get on with my life.  But my children seem to have the opposite idea which only fuels my sadness.

We went to get the kids' passports taken care of last week. As the five of us sat in the post office signing papers and swearing on a stack of bibles we were telling the truth about their identities, I said to Zach, "The next time you come to apply for a passport you will be 26 and on your own."  Zach's reply made me smile.  "No, Mom, I won't.  I'm not leaving the house.  I'll still be there and you'll come to the post office with me to get my passport renewed."  I should be a little mortified about his response, but I can't seem to find the courage to get mortified.

Zach is half way through his junior year and talk of colleges abounds in our house.  For the past two years Zach told us he wanted to go to West Point, following in his father's footsteps.  Not long ago, Zach admitted to me one night he really didn't want to go to West Point.  He told me he wanted his dad to be proud of him for wanting to go to West Point, but went on to say he really doesn't want to be that far away from home.  He wants to go to a Virginia State school so he can come home whenever he wants.  I have to say, I do a little mental happy dance every time Zach says he wants to stay close to home.

My happy dance morphed into a full blown ecstatic dance when Zach said he wants to live close to his brother and sister when they all grow up so they can visit each other whenever they want.  I hope life happens that way for all of them.  I know they have to grow up.  I just hope when they do grow up they don't go too far away, because I really don't want them to go.

Oh, for the love of my children....