For my degree I am taking a Multicultural Counseling course. I have some confessions to make. I didn't think I needed this class. I am a caring, accepting, empathetic, non-bigoted person. Why do I need to take a class teaching me that I assume is just going to teach me that I am not those things by virtue of my race? It's silly. People are people and I am being trained to counsel people. Right?
Well, maybe not right. Counseling people from different backgrounds or heritages or cultures requires some understanding of the issues they face based on those backgrounds. I was okay with that. I thought, sure, I need some better understanding of what clients may be dealing with so that I can find out to what degree those things are issues to them and help them with that. Just the awareness that I may not really understand will be helpful. Knowing that I need to educate myself on different cultures and traditions will make a difference. This will be good. I am all set.
But then we studied microaggressions. Something clicked. Microaggressions I understand. I experience. I realized that I may very well be guilty of committing them myself. Because the whole idea behind a microaggression is that the perpetrator is unaware that he or she is doing or saying anything offensive. That fact makes these more painful to deal with than outright racism or sexism or heterosexualism or ableism. When faced with outright bigotry, anger is clearly justified, and I personally believe that it's ultimately easier to dismiss and rise above. When faced with a kind stranger, acquaintance, colleague, friend, or family member who unconsciously hurts you it's somehow even more hurtful, because you don't expect it from them. It's emotionally taxing to have the internal dialogue: "Did that just really happen? Don't they get it? Should I say something? Will that just make it worse?" When you find yourself having that dialogue with yourself over and over, it's easy to become jaded and defensive.
I'm going to explain what I mean with my experiences. I think it is easy to see how this applies to other people.
I've written about my oldest daughter before. She's now 19, living in the basement apartment of our home, and attending a continuing ed program offered through the local school district. She is mentally retarded. Her IQ is low. Her functional IQ, though still in that disabled range, is higher. She has no syndrome, no birth defect, no disease. She is just retarded. This fact is not a secret. Strangers don't know unless I tell them because in their eyes she looks "normal" (whatever that means).
Here is another confession: as a teen, I was guilty of using the word "retarded" to describe someone, or more often something, as inadequate on some level. I frequently laughed at the antics of a good friend who had an entire routine about the "special bus." It's embarrassing. All I can say is that I was young, insecure, and just didn't stop to think.
Now I think, because now that word has a different meaning to me personally. It describes someone I love. So when a stranger (who doesn't know my daughter) or especially when someone I care for (who does know her) says in my presence "that's retarded" instead of maybe "that's ridiculous," I am hurt. Because whether they think they are saying this or not what I hear is, "Sadie is ridiculous." Yes, I know they "don't mean it that way" and are more than likely just not thinking. But that doesn't stop it from hurting. This isn't about being PC. It's about simple kindness and decency and respect. It's about being caring and thoughtful. Is that too much to ask of my fellow humans? If so, I'm saddened by what that says about us.
"You are being oversensitive." Another microaggression in itself, this statement is demeaning. It implies that my experiences and my feelings are trivial. That someone's insensitivity or ignorance is my problem, rather than theirs. I don't buy it.
Ash Beckam has become a favorite subject for my youtube stalking. She has amazing perspective on being understanding of others' paths and still speaking out for what is right. Her talk about combating the pejorative use of the word "gay" has, along with this Multicultural Counseling class of mine, inspired me to stop being silent about the pejorative use of the word "retarded."
So here is my plea: EXPAND YOUR VOCABULARY! Learn words that tell what you want to say EVEN BETTER than words that are potentially hurtful to other people. You will not miss those words, and in the end I am pretty sure you will be thankful to be done with them. Be aware of other things you may say to people that might be taken as insulting or demeaning. Even expressing "colorblindness" gives the impression that race is something bad to be ignored. (That's a lesson I needed to learn!) Being aware is the best place to start. Those around you with struggles different from yours will be thankful to call you their true friend.
Watch "Ash Beckam Talks About the Word 'Gay'" here. It's a good one. There's also a Tedx Talk she does about closets. Check it out while you're there.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Posted by Mina at 3:44 PM
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
This trend has been a long time coming. I will admit to being fully taken by it at first. I still have to fight the impulse to give in to it. I don't always win.
Sexy. That's the goal now. Have you noticed? Almost anything else about a woman can be accepted as long as it's wrapped up in sexiness. "Be a sexy mom." "Be a sexy grandmother." "Be a sexy CEO.""Be a sexy teacher." There's probably not any longer a stigma to being a lunch lady as long as you look sexy doing it. (No offense to the fabulous lunch ladies I know ... but you remember the stereotypes I am sure.) Then there are the grass-roots esteem building campaigns that blow my mind. "Don't worry about what society or the media tell you about your weight or clothing style. Be and wear whatever makes you feel sexy." Equally mind-blowing are the religious campaigns. "Modest is hottest." Because clearly, the only way to sell the virtue of modesty to young girls (and even women) is by declaring it to be sexier than being more scantily clad. Irony defined.
Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that sexiness is bad. I am ABSOLUTELY not saying that sexuality is bad. It's good, and it's an essential part of who we are as humans. I am not posting to give commentary on sex or relationships or even modesty. This is a separate issue. We've deluded ourselves into thinking that by embracing sexiness we are empowering ourselves. The reality is that what we are actually doing is teaching our daughters, our sons, ourselves, that the most important thing we can be in this life is sexy.
I feel like I need to state that again.
We are teaching our daughters, our sons, our friends, our spouses, our colleagues, and ourselves that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE CAN BE IS SEXY.
I can't be the only person who finds this degrading.
I'm vain, and I always want to look good and frequently mentally beat myself up for falling short of my ridiculous personal expectations of myself. It's a problem. And the problem is compounded ten fold when I start believing this lie that my goal in life should be to look, act, dress, feel ... sexy. Because then I forget the other, much more important characteristics that I want to develop. Intelligence. Accomplishment. Confidence. Femininity. Strength. Honesty. Diligence. Tolerance. Compassion. Kindness. Generosity.
40 is the new 20. Strong is the new skinny. Sexy is the new what? What are we yearning for? What are we afraid of? Is it just that it's relatively simple to accomplish sexiness? Smokey eyes, bedhead hair and a push-up bra and we're set? I don't need to worry about all the other areas of my life that I fall short in because at least I look hot? I'm not mocking that thinking ... I totally get it. But if I think about it too long or hard, it saddens me. Having teenaged daughters has opened my eyes to the value of women, and all the many ways that I personally sell myself short or am too hard on myself. Watching them worry about their worth and beauty, when I can see SO plainly how valuable and beautiful they are, has become a painful mirror for my own insecurities.
Embracing sexiness will not empower us the way that embracing our bodies and souls and hearts and minds will. I don't have a grand plan for helping society to collectively do this. I don't even have a great plan for helping myself and my daughters to really do this. All I can do is be aware, and make those around me aware, remind us of worth that is not hinged on something as superficial and fleeting as sexiness, and challenge us to reach for more.
Posted by Mina at 8:15 PM
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
My dear, sweet husband made a fabulous effort this morning to be supportive, encouraging, and caring. And I'm going to thank him by mocking him. Yes, I'm pretty sure I'm going to hell. But this was funny. At least to me. Seamstress nerds, read on. All others are free to hop to another post or blog. Larry, if you ever read this, which I highly doubt: Sorry, Babe. You knew who I was when you married me. And if you didn't, well, we've had nearly 2 decades to get acquainted.
I am sewing a formal for #1. (#1's name is Sadie. She's 18 now, on Facebook. Much has changed both on line and in my home since I started blogging and using numbers for my kids.) Any way ... Sadie picked out a beautiful gown with a fully lined, pleated, overlapping bodice on top of a lined shirred midriff, paneled full-length skirt, and a fully lined bolero jacket. We decided to overlay the bodice and midriff with a sparkly organza which matches the deep purple satin of the dress and jacket. This was mostly done so that I could add a sheer, gathery layer a couple of inches above the "neckline" (which more closely resembles a bra-line) for modesty purposes. No one step is insanely difficult, but overall, it's a big project.
Here's how the conversation went:
Mina: "What time is it Babe?" (I really need a new battery in my sewing room clock.)
M: "Oh man. Time zooms when I'm sewing. I've been in here 2 hours. It just seems like I should have more than this done."
L: "Well, pretty soon it will all come together really fast, right?"
pause while I'm pondering that statement
M: "Umm ... I'm not sure what that means."
L: "Well, once you get everything cut out and the all the little parts sewn, it will come together quickly."
slight pause while I'm trying to picture
sewing the way he's describing
... and being unsuccessful
M: (giving up and trying not to laugh) "It sure seems like that would be the case, doesn't it?"
He was trying to be nice, and I didn't want scold him with a lecture on the process of dress making. And in a very small way, he's a little bit right. 1) I hate cutting and marking. Of course, one does that all at once, before actual sewing begins. 2) The bodice is sewn first and will generally take longer since it requires fussier techniques. 3) Sure, once the skirt is put together, it's just one seam attaching it to the bodice, et voilà, it looks like a dress. Of course, then there is hand-stitching the bodice lining to the skirt, zipper installation (blech!) and final fitting, measuring the hem, and hemming (by hand in the case of a gown). And, for me anyway, the thought of zippering and hand-hemming does not feel like a quick wrap up. Not to mention that in this case, I get rewarded for finishing the dress by getting to start on the jacket. WooHoo!
But now I am curious. I am assuming that there is some sort of man-project out there that seems all tedious and awful ... until all the parts are cut and put together, at which point assembly seems like a fun, easy breeze. I could get in to something like that. Just call me Mrs. Dad. With my luck, though, I'd likely be caught "doing it wrong."
Posted by Mina at 1:20 PM
Monday, December 31, 2012
I've been a member of Goodreads.com for several years now. The past two years, I have taken part in the reading challenge they offer. My goal each year was 52 books. One per week. In 2011, I read 58. In 2012 I read almost 62. Not bad.
Or is it?
I have an ambivalence toward this reading habit of mine. On one hand, reading is good. It expands my horizons, it engages my imagination, it keeps my vocabulary in decent shape. On the other hand, I spend a lot of time reading when I should be being more productive. I use reading as an escape. It's a pretty benign escape behavior, to be sure, but I tend to drown myself in it all the same. I feel like it's not always entirely healthy, my reading, and that makes me nervous.
I have had this discussion more than once with people, my concern for the amount of books I read when things get stressful. And the side coming at me is generally the same: "Hey, it could be so much worse. It could be alcohol, it could be drugs or affairs. Books are nothing to worry about." While I see their point, I don't entirely agree. Yes, it could be worse. It could be something destructive. Yes, yes, yes. But. That doesn't mean that it can't become obsessive or slightly unhealthy. That I could be avoiding dealing with things I should be facing. That some moderation might be called for.
This year, I am setting a different goal. I really wish I could specify genres in my reading challenge goals. I can't, so I'll have to leave it to myself to be honest. My goal is 24 books. That's it. Two a month. And the first one I read HAS to be non-fiction. (I don't stomach non-fiction too well. I lose interest about half way through nearly every time.) I will in general be choosing books written by general authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the like. I might even do a couple of political books. But only after I have completed a non-fiction book can I read a novel.
We'll see if it helps. It may actually not matter much, because if I happen to get in to grad school this fall, well, any reading goal I set will be thrown out the window and replaced with text books. And that will begin a whole other set of difficulties ...
Posted by Mina at 5:47 PM
Friday, November 30, 2012
This is a little bit of a silly story, but I'm having one of those moments where I feel very, well, in God's awareness.
My mother passed away one year ago today. It's crazy to me how a calendar date can wreak such emotional havoc. She's not any more gone than she was yesterday, but today I'm having a very rough time.
Anyway, one year ago today, only hours after my mom's death, some very dear friends were wondering how on earth they could be useful, and so I asked them to bring a stack of things I'd been collecting to the DI (Mormon Good Will) just to get them out of my house while I was decorating for Christmas and getting ready for a funeral. They were here in minutes and I was grateful. As I was decorating, though, I noticed that two Santas and a small lit, potted tree were missing. These were some of my favorite porch decorations. After searching everywhere I came to the conclusion that the box must have been in the entry by my stack of DI items and taken away by mistake. Grateful for the help and love shown, I tried to feel good about those decorations I loved blessing another family. Still, only a few days ago I thought of those things, a little sad again that they are gone.
Today I have been wanting to finally decorate for Christmas. It generally gets done the day after Thanksgiving, but we had a bit of company, and that wasn't really going to be much fun for them. The rest of this week has been crazy, but tomorrow is December! My mom loved the holidays, and particularly Christmas, so it seemed like a fitting activity.
Well, I woke up, got the kids off to school, and then curled up with a blanket on the sofa and slept until 10:45. That tends to be sign number one that I'm not doing great. I finally woke up, planning to meet Larry for lunch, got in the shower, and sobbed. And sobbed. Out of the shower, still sobbing (in fact rivers of tears running down my neck), I texted Larry and told him I didn't think I could make it. He told me to come anyway, and we'd get Sonic, where we could just sit in the car. So I did. And I felt a little bit better sitting and talking with him. I came home, put on my Johnny Mathis Christmas music (which actually reminds me of my step-mom, not my mother, but it's a very nostalgic one for me all the same) and went up to the attic to start bringing down Christmas boxes. The first one I noticed was one on the very bottom of all of the Halloween decorations. I brought it down, and guess which box it was. Yes, that missing one from last year. The one with my woodsy Santas and pretty tree.
I know it had been there all along. It's not exactly a miracle. I just missed it last year. Chances are VERY good that I had not put all of the Halloween boxes on their shelves, and this was hidden behind them. But still, of all of the days to find it, this is the perfect one. It is as if my mother, or my Heavenly Father, is letting me know that things will be okay, that happiness will continue to fill my life, even in the midst of the sadness. I hope it is a good sign for a merry holiday season. For fewer tears and more laughter. For joy and togetherness, for warmth and love.
Posted by Mina at 2:29 PM
Monday, June 18, 2012
While oranges are a winter fruit, and I never even bother to look for good ones in the summer, I think of creamsicles as the ultimate summer flavor. Orange popsicle and vanilla ice cream all in one yummy bite. In fact, my freezer currently contains 2 treats for the kids, fudgesicles and creamsicles. My mom called them 50/50 bars, thanks to the Good Humor trucks of her youth. For a while when I was a kid, they sold a checkered orange sherbet, vanilla ice cream combo in 1/2 gallon containers. Awesome.
Last night #2 said, "I'd like to make some cookies." Sure, I said, sounds great. "Except I'd not like to make them myself, but have someone else make them for me. I'd just like to eat them." (She was playing 15 going on 5.) So I made cookies. I rarely need arm-twisting.
I've seen a great-looking creamsicle cookie recipe, and fired up Pinterest to hunt it down. But the only flavoring in the one I'd pinned was orange zest, which, being summer, I am fresh out of. Many of the other recipes I found on-line looked like they'd turn out a cake-y product, and while those are okay, I was looking for soft and chewy. I finally settled on pimping out a chocolate chip cookie recipe which used dry vanilla pudding mix as an ingredient. I added more pudding, lots of orange flavor, and white chips.
The final product was perfect. Just what I'd been looking for. And they were a big hit with the kids and with Larry. I used orange juice out of a container, but if you have fresh oranges, that's what I'd go with, for sure. I didn't pay close attention to the yield, but it was at least 6 dozen. I imagine these would also be very good with chopped walnuts, if you're into that sort of thing.
Posted by Mina at 10:59 AM
Saturday, June 02, 2012
... Well, that's what my 5K training app calls me anyway. LionHearted. For starting to run. The first day. And that's how I felt. Today, on day three, the app awards the Determination Badge. But I don't feel determined. Just old.
#3 is a talented, kind, intelligent, awesome kid. Unfortunately, along with her great musical ear she also inherited her athleticism from her mother. I had none of the latter to give. When she was 5 and 6 she played on the local AYSO team, and liked the idea of being part of a team. Actually playing and practicing? Not so much. After a couple of years of listening her complain from about week 2 of the season on, we decided to go with her interests and strengths and focus on music. She has thrived and excelled with that.
#3 does not want to give music up, but she is really wanting to get involved in a sport now that she is in the throws of middle school. I understand. I had that desire, too. I didn't do a whole lot with mine, however. She is determined to join cross-country in the fall. And I am ecstatic for her.
To that end, we decided to start a training program. I installed the app mentioned above. I knew I'd be a better partner for her than #2. #2 conditions with a 5 mile run "warm up" followed by sprints, crunches, planks, etc. #3 is nowhere near so fit. Neither am I. We are also nearly the same height. (I won't mention who is taller.) Good partners, right?
Well, in theory, that would be true. The first day we were definitely on the same pace. Day two we both felt like we were getting our trash kicked. Day three ... well day three we were both still really feeling it, but during the last half of the workout, times we were supposed to be running #3 could go quite a bit faster than I could. I'd watch her sprint ahead, and I'd long to catch up, but there was no way I could make myself go faster. No way I could make my legs stretch further. I'd call out to her when it was time to walk, and she'd walk back to me while I walked forward and we'd continue on from there.
Now, I'm not stupid. I have 26 years on her and 20 extra pounds on my frame. I figured that there may come a time when she would out-pace me, when we may need to put the app on her iPod and we'd train together, but not side by side. I guess I was imagining that day coming after a few weeks. Not after day three.
Which brings me to what is really bothering me. I wanted to do this to help my kid. To train with her so that she can be (to quote her) "super fast and super awesome" this fall ... or at least so that she can keep up. This is not the first time I've started a 5K program. I've never gotten past the first 2 weeks. I frequently decide to start up with walking 4 miles per day or with a Zumba class or with something. I just don't stick with it long enough to make any sort of habit. Today is Saturday. We had planned to go running at 9 am. I did not want to get out of bed. The only reason I did is because I knew #3 was waiting for me. That she needed me. We got going (only 15 minutes late) and as it turned out, she didn't need me. I need her. And I'm holding her back. Already.
Next week: Week 2 training. THAT is when I will need courage. THAT is when I will need determination. And that, frankly, is when I will need humility to continue on, realizing that even at different paces, maybe some good will still come to #3 because I am there behind her, cheering her on and training my hardest to "help her" get in shape for the fall.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Our family loves the movie What About Bob? One of the best things about the story is that Bob becomes "cured" by Dr. Marvin's new book, Baby Steps, without ever even cracking the cover. The title alone was sufficient for Bob. So much for all of the research, writing, editing, etc, that went into the actual text. It's hilarious. And a little bit understandable.
Baby steps. Sometimes small things, small pieces of progress, are the best we can do. And I feel like I'm getting a crash course in coming to terms with the best I can do. It's about patience, acceptance, and ultimately grace. The things I am learning could be the topic of a whole other post. Maybe several. Maybe I'll get to it, and maybe I won't.
For now, I am trying to ease myself back into the flow of life, out from this little eddy I've been drifting in for the past several months. It has been shocking how physical this grieving has been for me. The emotional I expected. But to not be able to make myself do even the things I wanted desperately to be doing, that was a surprise. I'm trying to overcome this. And today, I had a little break-through. I sewed.
It may sound silly. But I love to sew. I love to create. I had little time while care-giving my mother to sew and create as much as I'd wanted to. It was literally the month before my mom came to live with us that Larry had cleared out an art space for me, which meant that I had separate rooms for art and for sewing. It was such a kind, thoughtful gift, and I never really made much use of it. Well, I'm back to one room now, and that is just fine.
One of the first things I wanted to get back to doing after my mom passed was creating art and sewing. I have a long list of projects to finish, to begin. At night, it always sounds like a great thing to do in the morning. Come morning, however, I can't bring myself to get in there and get started. Last night I took advantage of an energy spurt and folded some sheets and towels that have been sitting since the funeral, and this morning I woke up, made lunches, and sewed.
Posted by Mina at 2:50 PM
Friday, March 09, 2012
I keep waiting for the perfect time to write this post. When I have enough time, enough energy to be able to convey what is in my heart. But the time has come when I can't afford conditions to be perfect.
I have a new love in my life. Her name is Yogalaxmi. She is a beautiful, talented, sweet girl. She also happens to be eastern Indian. She also happens to be orphaned. She also happens to suffer from the virus which took her parents from her. An AIDS orphan in a very impoverished region of India doesn't always get the help she needs. Luckily for Yogalaxmi, an amazing person named Sister Daisy has taken it upon herself to care for a group of these orphans, providing them with a home, with nourshement, and with love.
Luckily for ME, another amazing person, my cousin Melanie, came in contact with Sister Daisy and this group of kids. Many of us in Melanie's situation would feel heartbroken about it, would go home wishing there were something we could do, and maybe be a little more aware of our blessed lives. Melanie did all of those things. But she did something more. She decided to act. She, her family, and some friends in India created a non-profit charity called Gingham Project. And that is how I came to learn of Yogalaxmi, and was given the opportunity to support her personally.
The goals of Gingham Project, if I may be so bold, are these:
#1. to provide support for the orphans in Sister Daisy's care
That second goal seems vast. I had not been previously aware that in many countries such as India, the government provides education to all kids, BUT in order to attend school a uniform is necessary. This policy effectively keeps the very poor from sending their children. So what do kids need? Uniforms. It's pretty simple, in reality. Uniforms and necessary school supplies are relatively cheap for our American budgets, about $20. For poor families in India, however, that may be months worth of their household income. In the aftermath of Cyclone Thane, which hit in early January, it's harder than ever for these families to provide uniforms.
Gingham Project is currently running a fund drive for uniforms. Their goal is to send 100 children to school this June ... the beginning of their school year. That's $2,000.00. They are about half-way there. Funds need to be raised by April 15. Is there some amount you can give? Is there some way to get your kids involved?
One personal plug for this organization ... Sometimes it can be scary to donate when you aren't sure what your money is really paying for. Melanie and her family and their associates in India don't recieve anything for their efforts. Heck, Mel's travel expenses come out of her pocket! And why travel expenses? Because everything that goes to these kids is hand delivered. No middle men. Melanie is planning a trip in May to deliver the uniforms and school supplies to the kids. In fact, it is a dear dream of mine to go with her. To see the area for myself, to meet the people we're serving. To wrap my arms around that darling Indian girl of mine.
Hopeful, happy, helpful. They are the words that Melanie uses to describe these kids. Poor beyond my comprehension, and yet radiant, inspirational. They have certainly inspired me from the other side of the world. Will they inspire you, too?
Posted by Mina at 10:30 AM
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
My mom was the queen of construction paper cut-outs. In fact, it's a craft I inherited from her at a young age.
I remember these posters she made for the kitchen at our church when I was little. Basically a reminder to wash and put away all dishes, and another reminder not to leave food in the refrigerator. She'd made little rhymes for each, and cut-out "graphics" of plates and glasses on one and ketchup, mustard bottles and a pickle jar on the other. They hung in there for years, getting all faded the way that only construction paper fades. (In spite of those posters, there was a bottle of Tabasco sauce in that fridge for at least a year. Our Sunday School teacher would start every lesson off by passing that around our class and having us "take a whiff." He was a college kid.)
One of my mother's construction paper masterpieces was a box covered in red and decorated with intricately cut out white and pink hearts. It had "Be Mine, Valentine" written in beautiful script with a red maker. We had the same one every year. (Mom was nothing if not thrifty!) But it was kept well and gorgeous. Inside were a couple of Hershey bars, broken into their little lettered squares, each placed in brown candy papers. It was probably an inexpensive way to give my brother and I our Valentines, but I always thought of it as quite elegant, even as the critical teen-aged girl that I was.
The chocolates were not all. Every year Mom created new bright and colorful cards. They usually contained some poem she'd written on the theme, of course, of how perfect and wonderful we were. That's how she generally saw us. She loved my brother and I more than anything else in this world, and she made sure we knew that.
Cards creations continued for her grandchildren. They were usually included in a mailed box full of heart-shaped cookies. I found one set of those hand-made Valentines, from the year that #4 was a newborn. A poem for each child, in construction paper and marker. I put them into the kids' grandma memory boxes.
I wish I'd kept more of those cards over the years. Hopefully more will turn up over time.
Posted by Mina at 12:20 PM