The million or so "firsts" after someone passes

I turned my work calendar to October this week.  I often put seasonal notes on my calendars that I carry over from year to year.  Check wrapping supplies in November; check Gopher Volleyball schedule in August.


On October 28th, I have a note to remind myself to mail Tante Irene’s birthday present to her so it would reach her by 11/11.


There will be no more birthday presents going overseas to her.


November is going to be a tough month.

The mystery of the Friday night dinner

Why did we wait until my mom was gone to start Friday night dinners?


I hope it’s because Mama was always unhappy with the shape their house was in, and didn’t want people over.  She couldn’t fix it and Poppa “didn’t do it right.”


And our place was too difficult because we live on the third floor.  If our building had had railings on both sides, she may have been able to make it, but it doesn’t.


Eating out every Friday wasn’t a good solution either.


But still, this makes me sad in retrospect.  But I can’t say I didn’t spend as much time as I could with them, with her.  Because, let’s face it, I did.


Things I've been thinking about

I feel like 2016 has been a year of questioning perspectives.  I find myself wanting to catalog a lot of this, so I resurrected this blog.  However, now given a bit of time to do that, I am overwhelmed.  So here goes, more or less, stream-of-consciousness like:

This year, I have made a concerted effort to emphasize non-traditionally voices/authors in the books I've been reading.  I.e. authors who are not: straight, white, male. To be clear, this isn't a permanent ban.  SWM have value to the conversation (does anyone ever truly dispute this?)  I just wanted to tune into some different perspectives.  This has lead me to seeking out a lot of media that previously I felt was off-limits to me, because it wasn't about me.  Listening to podcasts with a black perspective.  Reading books talking about issues I don't usually think about.  Seeing things from a different perspective.

This reflective and contemplative time has also brought some experiences in my day-to-day in sharper relief.  For example, the (recently relocated) head of our department talked about his recent trip to Tanzania and the Serengeti.  He looks like you standard Mpls Swede: Tall, blond, blue-eyed.  He said many people asked if they could practice their English with him, and would ask him questions.  Curious, I asked him what kind of questions they asked.

To my surprise, he said one of the questions they asked if if there was a lot of racism in the US.  Shocked, I asked him how he responded.  I'm paraphrasing, mind you.  But as I recall, he said that he told them that there is racism everywhere, but it's never as bad as the media portrays it.  He also then went on to say that he felt they would be welcomed in MN just as he had been welcomed there!

I agree there is racism/any -ism everywhere (here's praying for the day that is no longer true).  And although I think media have a taste for blood, it's hard to deny that there are a lot of young black men dying in proximity to police.  I don't think that's media making up a story.  Where there's smoke, there's fire.

I also am ashamed to say that I am not convinced that, especially in this political climate, that we would welcome foreigners with requests to practice our Swahili, etc,  We have a growing population of east Africans in the twin cities; I think they would disagree that they felt welcomed like honored guests to this country.  Maybe some times, in some places.

Can he not see that as the wealthy foreigner on vacation, rather than a refugee, his experience is inherently different?  Did he know that and he was trying to assuage fears?  I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I mean, sure, what are you going to say in that situation.  You're on vacation, for heaven's sake!  And I'm sure he meant well.  But it stuck in my craw, none-the-less.

There's this myth that Minnesota is this haven from racism.  We're not big like Chicago.  We're north of the Mason-Dixon line.  And there's that whole "Minnesota-Nice" (MN passive agressive?)  But we have issues here, just like everyone else.  We're just to passive to talk about them; so we sweep them under the rug.

This was highlighted in particular for me when I was walking to my job downtown one morning.  A man and a woman outside a government office were talking.  They were both POC.  They didn't seem to know each other particularly well, but they were recounting all the places they had lived: Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, etc.  and yet, they hadn't experienced hostility, racism, in any of those places like they had here.  My heart just about broke, and I hung my head in shame.

It broke because I love this state of mine; born and raised.  It broke because I see what they are talking about.  It broke because I too struggle with it: how do I negotiate the privilege of the color of my skin with the status of being a woman in this society.  If I extend a cup of cold water in Christ's name, am I honestly doing good, or am I putting myself in danger?

The other day, I observed a young man with a sign and a upturned hat sitting on the corner next to the light rail station downtown.  Due to past experiences that have made me feel unsafe, I have a personal policy not to hand out money on the street.  To avoid the racking guilt I am made to feel for protecting my personal safety, I often don't make eye contact: eye contact signals you're a target.  And a target can mean all kinds of things.  But I looked at this young man, squarely in the eyes.  I don't believe anyone says, "you know what I'd like to do today? sit on the cold ground with a sign and an upturned hat and wait for donations".  Whatever your reasons are for doing so, they must be very compelling.  But I looked at this man with a smile and a face that I hope conveyed empathy. "Take care" I said to him in a still, small voice.  He said, "thank you, God bless." It felt so important, so connected.

Is there a better privilege to have: race or gender?  Or is it like having half a car?

I think that's it for my brain dump for now.  Let's see what the next week holds.



And it starts with this: I have been flummoxed for years by a simple wrinkle.  I started this blog before I committed whole heartedly to gmail, and so I use a different email address to log in.  This prevents me from being logged into my email while working on my blog.  I tried gooling for an answer years ago, but got no where. But today, I found a work around.  Maybe my budding tech career isn't so far fetched afterall?

Unearthing the past

I'm not quite sure what reminded me of this blog, but I've decided to unearth it.  I re-read all my past posts; it's odd how things have changed in four years.  It's odd how some things have not.  But I have a desire to post here again, so here goes nothing.