Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For You and You and You...

A student angered me a little today. He felt that I was not teaching enough of the white male experience. Although he seemed to acknowledge learning a lot about White people in the text and just about everywhere, he felt that my lectures should also be devoted to uncovering that curriculum oversight. People talk about teachers being parents and mentors but I have to say the emotional restraint I demonstrated in that moment can only be compared to something I would do if I were born on Krypton. If ever there were a time to add superhero to the list of what teachers really are...That P90X must really be working.

I've mentioned my tendency to obsess so in an effort to get some sleep tonight, I wrote out what I intend to say to the kid tomorrow. I thought I'd share.

"The importance of teaching an inclusive curriculum is two-fold: people of color can't continue to either not see themselves at all or only as victims and White people need to understand that the greatness that is the United States did not come without the blood, sweat, and tears of African-descended peoples, Native peoples, Raza, Asians, non-Christians, women, non-heterosexual peoples, poor people, and colonized people. And if I can take it one step further, the persecution and existence of said people would not exist had it not been for the capitalist, imperialist ventures that occupy "whiteness."

"It's uncomfortable to be put in a position where your paradigm has shifted, where you are momentarily not the altruistic protagonist. And that's right. That's the point. So my goal isn't that you remember specific names and dates and places when you leave here. I want you to remember why you felt uncomfortable. My hope is that one day when you are confronted with something that removes you from that place where you are the hero of the story, that you think critically about how you arrived in your situation, how that person arrived at theirs. And I'm only asking for those few seconds of thought. That would be success for me."

I've been somewhat cataloging the reactions from the more conservative elements in the room.

When I called the Bracero program yet another example of the US' "immigration of convenience," he almost tossed his desk at me.

When I talked about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, I got a reluctant nod and a mumbled "that was pretty bad."

Atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A very enthusiastic hand raise with five minutes on how it "wasn't as bad as they would have us believe." Whenever I ask who "they" is, it somehow ends up being Obama so I just stopped asking.

Seeing as how I am not a viewer of Fox News, I am particularly unfamiliar with this perspective on history and events and I must say while fascinating to watch, it scares the mess out of me.

Kids in another class would often joke with me about my seemingly rigid rules for Omar. In their defense, I did say he didn't need to go trick-or-treating because that was just begging people for stuff and he can get his own candy when he's old enough to get a job to pay for it. But I did end up taking him trick-or-treating.

The one thing I wouldn't budge on was Disney princess movies. I explained to the kids that it didn't have anything to do with heterosexual romances and why as a culture we insist on hetero-sexualizing children from birth, although that was part of it. I said that it is because as a male, I can see that he is learning a gender identity that includes women waiting on him constantly. If Omar wants some juice in my house, he gets it himself. If he needs me to do something for him, he asks and says "please." If he starts screaming and yelling, he doesn't get it. I make one dinner; if he doesn't like it, guess who isn't eating? While it seems harsh, the alternative seems worse--thinking that someone is waiting around for the kiss, just to pledge their devotion to someone they've known for all of three seconds, just seems to be the wrong way to raise children to have healthy friendships, colleagues, relationships, and commitments.

And that seems to be the same interrogation of privilege that I am trying to teach students. Crossing my fingers on that one.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Worrier

When my son's teacher said "we need to talk," I might have obsessed over it for a few days. It was probably a week and a half. I asked my colleagues and friends and shot out ideas about what could be the issue. I mulled over my parenting missteps over the last month, weeks, days, and hours. I came up with a pretty long list from too much television, to not washing his hands all the way that one time, to microwaving his dinner rather than making something hot off the stove. After days of this, when I went to drop him off at school and asked his teacher how I should set up an appointment, she said "I've been meaning to apologize for my lack of tact. I know you're a worrier." Dang, that obvious?

I realized that a good majority of my neuroses has more to do with what I'm frightened of rather than some quirky little tick that I have. All the cleaning? I'm worried about disease...and smells, definitely bad smells. The organic-panic? Disease again. I can stick in a word or two on nutrition but it's really about disease. Vegan? Disease. Hating close-talkers? Disease. Over-exercising? Disease. Disease. Disease. My obsession with reading? Probably not disease-related, but I can think of something soon enough.

Back to my son's school, we somehow got on the topic of my teeth. Strangers, co-workers, friends, and family--somehow the topic of my teeth comes up I'd say about once per week. I get it: they are very white and straight, especially considering I haven't had anything done to them except for when I brushed them so much I literally brushed away the gums and had to have some grafting done. But never a cavity nor braces. I have enjoyed comments from dentists: "I never make any money off you" or "I could torture you by pretending to scrape but there really isn't anything to scrape." Someone once asked me how long my teeth-brushing ritual is each night. I said that I once got up during a commercial break to brush, floss, etc. and came back and it was still on the commercial break, or so I thought. I later figured out it was the next commercial break. Point is, they are a conversation-starter just as they were this particular day at preschool. So my son's teacher said something, and I said, "it's actually a problem for me since I've spent most of my life brushing my teeth...probably." She laughed which was a good thing since that meant she thought I was exaggerating (as if!) and then got this really thoughtful look on her face and said "well, that explains it." She went on to explain that my son really likes things in a particular way and gets really focused on getting things just right and gets super bent out of shape when things don't go his way. I said "if OCD isn't hereditary, then it is certainly contagious (disease!)" and I decided at that moment that vis-a-vi Oprah, I would "let it go and let it flow." So with this being resolution-season, here are the Top Ten Things I Am Not Tripping Over in 2014:

10) What you're doing and by "you" I mean the Kardashians. Fortunately I assume there won't be any more proposals that interrupt commuting so we might be all good anyway.

9) What you're doing and by "you" I mean selfie-takers (Kardashians included here too). I'm not sure of the depth of self-esteem-searching found when someone does a rep or two at the gym or puts on a bathing suit when she isn't at a beach or pool then snaps a picture and posts it for the world to see then waits for the obligatory "you look great" comments to roll in just to reply back with some sort of "oh stop" BUT I don't want to be a part of it!

8) My dress size. I am really starting to be convinced that those sizes are manipulated just to send women to Weight Watchers meetings in droves so I'm good with that too.

7) Obama-haters. I can't keep up with where we are in the he's too Black/not Black enough dialog anyway. My thought is that he is a politician and a president which really means his main objective is to appease meaning he can't be the Socialist/Atheist/Border-opening/No-war having/Free-university-education-giving leader I want him to be anyway but yo, he's the FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT of this country and only one person in all of history can say that and he's smooth too...He's definitely alright in my book.

6) Organic, non-seasonal, non-local produce. I've spent a good amount of time at Whole Foods staring at the organic Peruvian bananas in December. I start thinking, those suckers are pretty pricey. Did we jack up the price like we did quinoa so Peruvians can't get a decent banana? In Nicaragua, it's pretty much beans, bananas, and rice so I know Latinos would be hurting without our bananas and their plaintain cousins. Then I start thinking, how did they get here? Were they picked too early so they would be yellow by the time they got here? Shouldn't "organic" also include how it got here? I mean, it's one thing to go without the pesticides when it's in the ground but I'm kinda thinking I want those chemicals back if the fruit is making some wild 5,000 mile sea, air, and land trip to get to me. See that? It's too much so I'll just keep it local and quit staring at the bananas.

5) Omar's Spanish pronunciation. He's a toddler so he has that lisp which means when he speaks Spanish, he sounds Cuban. I got yelled at a lot for funky pronunciations (I can't even say when I was just a kid because I still get yelled at) and it's made me super self-conscious about speaking Spanish especially around native speakers so I just avoid it or try to say things that don't have the letter "r" in it (pretty much impossible). Needless to say, I get out of practice and I'm really hoping my son speaks better Spanish than me so for now, "uno, doth, breast" will have to do.

4) Painting my nails. I've spent a lot of time and money on my nails and it's not like it's an investment so I'm pretty much done with that.

3) My Suze Orman plan. Not because it isn't the best but because I have it down so well, I can pretty much follow the steps by rote. It's kinda cheating but at least I'm not reviewing the book over and over again.

2) What you're doing and by "doing" I mean tagging me in pictures where I am sweaty or prior to my introduction to tweezers. Just ask: if this were a picture of me, would I want it all over the internet? Save me the obsessive staring!

1) The past. I read once that we seem to hold on to the period in our lives where we think we did our best. For me, that's the 90s. Most of the music in my iPhone is from that decade. When I go for runs, I think about how in the 90s, I used to be able to run ten miles, take a shower, then hang out all night. I think about all the great people I met in the 90s and all the fun we used to have. In my reminiscing, I forget how those valuable friendships are in the present and how I can travel most anywhere in the world and hang out with someone I met in the 90s and pick up like we never lost any time. I lose track of the great artistic things happening now, that I can do now, because of what sparked my interest in the 90s. But more importantly , when I'm thinking about my high school and college graduations, I forget that I have my son's high school and college graduations to look forward to, my own doctoral graduation to look forward to, and sparking an interest in athletics and arts, travel and languages for my son, creating a better version of the caring and curious person I once was and hope to still be.

So that's my new obsession and my focus for 2014.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Atlantic, Final

I've finally put together a cohesive thought so here goes. I'm going to think about two words in the title, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All": have and all.

1) Having things. I could go on a rant about capitalism. But as I sit here typing on a ridiculously expensive laptop with all the ridiculously expensive accessories, I'm going to just leave capitalism, as a whole, alone for the moment. I want to think more about it in terms of possessions and why our success in capitalism is based on how much we have. For most of you who know me, you know that I love music from the 90s and if it is anything current, it still sounds like it is from the 90s. There is a Pearl Jam song that if I ever get married, I would love to hear at my wedding, even though it isn't the most romantic, it is certainly very apt. The phrase in "Just Breathe" goes "I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love." It popped in my head when I was thinking about "having it all" since I don't want to measure my success by how much I have, but rather how much I've loved, seen, laughed, inspired, mentored, etc. I told my son today that I was exercising because I wanted to make sure I could be around him for as long as possible. So while it meant that we couldn't play for an hour at that moment, we would be able to play for years later. And that's my "have."

2) All of it. When I was pregnant, I immediately thought of my friend's mother, an indigenous woman who has helped other women in their pregnancies. We didn't do typical doula things. Rather, we talked for hours at her home while picking vegetables in her large garden. She and her family have been composting and gardening for decades. I always left with enough vegetables for a week, or until my next visit. When my son was born, I needed some help with care and I thought of her and her other daughter who was beginning her third year of college. When I asked her daughter what she would like to paid for the summer, she came up with an extremely low amount. I said that I would never feel comfortable paying her that. She responded that she only worked in the summer for money she would need during the first semester of school. She said that she didn't need rent, food, or money for clothes and that this would just be money for an occasional movie or hanging out with friends. I said that I still felt bad about the amount. So she offered that she would keep my phone number, in case she needed a care package or advice about school and that would be more than enough. It reminded me of what her mother used to do when I was pregnant, with the vegetables and advice. It made me think differently about when it does come to "having" things, all is enough.

My dad used to take me, my brother, and my cousins on bike rides around the Bay on the weekends or to the zoo or one of the many things the Bay has to offer. We lived in a modest house and didn't a ton of things. We had an answering machine that my uncle made and my parents owned cars for decades. My brother and I joked about the one pair of shoes we got per school year until we started becoming avid runners; then it was two pairs. My parents never missed a parent/teacher night and my mother was notorious for showing up at school unannounced just to see what we were doing. She knew my teachers by their first names and they often chatted regularly in Spanish about life back home. They raised money for the school and showed up to all of our competitions and events. My dad once asked me if I would like to have the things that my friends had: the large house, nice cars, and designer clothes. At the time, that was "all." Before I could answer, he said that the large house would mean no furniture and parents who were dog tired and couldn't show up to things. He said that was one of the biggest things that disappointed him about this country--people came here, risking everything, just to work themselves to death to give their kids things they didn't need and probably didn't want. He said that while he would have preferred to raise us in Central America, we were here but that didn't mean we would be raised with American values, such as greed.

I think about an interview with Zach de la Rocha when he asked about being a vegetarian. He said "there is more than enough food out there to eat that I don't have to be a part of the death cycle of an animal." I was drawn to that statement in part because that was similar to my reasoning behind being a vegan for so many years and also because one can see how wanting, and desiring to have everything, has made people sick and unhappy. There is plenty of everything out there for all of us to have what we want, including the time to have what we need in our relationships, family, and friends.

I used to go to Nicaragua every year. I really looked forward to that trip. In part, it was a vacation. But it was also an opportunity to spend time with grandfather who has since passed. Prior to my visit, I would peruse my J.Crew catalog for the latest lounge, vacation wear and buy the newest sandals, bathing suits, and dresses to take with me. But in the two weeks of my trip, between hours on the beach, chatting with my grandfather, visiting my grandmother's grave, trying to guess the recipes of my favorite dishes, drinking local beer at the small bars, and visiting the elementary school, I didn't wear even half of the clothes. I actually left most of them behind. I thought I went on the trip having it all, but found that I gained it all while I was there.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Atlantic, Part Deux

I now reconsider my previous position on the Atlantic article. I'm not mad at you, feminism!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Atlantic

I've been mulling over this article from The Atlantic. And it seems as though I'm not the only one. I wanted to start this post making reference to the article since it might explain my absence from my blog for so long. The article strikes a cord with me because I feel like the last year, at minimum, has been about me trying to find that work/life balance, something that seems about as elusive as anything can be. I bought the actual magazine--I know that sounds odd on its own--while grocery shopping at Whole Foods, with my toddler asleep in the cart, having just come from a meeting about my leadership potential, a meeting to which I had to bring my son, who dutifully watched PBS on our iPad as if he knew mama was talking about our future right now so I need to be quiet.

Although I'd seen many Facebook posts about the article, no time seemed more appropriate to take the plunge and read what someone else was saying about what I was trying to figure out. One of the people who posted the link to the article is a former colleague from graduate school. She is about to begin a tenure-track position at a university. I gave up that possibility, in part due to my awareness that academia was not for me and the other part due to my committee feeling my pregnancy was too much of a distraction. I'll probably be bitter about that forever. I found it ironic though that the person who posted the link, and made a comment that this was something she was really thinking about now that she was beginning a pretty intense part of her career, is the same person who told me to stop complaining about my swollen feet and waddling during my second trimester because I wasn't "that pregnant" and later said that my family was evidence of my "lack of commitment" to my studies. Oh how the tides have turned. Interesting how that always seems to happen.

So I read "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" while my son was napping and did a quick inventory of who am I and where I'm trying to go. I'm attached to my iPad, as of late. The iBooks app is most used and has everything from the 50 Shades trilogy to the most recent Toni Morrison novel and tons of books on management and leadership including Moneyball and Steve Jobs (I say it's a leadership book). The iTunes app has Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" on repeat (you won't catch me saying I'm not bitter about my relationship break-up). And my P90X app is used everyday, thank you very much. But I started to think about what I would really like to be doing in my spare minutes to myself other than wondering what Christian Grey and Ana Steele are doing at the moment. I immediately thought of my comic and nothing else. I did some quick research and downloaded some apps including a writing app (I've often wondered why I like books with such crappy writing and considered how I could do a much better job in my comic). Other than educating young people in a traditional setting, using comedy as a learning tool is my other passion. And I got started writing my comic.

I then thought about something else from the article, specifically work hours, and how I can still have my passions and raise a son who doesn't go out and rob someone ten years from now. I'm smart enough to figure that out but I'll say, I don't have an answer right now. So when Lil O woke up and ate dinner, I decided we needed to work on his bball skills. He is going to be 3 soon and that isn't too early to start working on his defense and ball-handling. I said "Bubba, you're between me and the hoop (laundry basket) and I'm telling you that I'll fake left and come around you to the right. But if you're watching me, you'll know that I'm going to do that." He giggled but stared at my face. "Alright, I'm going to the left...uh-oh, now right" I said as he started running around me in circles. I then did my best slow motion lay-up into the laundry basket while saying "you left the hoop open" and he fell out laughing only interrupted by "you did it!!" And I thought, I definitely need to figure this out because I won't go another day without hearing that giggle.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Social Network

People often times ask me why I've been in school so long. When I talk about how I just like to learn, they never believe me. But I have to say, it's almost midnight and this is what I've been doing for the last four hours since the baby went to sleep:

1. Finished watching "The Social Network."
2. Thought about the accuracy in film and how I didn't have the benefit of one of my favorite History Channel programs that dismantles the myths in movies.
3. Went on Wikipedia to do something not called research.
4. Spent a good amount of time on there, clicking around and reading this and that. I'm still not sure what final clubs are at Harvard, by the way. And why do they have to do all that secret ish? And on another note, I spent helllllllla days researching those Harvard secret societies once. But anyway...
5. Thought the best way to "research" would be to do so I farted around Facebook for a while.

I saw an invitation for a viewing that I should attend this weekend; something else about a car accident that killed some wonderful people whom I never had the pleasure of meeting; something else about native lands being stolen...again. I saw in my list of friends a number of people who have passed recently and obviously could not take down their pages. I saw some "friends" who I haven't spoken to in so long and I frankly don't want to...And I thought, this thing is depressing! What's so good about opening the world to whatever communication deal Zuckerburg keeps saying. That mess is wack.

And then I got to thinking about how the internet has actually changed the way we communicate, what we communicate and why we communicate. Some of it is surface--our answers are quick and void of feeling. My dad, for example, would never let us as kids say "I don't know" because he felt that we weren't taking the time to know. I don't even want to tell him about the time-efficiency in IDK. And some of it goes deeper--In high school, I used to practice telling jokes. It's a true science in reading people and understanding why we laugh: did they say "that's funny" or did they actually laugh? Now, I don't even make guesses because I won't know anyone's reaction in the blogworld! To something else entirely--how and why would I perpetuate the sort of falseness of my facebook friends in real life? Would I really attend a viewing for someone I haven't seen in fifteen years if I didn't see the outpouring of support on his Facebook wall? Would I be this discouraged about my supposed lack of academic success as I transition between programs if I didn't see the progress of my colleagues in their doctoral programs? And what does it say about us, as a people, not about our communication skills, but rather our narcissism, thinking everyone everywhere wants to know what we are doing and feeling, only the good things, or only the tremendously sad?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I know this may sound strange and keep it real, I've said some strange things before. But I'm feeling extra Black these days. I mean, I felt this way before, but lately, it's extra Black. There have been other times, like when I won the Gift of Blackness award in the third grade. That was definitely a Black moment. Or when I ran faster than my peers because, according to my teammate, Black people's muscle develop larger and much earlier. Extra Black that day mostly because dude had his thesis so laid out, I was starting to believe that ish! Feeling Black isn't part of the daily since I don't walk around with a mirror in front of my face. I notice other people who aren't Black and that almost seems stranger to me: it's raining, why isn't his hair curling up? I gave that "you know what I'm saying" look and didn't get a response--what a weirdo! Things like that.

So I know it might seem like an obvious statement to say that I feel like that mirror is being held in front of me every time I step foot in Marin county. Marin is an interesting place. As you enter from the East Bay, you have to pass Chevron oil refineries, San Quentin on the left and the canal (home to the immigrants who clean the houses, mow the lawns, and mind the children) on the right. Next, you go over this hill and there it is, like you just came up on the Emerald City, Marin County. You can spit in any direction and find a multi-million dollar home, with the CEO of some mega-company or super celebrity or some other new money. Your sad face doesn't have to be too sad to get one of them to cut you a check for five figures. Their concern for the [insert one: whales, bald eagle, grass, or wind] is only matched by their concern for the mad obscure village in South America they just happened to visit during their last family vacay to Machu Pichu. I know I sound bitter, but the means-well set gets on my damn nerves, especially when I have to interact with them everyday. They don't make it a secret when they meet me and ask for my pedigree. When I tell them, there response is "oh, okay" and they proceed to introduce themselves. They'll write a check for education having gone to college just to meet their future husband, knowing jack shit about pedagogy, only that their bleeding heart needs some healing.

The one thing that could possibly we worse than the mega-rich in Marin are the regular folk in Marin, the regular middle class folks, with a chip on their shoulder bigger than Mt. Tamalpais. Imagine being the school teachers, grocery clerks, pizza delivery people to the mega-rich, having to interact with their arrogance all damn day. You might sound slightly angry, annoyed, might sound like me. But at the very least, I get to drive back to the East Bay, over a bridge with San Francisco on my right, the Port of Oakland in front of me, polluting the beautiful Bay in between. I've really been bitter for years: pissed off that I have to shop at Whole Foods for some decent food so I don't get some mystery cancer; angry that I have to travel hella far to get my hair products; annoyed that the "Obama is my homeboy" t-shirt only comes in 3X...but I used to have people around me who can share in this...and they aren't in Marin.