Friday, December 16, 2011

It's a Black and White Thing

I have something to share with you all, something you might be shocked to hear, but I have to get it off my chest.

Here goes...

My husband

...and I am...white! gets worse. We have children! *gasps*

Oh, and even worse yet...I am completely, 100% unapologetic about it.

I am going to be uncharacteristically controversial for a moment, and that's sarcasm, just in case you're just now tuning in.

Because I refuse to continue to argue with a woman on facebook as to why it shouldn't matter that Tyler Perry might be engaged to a black woman, and why, in any relationship, it shouldn't matter what color the skin, I'm choosing to write about it instead, and let the creative, irritated juices flow.

I have heard enough hate tonight to last me a while, so before I begin, please beware, that hateful comments will be deleted, no questions asked.

Now to give you a little background, I saw a comment tonight on an article about Tyler Perry's possible engagement, that stated how happy the commenter (a black woman) was that he was marrying a "sister" because "you know how people get when they get money." I very nicely stated that I meant no disrespect, but as a white woman married to a black man I can say that it is not money or color (or lack there of) that joins us, but our faith in God, and that whether they are pink, red, green, or blue I pray that their faith in God keeps their relationship strong. I even ended the comment with a ":)". I was not offended by what the woman said. She stated her opinion, and then I shared mine. But as usual, my opinion was misconstrued. I was verbally attacked by several other black women, one of which said if this made me uncomfortable and edgy then I should stick to my own race.

Hold the phone. Isn't this the exact kind of hatred and racism that black people have been trying to overcome for centuries?

You might be surprised (or you might not) to know that this is not the first of this hatred I have encountered. You also might be surprised (or not) to know that this kind of bitterness toward our relationship has never (to my knowledge) come from white people. I don't really talk about it, because I take it with a grain of salt, and because I don't want to offend anyone or give them the wrong impression, but the glares, the rude comments and behavior toward us, or rather me, have only come from black women. I cannot speak on Jelani's behalf, but that is what I have experienced. Everyone tends to look at us because it's hard to miss my ghostly white skin contrasted against his dark chocolate skin, but I have only gotten attitude from a very small demographic.

I am aware that a high percentage of black women are single, and I am also aware that a high percentage of black men are dating or married to white women. I don't claim to know why that is, but I think it is unfair to assume that black men with money and/or status purposely "turn their backs on black women." I don't think anyone of any color should have to apologize for or explain their love in their relationship. Contrary to what some might believe, I did not stealthily steal Jelani away from a black woman's grasp. We were both single at the time that we met, and we fell in love. It has nothing to do with money, education, status, or color. It has everything to do with us, and our relationship with Christ and with each other, and I shouldn't even have to explain that. 

You might rightly say that I will never understand a black woman, or her feelings about this. Correct. But I do understand that no one likes to be stereotyped. When you make comments like that about black men with white women, you are lumping them into a stereotype. Even more so, by stating that black men go after white women when they come into money or fame, you are lumping your own men into a status seeking, money loving, heartless category, and that. is. not. fair.

Lastly, and the part that irritated me most tonight: to the woman who told me that I should try to understand because one day my "black daughter will feel the same way," do not  tell me how my daughter is going to feel, and do not speak that kind of bitterness and resentment on her. Because, if we're being honest, that's what it comes down to.

1. my daughter is not black. she is both black AND white.
2. my daughter is beautiful and smart no matter what shade her skin is.
3. my daughter will be raised to know that the color of skin isn't what makes a person, and to have respect for people and their relationships.
4. my daughter will be raised with the love of Jesus, and to be confident in that, and to be comfortable with herself and her relationship with Him so that she will understand whether dating, married, or single, that His will for her life is what matters; His love for her is what matters, and, therefore know not to tear others down for what they have.

You can talk at me in circles all night about this just "being your opinion," but that doesn't change the hypocrisy of it, one iota, so here is a tip: Love your Lord, love yourself, and speak blessings; not curses.

I wouldn't normally add a disclaimer, but this is necessary: none of this is to say, in any way, that all black women feel this way. In fact, everyone in our lives, black and white, has been nothing but loving and supportive, and that is what matters. I LOVE the people in our lives.

Lastly, the only racial tension that has ever been in this relationship has been our very opinionated debates about James Brown and Celine Dion, and those are entertaining at their worst, so that's the way it's going to stay. Your bitter "opinions" aren't welcome here, but thanks for stopping by and keeping me inspired, and here's another ":)" for good measure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Love Story

Ever since I could talk, I have been verbalizing how much I wanted to play basketball. My mom kept a journal/scrapbook about my likes and dislikes from preschool through junior high. In it was the question, "What I want to be when I grow up," and in the space next to it is written, "basketball player," every single year. The handwriting changed over the years, but the goal never did.

Just before my 7th grade year, my dad convinced me to pick another sport. It was a strange request coming from someone whose rumored reputation in town was that of a tyrant of a father who wouldn't let me, my sister or any of our teammates participate in anything but basketball, but I obliged. The only sport season that didn't conflict with any of my basketball was the fall. The choice came down to volleyball or tennis. The girls that played volleyball were a tight-knit group that I didn't want to attempt to intrude on. I had just moved to town the year before, and was still working my way into the basketball group as the new girl. The tennis team, on the other hand, was made up of mostly juniors in high school, with no junior high team available. Even at that young age I knew I'd rather make a way for myself than to try to invade the territory of a group of 13 year old girls, so I chose tennis.

While my dad loved my passion for basketball, his logic here was based on his own experience. He never took up golf like his dad, and he regretted it. Instead he had played basketball and volleyball in high school, both sports requiring many players to compete. As an adult, he found it difficult to find enough people to play, and so he'd gradually stopped trying. With some tennis under my belt, one day, he was certain, I'd have a much easier time finding one more person to hit with than 9 others to play ball with.  

I was a good little girl, and I listened to my dad. I was put on the tennis team as a manager, but was able to practice with the team, and even scrimmage with other teams' managers. After the first week of practice, however; I wanted to quit. I never wanted to quit anything as much as I wanted to quit tennis. I was horrible. See, I had been playing, practicing, and even competing in basketball since I was 4, so I quite literally don't ever remember being bad at it. Most of what I learned, I don't even remember learning. I just know how to do it. Now, here I was, age 13, taking up a completely foreign sport where I have to hit a ball with a racket, and my first week of practice, I couldn't connect that ball and racket to save my life.

I'll spare you all the details, but I didn't quit. Of course when my dad realized the reasons I wanted to quit were because it was "hard," and I wasn't "good," he wouldn't allow it. We made a deal that I had to finish the season, and then make the decision. Truth be told, I began to really like the game. I stuck with it. After all, it was only 3 months out of the year. It still couldn't hold a candle to the feeling I got when running a basketball up the court, but it was fun, and actually helped me with some of my basketball skills.

Most of you know how this story goes. I went on to play basketball in college, which was my dream. I remember my freshman year, after a grueling practice, I grabbed a ball from the rack and headed back to the gym to do some shooting, and a more seasoned teammate of mine, confused as to why I was going back for more, told me, "Give it a few years. You'll get tired of that." I knew I wouldn't, and I never did. However; sadly, my career was cut short by an unexplainable ankle injury in 2003, and I have spent the last 8 years trying to get back on the court.

Be patient. There really is a reason for that whole tennis story, I promise.

This morning, I grabbed a basketball at 5:45 am and went to the gym; the same gym I played my years in college. Normally I would be running on the treadmill, but I wanted to shoot. Now eight years after my injury, I've finally been able to return to the court, and am playing in a competitive rec league. The treadmill has gotten me in shape for it, but I want to be comfortable with the ball too. So I found myself shooting this morning, in an empty gym where all the bleachers were pulled out and ready for the women's game tonight. I am almost 30, yet the sound of that bouncing ball in an empty gym is still the most relaxing sound I've ever encountered. I vowed I would shoot until they kicked me out, certain that I wasn't supposed to be in there. After about 5 minutes someone shouted to me that they would be turning out the lights, and the only lights that would remain on would be the lights around the track above the gym. "OK, thanks," but I kept shooting. They did turn out the lights, but I still kept shooting. I shot until I made 100 baskets, and then I stopped counting and just enjoyed myself, the sound of the bouncing ball, and the swish against the net, and I prayed. I must have looked like an idiot, shooting in the dark at 6:30 am, but I couldn't help but laugh to myself, and I prayed that my children would be "idiots" for something too. I pray that they would find something; something productive that they have a great talent for, something they are so passionate about, and something they are certain they are called to do, that even after a season ends, and the lights go out, they still find themselves drawn to it like nothing else.

Nothing has ever replaced basketball in my heart, and thankfully, I have found many leagues filled with women to play, and Dad, I have yet, to find a tennis partner. There it is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Best Behavior Month

I remember, as a child, once the month of December hit, I tried so hard to always be on my best behavior. I did not want to be on Santa's naughty list, and I treated it as though the list didn't exist the other 11 months of the year. But December, man...that was Santa's month, and if I wasn't extra good, I just knew my stocking would be empty. I never believed he gave coal to the bad boys and girls. That's a bit dark for Santa, don't you think?

As an adult, I've noticed I do nearly the same thing. Christmas gets closer, and while Santa's list no longer frightens me, I think about Jesus, and I just know I need to try to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend...person, and so I begin to try harder. This all hit me last Wednesday, November 30th. It was the most rotten awful day, for no apparent reason. I was the most rotten, miserable person...again, for no apparent reason.

Brace yourself, because I am about to get very real with you. I believe I'm not the only one that has felt this way, but most moms are terrified to admit it. I love my kids. I love them with all of my heart and then some, but that Wednesday, that evil, awful day, I couldn't find it in me to like them. I was trying to finish up a couple of crochet orders for customers. I was ahead of schedule, and not really pressed for time, but I like to stay ahead of the game, and once I've started something, I have a hard time putting it down. Now that doesn't mean I neglect my children, but that particular day they were particularly needy. After every bite of food, after every meal I gave them I was countered with, "Mommy, I'm still hungry! Can I have something to eat please!" which sounds cute and legitimate, except it was never without a whine, and it was only their way of getting 'treats'. They were suddenly very full when I would just give them more of their meal.

They used me and my newly proclaimed craft corner, as their personal jungle gym, and refused to listen to any of the following: "Don't jump on the couch! Stop yelling. Don't hit. Don't touch that. Get out of your sisters face. Keep your shirt on..." you get the idea. They abused phrases they've heard me say, and took them out of context, so that every so often I heard one of them say, "ExCUSE me?" or "Don't talk to me that way!" when they didn't get what they wanted. Everything they said was a scream, demand, or whine. The words "please" and "thank you" seemed to have escaped them, and they would not leave me alone to do my work. They constantly made me miss stitches and have to start over, lose count and have to start over, or just plain mess something up and have to start over.

If you know my children, this is their rarest form. On a typical day, I can sit and blog, crochet, or sew, while they play together or watch Sesame Street. On a typical day, they go down for a 2 hour nap in the afternoon with no problems, and on a typical day, they eat what I give them without any complaints. As you can see, this was no typical day. I was no longer feeling like their loving mother, but rather like their big sister that they just would. not. leave. alone.

And so, I began acting out like a 10 year old girl, saying things to them in a tone I very likely used on my little sister many, many times. "Get away from me! Leave me alone for just one minute! Don't touch me!" As a last resort, I began to get sarcastic with them, "Nice. Super. That was a great idea!" I don't need to tell you that it was completely lost on them.

My irritability all came to a head when my pork bbq in the crock pot didn't shred like it was supposed to, making it very difficult to put on sandwiches, and tough for the kids to chew. Being a Wednesday, I purposely planned a crock pot meal because the kids had Awana in the evening. Awana is a church youth group for just about all ages. They even have Bible studies for the parents there waiting. It starts at 6:30, meaning we have to leave by 6, which is usually when we'd be eating dinner, but with the pork bbq in the crock pot all day, I just knew we'd be able to smoothly and quickly eat at 5:30 and get out the door on time. Instead, I was rushing two "still hungry" kids out the door at 6:15, smelling like botched pork bbq.

The whole way to Awana, I was muttering irritated comments about the drivers, and didn't even realize it until I heard Elijah from the back seat say, in an irritated tone, "Nobody don't know how to drive their cars!" I then toned it down, keeping my irritation silent.

We pulled up to Awana, I got the kids into their classrooms, and was really looking forward to sitting outside the church sanctuary, crocheting my latest order. For weeks now, I've used this 1 and a half hours for myself, just to sit quietly by myself, and crochet. Most nights the worship team is practicing, so I even get some nice, relaxing music. I sat down, opened my bag, and let out a loud, obnoxious groan, muttering, "You've GOT to be kidding me!" I brought the unfinished project, and forgot the yarn. There were a few items I sewed on while sweating from the fumes that I was certain were spewing from every pore in my body. In the 10 minutes that took, a woman sat down next to me, and invited me to join her prayer group. I went, somewhat reluctantly, but realizing I had nothing else to do at that point.

While they were praying for my ridiculous prayer request that I wouldn't be so doggone miserable and irritable, I realized, this was it. December was going to be the next day, and Jesus was watching! That's His month. As crazy as that logic is (I don't need to receive e-mails, ministering to me on how Jesus watches all year 'round, I get it), it taught me something. I thank GOD that Jesus doesn't have a naughty or nice list based on my actions, but that He has a gift to give to everyone wanting to receive it.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--" Ephesians 2:8 

So, while I will try not to be such a miserable, irritable person, it is comforting to know that even when I'm so awful that I can't even love myself, Jesus still loves me.

The next day was December aka Best Behavior Month, and I took a break from my crocheting, to be a "nice list" mommy, and got down on the floor to craft with the kids. It's amazing what good medicine that was for all of our miserableness. :)