Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"I Brought You Into This World..."

Remember comedian Bill Cosby's saying, "I brought you into this world and I can take you out"?  I had one of those moments on Sunday when my 13-year-old decided to act like a teenager and test my limits.  And boy did she test my limits!

Let me give you some background information.  My husband and I have not been the best at getting to church.  We've gone off and on for the past 19 years we've been married.  Some years we're great and consistent, other years we've enjoyed being at home a little too much.  Of course, this has not been in the best interest of our children.  Hey, I never claimed to be perfect.

The last two weeks we've been getting visits from people in our home ward.  We just moved into the neighborhood back in October so they wanted to invite us to church.  We were visited by one person in the ward along with my husband's uncle, then we were visited by the Young Women's president (since we have three Young Women living in our household), and finally we were visited by the "Big Three", the bishop and his two counselors.  In a rare moment of togetherness, my husband and I agreed it was time to stop messing around and get our children back to church.  We both grew up going to church.  In fact, my mom would not let you miss church unless you were on your death bed!  In all my years growing up, I think I missed church less than five times.  And at the time, growing up in American Samoa, pretty much EVERYONE went to church.  That was what we did on Sundays.  SO we decided, unanimously (or so we thought), that we would start going on Sunday. No more excuses.  Why wait?  Jump in with both feet!

Church doesn't start until 11:00 in the morning so we had plenty of time to wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, and be on time for classes.  I get up, cook, and while the kids are eating breakfast, I instruct them to finish eating then get ready.  My 13-year-old asks, "Do I have to go?"  Automatically my face takes on my "mom" look and I answer a simple, "Yes."  That should have been my red flag, a sign, a kick in the teeth that all was NOT right on this bright Sunday morning.  Five minutes later, she is still sitting at the table (she had finished eating) and I went to my usual, "What did I tell you to do?"  When my children were younger, I would always say, "I should only have to tell you to do something once.  If I have to tell you more than that, we're going to have issues." So, the dark clouds in my head are beginning to cover my peaceful Sunday bliss.  My 13-year-old goes upstairs and everyone is getting ready.  Including her dad who played music the night before and didn't come home until very late.  Even HE got up to get ready.  When it was time to start moving out the door, I go into her room and this child, this 13-year-old teenaged being, is still in her pajamas.  You know those movies where someone is possessed and their eyes turn completely black?  I think that's what happened to mine because I growled, "You have FIVE minutes to get ready" in one of those evil, Damien, exorcist voices.

Everyone else gets into the car and I walk to the room again and this child IS STILL IN HER PAJAMAS. Not only that, she tells me, "I'm not going."  Aca-scuse-ME???  My inner Madea comes out and I swear this child is going to taste the rainbow!  I walk out to get my belt and this physical monster that looks like my daughter but has lost her damn mind closes her bedroom door and SITS against it to block me out.  My mouth drops open, my head spins around on my neck, and I walk out to the car where my husband and normal children are waiting.  I tell my husband, "Either you go in there or I'm taking her OUT!"  He stared at me and my other children were in complete shock.  I don't think they have ever seen me so angry!

I walk back into the house and push open the bedroom door.  As I'm doing this, I'm telling my daughter I have almost 100 pounds over her so how in the hell does she think she can block the door?  I got into the room and let me tell you, this child lucked out.  The powers of Jesus, Heavenly Father, Zeus, the strength of Thor, Valhalla, Tagaloa, and every single godly being and place in the universe spared her life that day and kept me from beating the living daylights out of her.  When I asked what her problem was she replied, "It's called puberty." Eh, aikae lou puberty and GET READY FOR CHURCH!  Gone is the peace.  Gone is the happiness. Gone is the serenity.  As she sat on her bed and I threw her clothes from the closet, I told her she has choices.  I've always given them choices.  Her choices for this Sunday?
Choice 1:  Get ready for church
Choice 2:  I can beat the hell out of you and you can get ready for church and get there looking tore up.
We started with Choice 2 but she was smart (most of the time she is very smart) and reverted back to Choice 1.

When we finally got into the car, all I said was, "Jesus needs to take the wheel because I AM DONE."  My husband spoke with this 13-year-old child of the corn twice, once before we left for church, and again when we got home and were changing our clothes to go out to eat.  He spoke of respect, the importance of church, apologized that we haven't been the best examples, and told her to never do that again.  EVER! Before she went to bed that night, I called her into my room and asked her, "What was going through your mind this morning?"  (Translation:  Have you lost your ever loving MIND?)  She apologized for her behavior and said she would not act like that again.  I asked if we were going to have issues every Sunday and she said no.  (Translation:  Do you have a weekly death wish?)  Being a mother for 17 years and having this type of incident pop up now, I guess I should be grateful.  I mean, she has two older sisters who could have done the same thing.  In fact, they could still go off the deep end at one point or another.  But they haven't. Until now.  And only with this one child.  Which makes me wonder.  Are the powers of the universe strong enough to keep me sane through these teenage years???  Help me, Bill Cosby!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mrs. Ribbit

Meet Mrs. Ribbit and her baby who has not been named as of yet.  She joined our family last night after a shopping trip to WalMart.  The best part, she was a late Valentine's gift from my 8-year-old who used her own Valentine's money from grandparents to buy this for me.  Her favorite mom.  Ever.

Four years ago, we made a WalMart trip and saw some great stuffed animal/pillows.  I immediately gave my kids money and instructions since it was getting close to Valentine's Day.

"Take your dad to WalMart and buy me either the ladybug or frog.  I also want a bag of Dove dark chocolate pieces.  Here's some money and a coupon for the chocolates.  The coupon is for two bags so pick out a bag for you girls.  Ready?  Go!"

That Valentine's Day four years ago I got home from work and walked into the house.  The girls were bouncing off the walls with excitement and as soon as they heard the key in the door, they ran at me almost in a full line football tackle!  They dragged me to my room and were squealing with delight the whole way there.  All of 15 steps.  Which is about all I can take with squealing.  I opened the door and saw the bag of chocolates, a rose, a beautiful card full of declarations of love from my daughters and husband, and not one but TWO stuffed animals/pillows.  My husband, the non-romantic that he is, bought the frog AND the ladybug.  I promptly (with urging/nagging from my youngest who was 4-years-old at the time) named them. Mr. Frog and Miss Ladybug.  I know.  Not very creative but when you're a mother of four children, you have to go down the list just trying to call ONE child.  (Ka-An-Pu-Nana!  Whichever kid you are! You know I'm talking to you cuz I'm looking right at you!!!)  How the heck will I remember the stuffed animals' names, too?

About a year after I received my lovely gifts, my youngest began to have bad dreams.  And wake me up at all hours of the night.  Which created a very grouchy, tired mom.  I tried everything.  Reading happy, non-scary stories at night.  Singing lullabies.  Praying.  Using Spock-like mind controls.  Telling her to dream of ice cream and cake.  Dream of eating candy all day long.  Dream of mom karate chopping the monster.  My husband even suggested giving her one of my night shirts so she could feel like I was beside her.  Because at this point, we were absolutely exhausted.  My husband and I can barely fit in our bed let alone having another body sleeping with us and ending up with black eyes every morning from the legs and arms flopping all night long.  Enter Mr. Frog and Miss Ladybug.

"Would you like to sleep with Mr. Frog and Miss Ladybug?  Do you think that will help with your bad dreams?"  I asked one sleepless night.  She nodded and basically took over my stuffed animals/pillows.  To my husband's delight.  He hated the things.  But I'm a sucker for stuffed animals and I was sad to let them go. Growing up in American Samoa, I had my collection of stuffed animals and even had a special shelf for them. I've always loved them.  I still have a stuffed panda bear I bought when I was 6-years-old on a rare family vacation in the great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina visiting my mom's family.  It's not always about the toy but the memories they carry.  When it came to these newer stuffed animals, I was happy to give them up if it helped my daughter with her bad dreams and kept her in her own bed all night (and save me from looking like the sleepy, frazzled, crazed mom at work).

Fast forward four years, Mr. Frog and Miss Ladybug have been constant companions in my daughter's bed along with the ten plus other stuffed animals she has acquired throughout the years.  So here we are at WalMart, four years later, after Valentine's Day and the store is prepping for Easter.  She sees this frog/frog baby combo.  And guess what?  She offers to give back Mr. Frog. Now that he's flat, smooshed, smells like bad breath, and is in sorry shape.  Really?  I give her "the look" and continue with my shopping.  That's when she gets a bright idea.  And she goes and grabs ANOTHER frog/frog baby set.

"One for me and one for you, mom.  A late Valentine's present."  She says this with a look of satisfaction and joy.  Because now we have a matching set.  And I'll be honest, I was very excited!  So she purchases the frogs and we get home to place them in their rightful places on our beds.  My baby girl comes in to see that the frog is being treated properly and to make sure her dad hasn't tossed it across the room then asks, "What are you going to name it?"

I had to think for a minute.  We already have Mr. Frog and Miss Ladybug.  This one is holding a little one. What matches with a frog?  The lightbulb turns on (sometimes it works!) and I replied, "Her name is Mrs. Ribbit and her baby."  My daughter smiled and said it was a great name.  And of course, everything was right with the world.

As I drifted off to sleep last night hugging Mrs. Ribbit and baby, I felt happy and content.  Not because of the stuffed animal in my arms or even the fact that my baby girl bought me a gift.  Life was, no, life IS good. And now I have Mrs. Ribbit and baby to create new memories!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

White Privilege in a Half Caste's World

My sister and I walked into a Claire's accessory store in the mall in Flagstaff, Arizona in the mid-1990s.  We were looking at earrings and commenting on ones we liked and didn't like.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a saleslady walking around the store and glancing at my sister and I.  Did she ever ask if we needed help?  No.  Did she tell us about any special offers we might be interested in?  Nope.  She just stared and stalked.  I started getting this creepy, icky feeling and leaned over to my sister asking, "Is she FOLLOWING us?"  My sister nodded.  We walked out of the store and didn't say a word to the lady.  Just walked out.

Many years later I'm standing in line at WalMart in Salt Lake City, Utah with my daughters, the three older ones being teenagers and very observant.  The customer in front of us is greeted by the cashier, she was asked if she found everything she needed, they chit chat, and she's told to "have a nice day".  Now I'm a nice person.  I always smile at people in customer service because I know how it feels to work in that field.  My husband says I come off manly and gruff but really, I'm a pleasant person.  So we get up to the front and I smile at the cashier.  And there's silence.  No greeting.  No small talk.  No "how's your day going".  No "have a nice day".  Not even a "go to hell".  Nothing.  Silence.  Now I used to say thank you even when people didn't say it to me but I'm over that crap so I just left with my stuff.  If they are not going to thank me for my business, I'm certainly not going to thank them for being rude.  My girls noticed what happened and when we were in the car, they asked what that was all about.  Why did the cashier treat the other lady different from me?  I'm not one for confrontations.  In fact, I hate them.  I told my girls I don't waste my time on ignorance.  If the cashier had ill feelings towards me, that's her problem.  She wasn't worth my time or energy.  She doesn't know me and is really missing out, if I can just toot my own horn for a second.  Her loss.  Sticks and stones..., right?

Or is it right?  I was like the lady in the video (linked above) but I didn't have someone coming to my rescue and pointing out the indiscretion.  She even mentioned if SHE was the one who said something and not her sister-in-law, would it be taken in a different manner?  Would she have been looked at as the "angry black woman" versus "the woman who had been wronged by the cashier"?  How do we teach people about privilege and how it affects those of us on the opposing side?  The first semester I taught my Humanities/diversity class at the local community college, I had to teach a lesson on white privilege.  It was the first time I had heard the term and was very interested in the concept, although I had no idea how to teach or approach the subject.  Until I looked into other privileges.  For example male privilege, a female going to get her car repaired and spoken to like she knows nothing about cars.  Or my favorite example, class privilege.  I used the movie "Pretty Woman" as my example and the scene where Julia Roberts is rejected by a Beverly Hills shop because she's in her hooker clothing and then returning to another store with rich guy Richard Gere in tow and being treated with the utmost respect.  Then I understood.  Once again, it falls back to ignorance, blissful as it may seem.  It's like saying, "I grew up with Samoan neighbors."  That's nice.  But did you LEARN anything?  Or, "my best friend is Tongan."  And...  your point is???  Actually, your point is that you THINK you understand, but you really don't so you're compensating by claiming you hang out with people of color and that makes you "in the know".

Will I ever be vocal about white privilege if I'm once again faced with that situation?  Probably not.  But I really liked the video and what it represents.  If only people did the right things to make the world a better place, then we'd have some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Cue "We Are the World" music...