Sunday, January 18, 2015

He Had A Dream

In August of 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. We need to hear it again. Most of us have seen the video of him giving part of that speech many times in school. It's part of history class. So we think of it as history.

But the words ring true today. We need the same message. This time in color. Delivered by someone alive today in just as powerful a manor. This speech itself is history. So this time we need a new speech with the same message.

It was meant to bring about change. To some degree, it works. But racism still exists and there is still a denial that racism exists. There is a lot less racism now than there was back then. But there are many people still experiencing it. Maybe in fewer places than back then, but it still happens.

From the speech:
One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
Black people are more likely to be poor all these years later. They are given less opportunities. Sometimes, because of a criminal record. They are more likely to serve jail time then the white criminals too:

African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites


5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites


African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)


In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic

http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet

Of course the best way to stay out of jail is to not do something illegal. But that's not so easy when your job pays minimum wage and it's not enough to live off of. One thing that could make a big difference in lowering crime rates is a living wage. Making the minimum wage enough to afford the cost of living. Theft and illegal sales would go down. It wouldn't be eliminated but it would go down. Because a lot of people turn to those things when very desperate.

Racism will never completely go away. A racist parent teaches their kids to be racist. Sometimes, that kid decides when they are older that their parent(s) were wrong. Usually, they carry that prejudice with them. In some cases it might not be as strong as their parent(s) had, but it's still there.

Some will always instinctively be fearful or intimidated by a black man. Because that's how they are raised. A black man pointing a gun at you is not more dangerous then a white man pointing a gun at you. They are equally dangerous. Just like a really good black man is just as good as a really good white man.

It's not about color. It's about personality. It's about choices. It's about your environment and the choices you are forced to make. For me, it's about Aquan.

He was in the 4th grade in 2008 and a kid I tutored every week. My town is in a nice area but not far from a few towns that can be dangerous. He couldn't trick or treat that year because they found a body in that area. His older brother had been killed. He had a hard working single mother and a couple of other siblings.

He sucked his thumb. My job as a teacher was to tell him to stop when it started. I did it, but it was hard for me to do. Because he needed safety, security, and comfort. We all need something comforting to make it through stressful times. He only sucked his thumb when he was struggling.

To this day, I fear he has been killed or is in jail and/or a gang. That is the fate for too many growing up like him. He was such a sweet kid. I can only pray for him and those like him. Perhaps one way we can weaken racism is to ask the racists "why?"

Why are you racist?
Why are you refusing to admit you are racist?
Why do you treat black people differently?
Why don't you think ALL children deserve a chance to succeed?
Why do you not trust someone because of their skin color without any other justifiable reason?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dating Deal Breakers

I have a friend who's single. He's had a rough time with dating. Last year was particularly rough on him! It had me thinking about what kind of girl would be a great match for him. There are three things about him that are very important to him. A relationship couldn't work with someone who didn't fit with these three things. These are the things who make him who he is.

1. He's catholic. We're talking church every Sunday even in summer catholic. But he believes in marriage equality and birth control. It's not that he needs a girl who's catholic too. He just needs a girl with similar beliefs. Episcopalians work as do most Christian religions. A Jewish girl would work too if she lets him have a Christmas tree. We know that from his Jewish roommate.

2. He's a U Mass Alumni and very much shows it. His apartment has UMass logos everywhere. She can't just tolerate or be neutral about UMass, she has to like UMass or love it. But there is a compromise. Maroon and white are the colors so that can be a decorating color theme without the logos everywhere. I suspect the colors comfort him so the logo part is negotiable but the colors aren't.

3. She has to be a Democrat! He has a life size cut out of Obama in his room. He understands that even a woman who supports Obama will probably have him get rid of it. But he feels strongly about his political values. A Republican wouldn't work with him! You can remove the cut out, not the beliefs!

He's a smart, funny, and interesting guy. He also has a good job. He's not looking for his future wife at a bar. He's trying young professional groups, church socials, and basically every dating website there is. Other friends try to fix him up all of the time.

The problem with that is they are just asking themselves "is she single?" The Atheist was nice but definitely a bad idea. If you are going to fix a friend up, it's important to think about the things most important to them. What are the deal breakers?

I'm generally not a fan of deal breakers. Sometimes they are used by those scared of commitment to keep potential partners at arms length. But some deal breakers are important. They include basics like "not abusive" and "supportive of my decisions".

Deal breakers are more about the things in your life you will never be able to give up. D is a great guy. I was surprised when some of these women weren't interested in him.

Smart
Funny
Good job
Close to his family but not unhealthy close
Doesn't smoke
Likes to experience new things
Wants commitment
Never married
No kids but loves kids and wants to be a father

Isn't that what most single women our age say they are looking for? They all liked him but weren't attracted to him. He mentioned that they might be "out of his league". So there was only one suggestion left to make.

I told him that when he's looking at a girl's profile picture he should hold his picture up next to her's. Do they look like they belong together? I think most couples that belong together look like they belong together. I'm not saying they look alike. But when you see them together you think "they are a couple". Even in the early picture of our relationship Josh and I look like we belong together!

I think that's an idea anyone struggling with dating can consider. Some might even have a close friend that people mistake for their boyfriend or girlfriend all of the time. If so, perhaps it's time to take the hint and go on a date!

I hope he finds the right girl this year. I hope everyone looking for their soul mate finds that person. It's important to have someone that appreciates the things in your life that make you who you are. It's important to be honest from the beginning. The right person won't be scared away. These deal breakers should go on D's profile for these dating sites. They say something real about him.

Don't compromise on the deal breakers that make you who you are. Don't say and do things because you think that's what the other person wants. The truth always comes out. Be honest with yourself from the beginning about the things you won't be able to compromise on forever.

Deal breakers like "must bring me flowers once a month" are meant to keep potential partners at arm's length. If this is similar to your deal breakers, you're not ready for commitment. There isn't anything wrong with that. Just be honest about that on your first date.

Religion and politics are important. Those values have to be similar. Otherwise, you get too much disagreement for the relationship to be sustainable. Dating is hard. It's important to not just "take anyone who'll have me". Those relationships don't last. We all deserve better. We all deserve someone who appreciates us for who we are. Don't compromise on that. Compromise in general is a good thing. But those are the things that make you who you are. They aren't up for negotiation.

I'm very happily married. I have a lot of friends who ask how I knew Josh was the one. We got together too young for me to have deal breakers at the time. But I'm an observant person. For years I have learned about what dating is like through friends, strangers, and reading. I don't plan on dating myself. But I want to help my friends who are having trouble.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Thread Tattoos

When someone is getting a tattoo, they choose something or someone they are drawn to. I'm certainly not an expert on tattoos. But I know some people with tattoos and have asked about them. For everyone I have asked, their tattoos have meaning. For others, their tattoos are expressions of their personalities. It's like they are the story of their owner. I never used to be able to understand why someone would want a tattoo. But over the last year that has changed. Because a tattoo that means something to the person who chose it, isn't ruining their body.

I started using embroidery thread to make jewelry back in the summer. I did it all of the time when I was in High School and have found it to be enjoyable now too. I said in my "A Gardener In Winter" post that a gardener needs busy hands. This is an excellent way to keep my hands busy. I made bracelets for Josh and Zach but, they aren't wearing them. So now I just make them for me .

It has also become an outlet for my OCD. I started off making seasonal and monthly bracelets. One for each season and one for each month.

Seasonal:
1st color - whole season
2nd color - September, December, March, or June
3rd color - October, January, April, or July
4th color - November, February, May, or August

Winter: Purple, Green, Navy and Pink


Monthly:
1st color - color for that month from the seasonal bracelet
2nd color - a complimentary color that also represents something for that month

January: Navy and Silver


But I didn't stop there. I made bracelets to go with my necklaces too. I also made a bracelet in our town colors and a gold and silver one to represent my family. In addition, made a series of bracelets for exercising and another series for a favorite summer place.

Then I started thinking about anklets. I found myself thinking about my hobbies and favorite things. That includes a garden bracelet featuring the colors I use most in my garden during the year. I started with a college bracelet but that was too hard to do emotionally. It started looking like the career bracelet that will never be.

Color 1 - a color for my college
Color 2 - the other color for my college
Color 3 - pink because my degree is in dance
Color 4 - money green since I minored in Business
Color 5 - teaching. because I'm certified and took education classes.

I started college double majoring in education but soon dropped it. At the time, I planned to open a dance studio. It seemed less important at the time. After transferring, I started with education as a concentration. The dance degree was set up where we had to choose a concentration in order for it to be a major. I started off double concentrating in business and education. But most of the education classes were theater classes so I dropped it then too. That's when I decided to make Business a minor. It only added about four classes.

The career bracelet would have been a tattoo. A silent tattoo. It's usually obvious what a real tattoo is supposed to mean. But this bracelet would have only made sense if I told you what it was and what the colors were for. I never did think of a color for teaching. I asked a couple of teacher friends and combined it came to every color but black or gray.

There is a reason the other colors were so automatic but that last color was so hard to choose. It's the second career obsession I had to give up. I still dance for exercise. I still help Zach with his homework. I still use my business skills to hold the house together. But they are careers that will never be. Not everything about careers are in your control. It led to a big breakdown. It's a part of myself I'd rather remain in the past. It's who I was, not who I am.

I wear the silver and gold bracelet on my left hand with the bracelet for the town I live in/grew up in. The seasonal, monthly, and clothing bracelets are on my right. It doesn't make any sense why a 34 year old would wear thread bracelets. But I tend not to make sense to most people anyway.

If you see me, you can learn the most about me just by looking at my bracelets. But don't look for the bracelet that isn't there. The career that never was there. The career never meant to be there. Instead, learn about where I grew up, the family I love, and my passion for monthly and seasonal themes. Just look at my thread tattoos.

How to make them:

Start by cutting a long string of embroidery thread in each color! Then, tie them together in a knot leaving about an inch to an inch and a half of thread above the knot. It makes tying the ends together easier.

Two Color bracelets -
  
         Loop one color around the other 
         Put your fingers through the hole on top and pull the color you looped around the other through
         Pull tightly until it's on top of the starter knot or the previous bracelet knot
         Repeat for the same color 5 - 10 times. I usually use 7 then switch colors
         Once it fits, tie the ends together and cut the extra thread off. Make sure the closing knot is tight

Four or Five Color bracelets -

* I start with two strands of each color. It helps them stand out more. For 7 or more colors I use just one of each color.

          Spread the threads out in the order you want them on your bracelet
          Loop the first thread around the second thread
          Reach on top and pull into the starter knot tightly
          Repeat using the first thread around the third thread then fourth, ect......
          Once the first color is around the other colors one at a time, repeat with the second color
          Keep going down the row with each color until the bracelet is the length you want.
         Once it fits, tie the ends together and cut the extra thread off. Make sure the closing knot is tight

I have a small wrist but I have discovered I need between 95 and 105 rows for it to fit me right. That means 7 rows of each color for two color bracelets, 12 sets of each color for four color bracelets, and 10 sets for each five color bracelet. Once it starts getting long, check the length. The threads I use are $.39 each at Michael's. In the yarn section.

http://www.michaels.com/dmc-embroidery-floss-violet-550/10031412.html#q=embroidery&start=13

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Forgotten Holidays: New Year's Day (part 7)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

When we think about the New Year holiday, we think about the New Year's Eve parties that happen today. Our thoughts about New Year's Day amounts to whether or not we have off from work and/or school or not. Sometimes, we think about goals we have for the upcoming year.

There are my resolutions from last year (in the Making Resolutions blog post):

1. Kiss Josh every day (cheating here I do that already)

result: While I didn't keep track, it's something I always do anyway. I'm certain I followed through on this one.


 2. Kiss Zach every day (again, cheating since I do that already too)


result: I didn't track this one either. But he's so kissable. I'm certain I did this one too. 


 3. Gain weight (the losing weight resolution doesn't work so I might as well try the reverse. I'm currently 142 lbs)


result: Interestingly, I actually lost a lot of weight. I guess "gain weight" makes a great resolution if you're on a diet!


 4. Learn how to identify more plants (Fine Gardening has helped with that.  I want to be able to identify favorites during my walks)


result: I did learn what more plants are and learned more about plants I already knew about. Parsley is a biennial. That means that in most areas it completes it's life cycle in two years. I knew that Parsley likes the cold but usually we throw it out at my parent's house after Thanksgiving. This year, I left it planted. My instincts said it would likely come back. When I did the research I learned that as long as it doesn't get too cold, it will flower sometime in January and start growing again in April or May.


 5. Find a middle name for the daughter we'll never have


result: We did this too. Zach's name would have been Caroline if he was a girl. We didn't really have a middle name. We do now.

Caroline Mary

My Great Grandmother has always fascinated me. She was my Mom's Dad's Mom and had a lot of boys and one girl. When she died, the chores were divided. I don't remember how she died or when. If I remember correctly, she was a teacher.

Her picture is in my parent's dining room. I can't take my eyes from it sometimes. I think I look like her. It makes me wonder how much of my personality we share. Either way, it makes the most sense. Josh loves the name too.

As for the current New Year:

We have something big to look forward to this year. The job Josh got in October was 100% commissioned based and required six days a week, at least ten hours a day. So he had to quit to continue job searching. Yesterday, he accepted an offer for his old boss's job at his old company. He's very excited about it!

New Year's Eve is a lot of fun but don't forget about New Year's Day! For me, it's the January Decorating Day. It's usually very cold so as I look around at the dormant plants I envision what it will be like when the thaw comes in the spring. I look at the possibilities the new year is going to bring.

There will be good things and bad things that happen. There will be happy and sad moments. We won't remember all of them. Do you remember everything from 2014? We really just remember the highlights. Those highlights stick with us in the following years. This is what I'll remember from 2014:

1. Zach graduated Preschool and started Kindergarten!
2. Zach started swimming by himself!
3. Josh got laid off
4. Josh's time working commission
5. I started crocheting and making jewelry with embroidery thread again
6. I got the Spitzbuban recipe and they turned out great!
7. We've been married for ten years now.
8. Zach started reading
9. I started dancing as part of my exercises again.
10. Josh overall had a rough year but it ended with a job he's excited about at a company he loves.

I have been noticing myself changing in the past six months. We all do that sometimes. It's like by rediscovering who I was, I am discovering who I am. Usually, I try to predict what the new year will bring on New Year's Day. Last year I was mostly wrong. So I'm not going to make any predictions this year. I'll simply try to remember the things I want to remember most.

As you celebrate on New Year's Eve, don't forget that New Year's Day is special too. instead of looking at the bare branches of the trees and shrubs, envision the changes they will experience during the year. Don't see bleak, see possibilities!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Forgotten Holidays: Kwanzaa (part 6)

 

 
Kwanzaa started on December 26th. It is celebrated for seven nights with a different principal each night. You light a kinara. Similar to Hanukkah, a different candle is added each night. The black candle is lit on the first night. For the other nights, you alternate between adding a red or green candle.



The words are in Swahili. It is spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The seven principals include:

  • Umoja: Unity - Unity of the family, community, nation and race
  • Kujichagulia: Self-Determination - Being responsible for your own conduct and behavior
  • Ujima: Collective work and responsibility - Working to Help each other and in the community
  • Ujamaa: Cooperative economics - Working to build shops and businesses
  • Nia: Purpose - Remembering and restoring African and African American cultures, customs and history
  • Kuumba: Creativity - Using creating and your imagination to make communities better
  • Imani: Faith - Believing in people, families, leaders, teachers and the righteousness of the African American struggle
I like these principals. They are all good things. They are about working together to build stronger communities. I don't know if I know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa. It's not part of a specific religion. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to bring African Americans together. After the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were passed but when they were still new laws. It was during the strongest period of adjustment in the country.  
Along with the principals are the following symbols. They are set on a Kwanzaa table together
 
  • Mkeka: The Mat - A woven mat made of fabric, raffia, or paper. The other symbols are placed on the Mkeka. It symbolises experiences and foundations.
  • Kikombe cha Umoja: The Unity Cup - Represents family and community. It is filled with water, fruit juice or wine. A little is poured out to remember the ancestors. The cup is share between people and each person takes a sip.
  • Mazao: The Crops - Fruit and vegetables from the harvest. These normally includes bananas, mangoes, peaches, plantains, oranges, or other favourites! They are shared out.
  • Kinara: The Candleholder - It represents the days, and principles of Kwanzaa
  • Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles - are placed in the kinara. Black, red and green are the colours of the Bendera (African Flag)
  • Muhindi: The Corn - There is one ear of corn of each child in the family. If there are no children in the family, then one ear is used to represent the children in the community. It represents the future and the Navtive Americans.
  • Zawadi: Gifts - Gifts given to children during Kwanzaa are normally educational, such as a book, dvd or game. There's also a gift reminding them of their African heritage.
 
There are also sometimes two extra symbols:
  • Bendera: A flag with three horizontal stripes of black, red and green
  • Nguzo Saba Poster: A poster of the seven principles of Kwanzaa
 
I wish I knew someone who celebrated Kwanzaa. I would like to learn more about it. This information I got from the below website.
 
Below is the word search I created for Kwanzaa:
 
S F H D H F H N D F V B S E D I L F O D B D R S F M D M I J U
M K E K A N V H S Z L R S E D D D I T W E L F N K I N A R A F
U U F L N D M F L F O B N F B T D D F L N O D R W E N D D R S
G U J I M A S E D I T H S K T K B T E D D D N D A S B Y J F N
I M G D F J O I N U D W J F L D H R N X E K D J N S X F O D R
T B M K S F S D J K F S B U I D U M I F R W F D Z A W A D I D
F A D G M F K I K I M B E C H A U M O J A A L D A F L F O D R
F L F O D G F N U H U H N D F V M B S E D I G O A E D I T W J
E D I T W G N D J N H V H S Z L O R S E D D F M B E D D F L R
E D D F L N G M I J I M F L F O J B N F B T Q S Z F B T E D F
F B T E D R M F C F N S E D I T A H S K T K E E A V H R N X E
V H R N X N F M H N D G U Z K I I W J F L D T D H T K F J Y G
B S E D I D N T A D I M A N I B S T N M I S H U M A A S A B A
R S E D D N T M G N H D J Y K Y F N D A D G K D B H N D F V D
B N F B T D F T U J A M A A K F N G U Z A S A B A V H S Z L G
H S K T K F N J L D R S K K W W S N F A F D N G D M F L F O G
W J F L D D F T I L F N D B D N F D N O B F F G T S E D I T N
J F G N D G N I A O D R N H K U G J F J F N N F F F Y J D F N
D D F M B E D D O B N F B T D B D N B T E D R M D D R S D R S
B T Q S Z F B T T H S K T K N H K U H R N X N F Y J F N L F N
Bendera
Imani
Kikimbe Cha Umoja
Kinara
Kujichagulia
Kuubma
Kwanzaa
Mazao
Mishumaa Saba
Mkeka
Muhindi
Nguza Saba
Nia
Ujamaa
Ujima
Umoja
Zawadi