Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The last three years.....

One of the greatest lines from all movies since the first movie came across the big screen occurs during a conversation between Morgan Freeman & Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption.

"Get busy living, or get busy dying."

Just over three years ago, my mom was stolen from us. She lived with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer for 256 days...and then she was gone. She died only 7 months before her 40th wedding anniversary with my dad...The two of them had pretty much spent their whole lives together. And because he adopted an ornery 4-year-old Cajun girl when they got married, I got to spend just about my whole life with the two of them. 

When she died, my sister and I worried so much about dad. They were so connected; such a part of each other. We wanted him to be able to mourn, but we also wanted him to remain an active part of our lives....of our families. We are such a tiny family, so we just could not let him disappear from our lives just because mom did. 

Well, these pics are just a few examples of how he GOT BUSY LIVING these last three years. From Colorado to College Station to the Florida Keys to Mount Rushmore and quite a few places in between.... He has been an active part of everything we have done as a family for the last three years. 

And I think he'd agree that it's all been pretty damn fun! 

Well, here we are, three years later, and I need to reiterate the same sentiment that I expressed in June of 2013. 


I am sorry if that word offends you...actually, no I am not. There is no stronger adverb that works in that sentence. It ROBS families of years and months and even minutes... it steals memories and adventures... it crushes hope and it ruins plans.

Cancer tried to do all those things to my dad in 2011 when he battled through esophageal cancer. But he won. And he has won each time he went for his 6-month PET scan since 2011...until this April.

His cancer is back.
And this time we won't win.

Without going into a lot of details, I can assure you that J, my dad, and I are determined to do what Henry David Thoreau challenged us to do.... We are going to SUCK THE MARROW out of every minute of life we have left together. 

Dad is moving to College Station in the next few weeks. We have already found him a house.... 8 houses down from ours.... so he will get to be a daily part of our crazy lives in Aggieland.  We are getting everything ready to close his chapter in Heritage Ranch so that a new chapter can begin...a chapter where he will be able to see Corrie as often as he wants and enjoy watching her grow into an incredible extension of him and the legacy he and mom created for our family.  

Still not sure about treatment or anything else related to the medical side of things. All I am sure about is that J and I are going to live every day with our dad to the very fullest.... we are not going to miss a thing.

We are going to GET. BUSY. LIVING.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

All Lives Matter... except for the ones that take the lives of others.

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows that I have an incredibly strong sense of social justice. All my life I have fought for what our society deemed the underdogs. All my career I have advocated for those that might not have looked or acted like the dominant culture. All my energy in my life has been spent on righting the wrongs of both the past and the present in our country. My mark has been small, but I do believe I have made a mark. At least I hope so....

So please do not think that the events of our country in the last few years have angered me because I am now fortunate enough to have 2 African American boys to call my sons. These events have angered me because of who I am deep down in my core being.

I was raised to leave things better than I found them, so my entire life has been committed to doing just that-- leaving my community better than I found it, leaving my school (and school district) better than I found it, and honestly, leaving my country and my world better....again, not because I am a mom to two black children, but having them in my life does fuel my already BURNING fire.

I have read a great deal in my life.

Sure, I read for fun, but honestly, more than that, I read to stay informed and to know what I am talking about when I open my mouth (which I do quite often).
Want to know what I am currently reading?  These 3 books pictured below are the ones I am actually DEVOURING right now... not because the media keeps showing stories about black men being killed by white cops, but because I work in school district where our teachers and our students have a hard time connecting with one another because they come from such drastically different backgrounds and cultures. I want to arm myself with as much knowledge and information as possible so I can equip the teachers I work with each day with what they need to reach out and meet the social, emotional, AND academic needs of the kids and families we SERVE every single day.

Yes, I am part of the DOMINANT white culture. I own that. I am white and I cannot change that (nor should I want to). But I willingly recognize (and own) that for generations, our dominant white culture has deemed what is right, what is moral, & what is appropriate for the rest of our nation. And how dare we?! 

We have oppressed groups of people for centuries and set ourselves above them and then judged them for acting with a mindset of oppression. 

We have held education from groups of people and then judged them for not being educated. 

We have told groups of people that they are not as good as we are and then judged them for doing things we deem to be bad.

And then when the children of those groups of people enter our schools, we judge those children for not trusting us. How dare they not respect us? We are here to educate them. To make them better. How can they not appreciate this gift we have to offer them?


I love public education. 
I have committed 24 years of my adult life to it. 
I believe in it.
But I also believe that our teaching staff has to be equipped to teach a group of kids who have grown up with images of Treyvon Martin splashed across their social media pages again and again. Kids who have grown up with parents who have shoved YouTube videos of white police officers doing awful things in their faces again and again. Kids who have grown up in a culture that teaches them not to trust and then gives them reasons not to trust again and again.  

So that is why I wake up each day. I wake up to equip teachers (and ideally every person I get the chance to encounter) with knowledge and tools to meet those "Treyvon Martin" generation of kids with love and acceptance and with nonjudgmental understanding about the mental models that they possess. 

I wake up to make the staff of our school district the best it can be NOW for Jacob and Esau and the best it can be in the FUTURE for Corrie. I wake up to change the hearts of adults in our community so that they can see the work that lies before us and realize that if we work together, we can leave things better than we found them. 

But I also wake up to say NO MORE.
I have never tolerated racism in my life.
In fact when my grandparents (yes, MoMo, the first) continued to use the N word (which I heard all my life) in front of my very impressionable 2-year old daughter, I told them that if they continued to do that, I would not bring her back into their home....the 2 people who raised me when my 16-year-old mom gave birth to me... yes, I told them NO MORE. And guess what...they stopped. They loved me and Jess enough to stop. 

There are so many other things I want to say NO MORE to.
NO MORE judgment of people in poverty who "won't work hard enough to get out". Really? You try changing your station in life at 8 bucks an hour.

NO MORE condemnation of people for "not valuing education" the way "we" do. Really? If you lived in a very concrete world that operates from the PRESENT mindset, would you be able to think about a future that includes going to college?

NO MORE intolerance of children who are born into generational poverty. Two things will get them out.... education AND authentic relationships with key adults.... not education OR relationships. It has to be BOTH. So yes, teachers are the key!

And finally.... NO MORE JIM CROW. I am quite certain he was abolished in 1965, but I see still evidence of him every single day. You think things are fair and equitable in our society?  Come walk in our family's shoes someday and I will show you how alive and well Jim Crow is today.  

Just a small (seemingly stupid) example-- Jacob and I have an agreement... when we enter a store, he takes off his hood. 

As a typical teenage boy in the 21st century, he wears his hood all.the.dang.time. But I have explained to him what many people "see" when a black boy enters their store wearing a hood. I HATE THAT I have to ask him to do that, but I am not about to let him be judged any more than he already is because I have watched the faces of those retail employees scan him and judge him before they realize he is with me. IT SICKENS ME because it is so blatant. So overt. SO DISGUSTING. And SO 1965. So even though he thinks it's stupid, he complies... for me.  Because honestly, right now, I have bigger fights to fight than convincing the owner of some shop that he is really a good kid "even though he's black and he's wearing a hoodie"...I'll save that battle for another day. 

So yes, the events of the last 36 hours in America ANGER me because like Ron Clark said- "My heart breaks when I think how the beautiful and strong students I work with every day are just one bullet away from becoming a hashtag". 
Black people are not going to end racism in the United States. 
Because they. did. not. start. it.

It's up to us...the self-appointed dominant culture.
It's time to clean up the mess we made.
Otherwise we have no chance of leaving this world better than we found it.

It's time. Now.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Growing Family

On January 19, 2015, our family grew by one when Jacob moved in with us. The circumstances surrounding that move don't matter...what matters is that before that date, he had already moved into my heart, and then on that date, he physically moved into what would soon become "his room" and "his house".

In March 2015, we started the process to legally make me his mom and him my son even though in our minds it was already "legal enough". But the insurance company and other legal kinds of folks said we needed that official piece of paper. You know...the paper that you pay a lot of money to have a lawyer ask a judge to sign....proving what you already know to be true. 

Finally, on September 23, 2015, after a LOT OF HOOPS (and not the good kind that you sink the shot into) and seemingly endless legal requirements, the judge signed and I officially became his and he officially became mine.

What many people may not realize is that Jacob has a brother. In fact, he has a fraternal twin brother. His name is Esau.

Esau has always been a part of our lives and has always been welcome in our home, but again, the circumstances surrounding why Jacob came to live with us in January 2015 and Esau did not do not matter. What matters is that on May 13, 2016, we loaded up Esau's stuff and brought him home with us.

The why does not matter. What matters is that Jacob and Esau are back under the same roof, safe and happy, and able to focus on what they are supposed to be focused on at this point in their lives...... which is being 16-year-old high school students.  

So for the last month of school I was driving to both high schools in Bryan because the boys did not attend the same school last year. Once we knew that Esau's move to our home was going to be a long-term thing, we started the discussions about what will happen in August when school starts.

Our family has made a lot of sacrifices and made a lot of difficult decisions during the last 18 months, but each time the sacrifice and the decision were made with the future in mind... and each time, I feel like we have made the right choices. So after days and days and days of discussions about what to do for August (and yes, I made one of my infamous pro-con lists that Jacob has learned to live with), we decided that because Esau had just been through such an upheaval shrouded in lots of chaos and instability, Jacob would be the one to switch schools. This was so tough. The teachers at Bryan High School have been AMAZING in getting Jacob on the right academic path to start his high school career. They cared about him. They invested in him. And they taught him about what it means to have teachers who really give a darn about WHO a kid is and WHAT he needs as an individual. I could have not have asked for a better freshman year.  

But I also know that Rudder High School has some incredible teachers. I have been very fortunate to work with them as a team, so I know intimately how much they genuinely care about the students that walk their halls each day. I also know that campus cares about Esau. I have seen it firsthand, so now I have to trust that they will take care of both Jacob AND Esau for the next three years. 

Bryan High put Jacob on the right path and now Rudder will have to pick up the baton and run with it.... with me running right there alongside them. 

Because our family has grown again.

We now have 2 boys.
And life is good.