intermission

Who is they to an Igbo girl?  We all know they lie but it's still a shock. We, I. i still believe them, those bite sized words and soothing repitition.  It turns out that dangerous behavior is for people who have everything to gain. 

I am half way through this book. This post is my intermission. Two years ago this time I forgot Breath Eyes Memory in a coffee shop while on vacation. I told myself I would come back to her work. You know there are time in life were you have to say focused on the everyday or everything will unravel. 

Edwidge Danticat will be a part of this years Chicago Humanities Festival. There is a thread that  runs through everything. 

Edwidge Danticat will be discussing her latest work "The Art of Death" about her dying mother. Cancer.  A new addition to a growing pile I've read on the topic. I don't need two identical pieces for this puzzle but I do need them all. The tellings are never the same. I have seen more reflections than I deserve. A small army of women watching thier mother die. Six year old me marches silently. Presently I struggle to understand. 

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there are women who are old enough to have known thier mother but not old enough to have understood her. Is there a better or worse time to lose a parent? 

I imagine at there are worse times, this is the type of thing that only goes in one direction. What we lose is the possibility of better. Eventually manageable but better never. This kind ting. Fragmented and chaotic. Zinzi Clemmons' survey of the experience of losing a parent contains a lot more than the emotional interactions with other people or the rejection of the practice. I love her for it for exposing the "it got me thinking" about real and (ir)relevant things.  

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My copy is gone, stuffed in my best friends weekender. What color is that book you were telling me about? Eagle eyes on my color coded bookshelf.  

Zinzi, my mother effected my choice to become a mother. She was not married. I am her second child. We do not share a father. As far as I know my mother was never married. I have always imagined she choose to have me. made a conscious decision. A photograph is all I have of her. That and my personhood. My sister looks exactly like her. But I do not have her, my sister is her own, far away, a second loss. 

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To-do

I keep a notebook next to my computer that i add to daily. crossing things off the list is a rentle reminder that I am in fact doing things. Some days you can't worry about if they are the right things. staying away from the wrong ones is enough. 

When I was in college is didn't worry at all about where the work I was doing would take me. I was allowing myself to be pulled by some invisible force. Chasing the things that interested me. 

Today I put "get a new tattoo," "pierce your nose," and "get a leather jacket" on my to-do list.  it would be my second time doing each of those things. I kept my locs after the second attempt, Im thinking this is going to be similar. 

The things that make the list tell me almost as much as the things that never get crossed off. There are items on my list that have been there for months. That's where I am with those items. I can aknowledge that I need to do them. That's all I got right now. there is isn't much to do besides turn to other items on the list. 

I bought blerd new glasses becuase his got lost so I'm a good mom even if he ends up needing to pay my students loans back after Im dead and gone. (Pray that's not a things). There's a long list of stuff that falls under the "be a good mom" pile for me. That's the to-do list I left my jacket for. This was not the fucking Gilmore girls. I needed to get my shit together and look the part or we would be in serious trouble. I wasn't entirely wrong. 

Not entirely. I can cross "lose yourself" off my list. I'll spend the rest of my life completing the finding becuase now I understand how much I was to lose.

Loud Proud and Wrong (?)

My son calls out-isms when he sees them. Sometimes he's wrong but insistent. At first, this worried me. He was so loud about it,"That's -ist!" Always sounded louder than anything else he said.

But, If you're always right you're not learning. I had to take my feelings out of it, all they were just in the way. Parenting has forced me to question why I'm embarrassed enough for me to do it automatically.

How I react to him being wrong will have a huge effect on his willingness to make mistakes.

When I think he is wrong ...

maybe he isn't wrong.

I ask him how he came to that conclusion.  

I don't know everything, and I need to respect his thought process enough to find out before I dismiss it as wrong.

I agree or disagree and explain why.   If he made any points that stood out to me, I point them out  

Usually, he considers what I had to say and responds but until he wants to keep the conversation going I drop it.  

It's not my job or my desire to force him to agree. We can disagree and still enjoy whatever was happening. Still respect each other so long as respect was given.

 

The Key to Raising a Reader

At this point, I am sure my son is "a reader." He actively searches for books to read and recently we did a recap of the 26 books  he has read this year. I am not an expert, but I have learned a lot since we started our literacy journey.

When I set off on my mission, my son hated reading and utterly refused to do it. I read a lot of articles about how to encourage literacy most suggested reading to your child which I did find very helpful, and others suggested having a lot of books in your home which I also found helpful but watch out for library fines. After some thought, I think I have identified the critical step to raising a reader.

The Key: Show, Don't Tell

Read together time made all the difference when we made the transition to my son reading on his own. We spent time reading side by side. Being able to share the thrill of finding a new book in a local bookstore with my son caught his attention. Trips to the bookstore are adventures, reading is quality time.

I don't read books as much as I would like because of life, but I do make space in my schedule to read articles, poems, and short stories. I often find that when I settle in to read, so does he. So the key to getting your reluctant reader to read is to let him see you reading. Show, Don't Tell.

 

 

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My Five Must Have Intentional Educator Resources

1. A complete daily schedule:

My son's schedule starts at 7 am and ends at 10 pm at the latest. According to the schedule, he should be in bed by 8 pm. Every part of his day is accounted for. Sounds extreme I know but here is the thing. The schedule is a map when we get lost we consult it. Most days the plan falls apart by 2 pm. It used to be before noon. We are both getting better at keeping it. We are both getting better at consulting thought out the day. The first week was tough, I had to let go of the idea that we would magically be able to keep the schedule entirely but the longer we stick with it, the better it works.

2.  Chalk.com

This website is fantastic for helping me organize my resources and lessons. I always see those blog posts by homeschoolers who have the entire year planned and printed. That not me at all. I have no idea where my son will be in a month. Chalk helps me create overarching plans and fill in lessons as we go. There is also space for me to insert videos and links directly into my lessons with means I can cut down on the paper clutter in my space.

3. Subscriptions

I know there are a million and a half of those subscription boxes, I am not sure most of them are worth it, but I have found a few that we LOVE.

  • JAM: We are currently doing Invent Your Own Machines. We tried the Minecraft one, but it didn't work out for us. We are going to do the Drawing Bootcamp next. You can try it for free for 14 days I think.
  • Tinker Crate: We have been getting these since we moved to the city, three years ago. The crates are high quality and engaging. They are so serious about the science; they include something cause a Tinkerzine that expands and explains whatever the concept was. There are also additional experiments so that the lesson extends beyond the main lesson. If you decide to try it use my code, this isn't an ad; it's just the standard thing that gives us both $10 off the box which is half the regular price.
  • ASK Magazine: A children's science magazine for ages 6-9. Each issue was incredibly informative and the funny. I remember the issue that introduced 3D prosthetic limbs the most vividly.  Since blerd is turning nine,  we are moving on to MUSE which is for 9 - 14. 

4. Podcasts/Audible

Brains On! Podcast: A science podcast for kids that worth its weight it gold, easy listening for commuting or lazy days.

Stories Podcast: My son will not shower unless he can listen to stories podcast. This podcast is as good as TV to him.

We also have an Audible subscription, he is the story lover, but lately, I have been getting into it too. Last month, we listened to all of the Harry Potter Books just in time for the 20th anniversary.

5. A Journal

Checking in has been essential for moving forward. I haven't been able to find a book specifically designed for tracking homeschooling that I like but just writing in my journal has been helpful. Having just one journal makes it easier to see patterns in his behavior and mine.  

 

 

Playing the Gravity Games.  

Playing the Gravity Games.  

Working on the first challenge in the JAM course.  

Working on the first challenge in the JAM course.  

The schedule, taped to my son's wall.  

The schedule, taped to my son's wall.  

The first road block on the way back to my mother's compound.

Did I come from a white man's pen. Am I ink, is that why I shine? Am I a figment of blue eyed imagination, something magical to be conjured

a subject to be pondered or fonduled. Is it that I have no past before your pen?  

No. Me? I know I was writing before you came. My words curving elegantly on the smoke raising dead things from the ash.

Nothing with a seed dies for long.

A people with a past have a future. 

Me, i know, melanin no be ink.  

Abeg.  

The 26th Book

Last week my son passed the half way point of his 50 book challenge. The 26th book was One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. This book is recommended for ages 9–12. It has a Lexile of 750L.

The book is historical fiction taking three young girl across the country to Oakland in 1968 to visit their estranged mother. The book tackles feminist issues, finding you path, forgiveness and family. The book also shows the positive aspects of the Black Panther Party as well as members being arrested. There is a strong theme of community within the black community that can't be ignored.

The mother in the novel, does not cook and discourages the girls from doing so. There is a strong sense that she refuses to be a mule, tied down to domestic chores. She is a poet and an activist. She isn't a bad mother but she makes it clear that she struggles with how to mother and points to her own relationship with her mother and the source of her turmoil. Being a motherless daughter certainly creates its own discontent and it is a theme that is rarely discussed, especially in kids literature.

I picked this book partially because of how A-typical the mother is. My son considers sexism deeply, he points it out in other and in himself. He has checked me several times and I am grateful he is not letting it get into his vocabulary. He is, however, still a kid and he has high expectations of mothers and I wonder if they are fair. I relate in many ways to the mother in the story and it makes me consider that makes a mother "good." A mother's love is natural but western representations of motherhood are a learned behavior.

Check out the latest episode of Conversations with BlerdHero to hear him talk about his opinion on the 26 books he has read this year.

 

 

Preparing for Coming of Age: 5 tasks by 12

This year my son turns 9, half way to adulthood. This birthday is more significant than any before it, except the first one. I am officially preparing to send him off into the world. Traditionally coming of age ceremonies happen around age 12 but you don't just wake up on your 12th birthday and head to the ceremony. Preparation begins before that, sometimes well before that so that when the time comes you care ready to complete the challenges laid in front of you.

I have been thinking about this birthday since he was five. Tucking ideas in the back on my mind for how I might set up his process. We have lost many of these traditional customs, but they burn in my mind as indispensable. Nine begins his journey to 12, the first milestone. Here is what I have worked out, these are the things I want him to have accomplished by 12:

1. Choose a cause

We need people the champion change across a variety of issues. We have set off on our journey exploring all the different places he can spend his energy working towards change. At 12, I expect him to pick one and focus on it. That does not mean he can't care about other causes or be involved, just that time is limited, and one dedicated person can often do more than ten halfhearted people. There are some causes that exceptions, like feminism and global warming, but would consider those more ways of being in the world than say fighting to end the use of capital punishment.

2. Earn income

He gets an allowance. It is paid two days a month, the 15th and last day of the month. Does that sound familiar? He does not get paid for doing chores or his school work, and those things are not optional. He is paid based on how well he completes his work, efficiency, innovation, resourcefulness, creativity are all rewarded. The system is slightly complicated, but it works well for us. This isn't the income I am talking about tho. This is just practice for whatever he decides will be the best way for him to start generating income. Between his 10th and 11th birthday he has to start a business.

3. Save 300 dollars

Poor money management skills have landed me in quite the mess, and I know I am not alone. We live in a world designed to help us spend. 300 dollars isn't much to save in 4 years, but I wanted to be sure that he could reach it and hopefully quickly so we can adjust. Savings goals that are too big can feel discouraging, at least for me. I have also been researching how to expose young people to the psychological tricks used to encourage spending so he can be aware and not fall prey.

4. Host an event

Being the host teaches you a lot about planning and people. Taking on the role of designing an event, from food to a guest list, from the budget to the activities, is the modern day equivalent of walking on walking on coals. This is going to hurt a little, but the frustration will be worth it. I am sure he will learn things I can not even begin to guess, but I hope he takes away the importance of being there for people and the power of being able to create space.

5. Find a craft or two

This is similar to the first item on the list; I am not saying to has to pick one craft and close his eyes to everything else. He does need to put in the hours towards perfecting a craft so that he can watch his evolution. So far those crafts are ceramics, guitar, and coding. It's important to be that one of the final works be something that he creates with his own hands, that is a particular magic.

I made these up based on the child that I have and the character I want him to have. Life is fluid, so if you know of any interesting coming of age practices, please share. I would love to take a look.

 

 

Igbo Kwenu?

I was born in Nigeria almost thirty years ago and I'm not sure what that means. I grew up in a house where the adults spoke Igbo to each other at that was it.  

I grew up in a house that prioritized European classical over highlife. We eat rice and stew every Sunday. I loath garri and always have. Only pounded yam with my egusi abeg. It's not that my childhood home rejected Igbo culture. Far from it. 

When I was younger I thought they were withholding knowledge from me. Making a conscious effort to disconnect me but what if they didn't and still don't know. 

My parents always mentioned going to British boarding schools, they have all sorts of classical training and "refinement" to show for it but as someone that has rejected traditional schooling for my own child, it is easier to see how they themselves were disconnected and reconfigured in their own land. 

Igbo was my first language and I sometimes feel I can't speak my mind because I have lost the words. There is a real disconnect between my brain and my tongue, they do not speak the same language. What all is lost in the journey is what I roamed so chaoticly to find.  

I used to live for Nigerian parties growing up, the music, the Malta, the suya, the boys. I remember the first time I saw my mother dancing at a party. So many brown bodies moving in unison, everyone is a distinct pattern to help you identify their people. Everyone would know we where in the same family. My chest swelled. 

The year before high school we stopped going to Igbo parties and my little bit of my connection was lost. My age mates where moving on without me. I didn't complain much because I never quite got the hang off what I was supposed to be doing.  I was day dreaming when they said we should come and collect social skills. 

I joined the African associaltion in college but it wasn't the same. It's nice to spend time with Other Africans but that doesn't necessarily get you closer to understanding yourself or I should say it only takes you so far.  It sometimes made me feel further away, listening to my peers speak their own languages made me long to learn my own again. I have tried at a few points in life with little progress. 

Igbo Kwenu! A meditation before my move to the city and a consistent mood my first 5 months. I have made pretty significant progress since looking to build a community of igbos but the journey has been bitter sweet. More questions than answers like all great quests. That's how I know I'm on the right track. What I want is pre-colonial Igbo; that's the igboland strongest in my memory.  

I'll keep you posted. 

✖️✊🏿✖️✊🏿

 

 

 

 

Parenting is Advocacy

People don't mention much about motherhood I suspect because the challenge is always changing, so it's hard to say. The most shocking realization has been how much advocating I would have to do.

The advocacy started the moment I went into labor. I didn't know much, but I knew I didn't want an epidural. Luck for me the doctor was all for my decision, and I didn't have to push. Then I didn't have breastmilk, they offered me donor milk but, otherwise, I would have needed to request. So far so good, but it went down hill fast.

An advocacy resource I found helpful. Here is another one you might like.

Nine years in I think there are three main parts to advocacy:

1. Gathering Information

Knowledge is the bases of all advocacy. You have to know what you want, and a lot of times that means researching all the options yourself. I went into labor having no clue about water births or doulas, in retrospect, I wish I were informed enough to pursue a home birth with a doula. People aren't always that forthcoming, or they just assume you know all your options and your making a decision. Knowing the laws in your state and nationally around a given topic aid always ideal but obviously not possible. There is a lot to know at any one given time, some are predictable, like school and childcare, other are unpredictable like medical emergencies. I went into labor knowing virtually nothing, but labor happens no matter what. Breastfeeding, not so much. I knew even less about breastfeeding than I did about birth. I had no idea that having a premature child would mean not having a supply. It doesn't always happen that way, but it did in my case. I had no clue about donor milk so thank God the nurse offered it. I wish I could say I learned the importance of research but it took till school for me to take research seriously.  

2. Using Your Voice/ Standing Your Ground

I was going to have to speak up for what I thought was best all the time. I put my son in daycare at seven weeks the earliest possible date because I didn't see another option but I also just made assumptions about what my options were. Something I regret deeply. His first two daycares were terrible. At about nine weeks, I paid a surprise visit to his daycare after I called before heading into class and realized the number was disconnected. Needless to say, I skipped that class and headed across town only to find a woman I had never met before alone with all the kids. She assured me that she was working on her certifications. I am not sure what else she said I picked my son up and never looked back.
 
The next daycare had much better conditions regarding code compliance, but I found myself with a filthy child and the end of each day. Sometimes with a days worth of spit up and snot caked on his face and neck. An aunt had assured me that if I sent him there clean, they would know I was a "serious" parent. Not so. At least not for me. At one point I walked into the infant room, and his provider was on her laptop. I had walked to the middle of the room and picked up my son before she noticed. I knew I needed to do something but without other options causing an issue at the daycare not matter the scale didn't seem like a good idea. I researched my options and found a voucher that would subsidize childcare for me as a student then talked to anyone who would listen until I got him a spot at one of the best daycares in the city, on paper at least. That daycare turned out to be quite elitist and racist but the facility was sparkling and they actually, engaged the kids. Heaven after the experience I had previously. These experience also let me know early how important choice is. As a young low-income single mom I rarely had good choices. The bulk of my advocacy for pushing my way to more choices.

3. Persisting

The advocacy never stops. It's exhausting at times. Big schools systems and limited resources. Reading food labels, hunting down natural remedies. Finding the right speech pathologist. Whatever path your journey some battles will take longer than others. This is the part I am still getting used too. It's the most tiring and, depending on the situation, utterly terrifying. It stretches you, makes you taller and braver. If you let it, it can make you more tender. The remember laying my head next to my son's tiny toddler lap and letting the tears stream down as I explained we would be moving to daycare number four, I was going to beg the owner of a small home daycare a few friends of mine went to the next day. The final and perfect place but I didn't know that then I wasn't even sure it would work. I cried until we both fell asleep. The next day we got up and headed straight for the daycare.


This cycle has been a constant and I suspect it will continue well into teenage years.

Thunder forecasted for Thursday

My dad goes in to surgery Thursday morning. This is easily the hardest parenting period I have ever been in and I'm in the mist of looking for a new apartment. It's Tuesday night and I'm completely spent after a day that refused to get better. Flat bike tire. Miles of walking. Bugs. Deadphone. Empty bus pass. Everything.

I want to get up tomorrow and work. I want to sit in front of my computer uninterrupted and get things done. I need to cross things off my to-do list and feel the rush of being a productive employee. I know that sounds crazy but working makes me feel better when everything is falling about. I love my job and I want to transition it into a career, a niche, be one of those women that has specialized and fine tuned her shit to perfection. I want to be workplace black excellence.

Working is a chance to learn, to get some small wins under my belt. My chance to earn my pay and my play so I can return to the demands of life feeling accomplished. Career aspirations and motherhood are a hard balance. What does devotion to career look like as a single mother? There is no one here to fill in the gaps that would leave.

I remember reading Lean In and feeling totally inspired. I didn't expect Sandberg to have anything that authentically spoke to my experience because how could she? It couldn't believe how transparent she was about imposter syndrome or things like putting her kids to sleep in their school clothes to make the morning easier. Those things still stick with me because they are so relateable. For me leaning in was about fiercely wanting career and not letting motherhood discourage me.

Leaning in meant letting go of all my fears around being a career woman and a good mother and trusting myself. Having a healthy perceptive and fighting for my chance. Years later I am stilling figuring out the angle of my lean but I'm getting more and more comfortable being honest with myself about the heights I would like to reach while also embracing how prominently staying close to my child plays in my aspirations. 

Since Sandberg, lost her husband she has been doing a lot of reconsidering of the Lean In premise. I appreciate her advocacy. I think it is important to remember that it is the systems we have in place that would make it nearly impossible for a woman to reach her heights had she had a child much earlier in life. She would be the same brilliant woman after all. The world would have missed out or better yet refused the acknowledge. The article in Forbes about her new book on building resilience during/after hard times talks about how resilience is a muscle, it must be built. This analogy seemed strange to me. Not because it isn't true but it's just weird. I wonder about the little ways some people build resilience daily, wonder if she recognizes her battles as a woman in tech as building resilience or if there is some cognitive dissonance. I doubt I will ever get the opportunity to ask her but I find this project just as inspiring and relevant as the first one. Check out the website she created to go along with the book. There are wonderful stories and resources.

The truth is, some women position themselves to be able to make demands that increase their time with their family without scarifying their work. Usually that means having children once your career is already established.  The workplace is artificially designed to be destructive to families. There can absolutely by more synergy between what families need and what employers need. You can have it all, maybe not at the same time but in close proximity. 

 

 

Blackass: More Questions than Answers

I read Blackass all the way to the Damen stop, it saved me from getting a donut at Stan's. I didn't want to get my new expensive book sticky. I loved the idea of getting to know my birthplace thought literature. I could'nt wait for Lagos to unfold in front of me. To find pieces of myself and my experiences in his writing. I wanted to be transported.

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4.13.2015: Gentle

I have always stopped because I was never sure I actually had anything worthwhile to say. I am learning to be gentle with myself as I learn my new normal. When ever I restart I wonder how far I would be if I never quit. Thoughts that don't get me further. Now more than ever, that's where I want to go. 

So far I have moved to a new city, got an amazing job and started homeschooling. Now I need to build myself and a community to make this new city feel like a new home. I have always been a firm believer in the power of sharing. I know that along the way many people have helped me go from there to here just by sharing their story. There is something wonderful about sharing your humanity.