Category Archives: History

It’s Not All About You

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday night, Tina Fey performed a satirical piece in response to the horrors of Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. I personally thought the skit was hilarious, and smart, and insightful.

Not everyone did.

And I’m not just talking about the Nazi sympathizers, the KKK and the white nationalists who didn’t like it. I read a few scathing reviews written by black people who felt it was yet another example of white liberal women who just don’t get it.

When I read the first article, I was taken aback. As someone who makes a concerted effort to be aware of situations in which tone-deaf white activists miss the mark, I found myself unsure of what to think. So I went to the comments, which I try to avoid because they often leave me feeling worse about the state of things than I did to begin with.

The comments were mixed. They were mixed racially, and they were mixed in terms of their opinions on the skit, and the critique of it. There was no dividing line that I could see. There were white people who liked the skit, and white people who said it was an invitation to just stay home and eat your coconut snowflake feelings embedded in white frosting atop a sheet cake purchased from a black or Jewish-owned bakery. There were also black people who felt as though Tina is just an out of touch, rich white liberal woman who will never, CAN never get it.

On the other hand, there were black and white commenters who continually pointed out that this was satire, that there were many layers to it, that there were ironies, and metaphors, and a big giant mirror for white activists to look into.

My mom and I attended an NAACP rally this morning. Last night she texted her concern about being a white ally, and wondered if white women showing up to an NAACP event was feeding into the “white savior” complex, whether it was helpful to show support in this way, or if it was offensive to be there. She had read several comments on a poem written by a white woman that had left her confused about what is really helpful and supportive to people of color, and what is not.

And it’s a valid question all self-described allies should be asking ourselves.

It turned out that the rally was composed of probably 75% or more white people. There were hippies who have lived through the civil rights era of the 60’s and are genuinely dismayed and baffled that we are here again (still) in 2017. ( I say still, because anyone who has been paying attention knows racism, overt or systemic, never went away. However, I think as a society we were doing our best to operate differently, to make it uncomfortable to be overtly racist. That started changing in November 2008 and we see today the comfort level with being openly racist has men marching with torches and no hoods down the middle of the street. They feel emboldened to say awful hateful things. ) There were people of all ages, though, and some of the most impactful statements were made by two teenage boys.

As they opened up the mic and allowed community members to speak, I was inspired. And I am very grateful that all of  these people who spoke are on the side of love and justice. But as the unscheduled speeches went on, and white woman after white woman got up to talk about all the ways they were “woke” and all the things they have done to help black people, I began to groan inwardly. My friend Tabitha groaned outwardly. My mother leaned over and said, “Wow. It’s really not all about you, lady.”

And we knew the message being sent to POC in that audience.

We are really in love with our own self-righteousness. We are enamored with our do-gooding. We seek accolades for what we do for others because it makes us feel like we are making a difference. And most of it comes from a desire to see justice in this nation, equality, racial unity, etc. But it also comes from a place of self-aggrandizement.

The truth is, even those of us who try to be conscious of our privilege, who recognize the inequality, the lack of justice and the hate that is rising in this country, we fall into the “white savior complex” trap so easily. We want to believe that we are so evolved, that we are above having biases, and because of that we can be so very blind or tone deaf and never know it.

When I read criticism of white allies by black people, particularly white females, it usually feels really icky. Defensiveness rises up inside me, and I want to yell, “Not me! I’m not like them!” And that’s when I know without a shadow of a doubt it’s time for me to shut up and listen.

I can never know what it’s like to be a person of color in this country. I catch glimpses, here and there, and when I’m stunned, that is my cue to how out of touch I am. White people are freaking out right now about Charlottesville. We freaked out about Trayvon, and Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland. We are still having tremors of shock and horror over Philando Castile.

Guess who’s not freaking out?

Black people.

Know why?

Because they live this shit every damn day. They are not shocked. They are not stunned. They are angry and they are grieved, but they are not surprised.

So when a white person gets all aflutter, and wants pats on the back for being a decent human being, and being on the right side of humanity, they probably aren’t going to get it if they go looking for it from the black community.

As a matter of fact, they are going to get their feelings hurt.

I know this, because I’ve been there. I know this because I have watched it play out in conversations all over Facebook. And I see the indignant response of, “Well! If I’m not appreciated here, I’m just going to take my Black Lives Matter signs and go home!”

Being an ally means setting aside your need for affirmation, and showing up without expectation.

Being an ally means you listen more than you talk (unless you’re talking to other white people, and in that case, by all means, shout it from the rooftops that black lives should matter as much as any others in this country, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, that fascism and racism have no place here and will not go unanswered.)

Being an ally means you do a whole lot of self-checking as you go, you recognize your privilege, where it could bring harm to others, and where it can be used for good,  to access audiences that people of color don’t have the same access to.

We’ve all known those people who “show up to help” and their help ends up being more of a burden than anything else. The person who shows up when you’re sick or sad, and you end up having to comfort them because they are incapable of not making it about them.

“Well, I came to see how you were dealing with cancer, but if you can’t  be cheerful and grateful for my efforts, I’ll take my tuna noodle casserole to someone who will be!”

Don’t be that person. I beg you.

Being an ally means, it’s not about you. Period. If it WERE about you, there would be organizations and rallies to support you and your struggles.

It’s not about me. It’s not about my feelings. Do I get something out of it? Of course I do. Does it suck when someone rejects my way of “helping” ? Absolutely. But if I bring vinegar to a thirsty person, and then get pissy because they don’t want to drink it, who is really the one with the issue?

White allies, (I believe there’s a really scathing song about white allies. The O’Jays?) but I digress…white allies, we have the ability to be a blessing or a curse to those we are purporting to be acting on behalf of. We have to grow some thicker skin. We have to have uncomfortable conversations, where we face the daily reality of what this country is offering our black and brown brothers and sisters. Where they get to be angry and feel whatever they feel, because the racial system we have operated in since the very first slave ship landed on our shores is WRONG. Morally, spiritually, ethically wrong. And every day they are told to get over it and move on because we are so fragile we can’t stand the discomfort of viewing their raw pain and rage– the same pain and rage we would be experiencing if roles were reversed. Heck, white people whimper every time it’s not about us and what benefits us. We can’t kum-bah-ya our way out of this. We have to own our part, and work every day to overcome the blind spots of our privilege.

 

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and your feelings hurt. I have the sense we are in for quite a battle, but I do believe love will always conquer hate, and good will inevitably triumph over evil, even if lately it feels like evil is winning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down The Ancestry Rabbit Hole– More Drama Than A Soap Opera

This is a photo of my great grandmother, Mildred. I knew her name was Mildred, but to me, she was always Grandma Lulu. It’s confusing sometimes, keeping all the grandparents straight when you’re a little kid. My older sister Shannon came up with a solution: nicknames based on vacation spots.

Thus, in our family we had Grandma (my mom’s mom), Grandma Mexico (aka Margot, Shannon’s dad’s mom), and Grandma Lulu, short for Honolulu. Grandma Lulu not only traveled often to Honolulu, she was born there.

Now, Grandma Lulu was a fascinating character, on which I would elaborate here, if it weren’t for the fact I have decided her life will be the basis for my next novel.

What I can tell you is that while researching Grandma Lulu, I discovered she had a previously unknown 3rd husband. I remember at the time I looked into it initially, it was confusing, because all the evidence pointed to the fact that her 3rd husband had lied about his last name on their marriage license. Grandma Lulu, on the other hand, lied about her place of birth (she said she was born in Oakland, California, not Hawaii), said that it was her 2nd marriage, not her 3rd,  and shaved 5 years off her age. The age thing isn’t all that surprising, considering she was marrying a man 11 years her junior.

A couple weeks ago I began receiving messages from a man who is a relative of Mildred’s 4th husband, Jay. Mildred stayed married to Jay until his death, and, as far as I know, never married again, living her remaining fifteen years of life single, but dating. A lot. Her married boyfriend, who showed up at her funeral, handcrafted the wooden spice rack that hangs in my mother’s kitchen to this very day.

Grandma Lulu died when I was 10,  so I knew her, but I didn’t know much of her story. She was quiet, and tiny, and she always had froot loops when we came to visit. That was a treat for us, because my mother was a health nut and we always had Wheaties and Cheerios. I knew she liked birds, and she wore Hawaiian mumus, even while living in California. She gave me my first Barbie doll, a ballerina.

As a kid, I wasn’t privy to any of the details of her life, her choices, or her complicated relationship with my grandfather, whom she left behind at 18 months old. I have approached researching her life with curiosity, but enough emotional distance from the pain her choices caused my grandfather to recognize that she had a lot of pain of her own. Her pain likely lead to many of her actions, her multiple marriages, her wanderlust.

Anyway, the man researching Mildred’s life because of his connection to Jay, had lots of questions for me. He was confused by the last name I had attributed to Mildred’s third husband William, which was different from the information on the marriage license. I explained what my research had found, and it spurred us both on to try and figure out why William had not only changed his name from Woodcock to Hubbard, but listed his father’s name differently as well.

And that is how I found myself deeeeep down the rabbit hole of ancestry research.

The name change occurred after William’s father had passed away. He not only used his new name Hubbard when marrying Mildred, he used it on his marriage license to his second wife, Frances.

This is where the story takes an even more interesting turn. William married Frances in 1939. On their marriage license, Frances lists her age as 18, and that this is her first marriage. Initially I was perturbed by the fact that William was 32 at the time of their marriage, but the deeper I dug, the more I realized Frances was no naïve teenager.

In the 1940 census, less than a year after her marriage to William, Frances is back living with her parents. Along with her, is a one year old son, who has a completely different last name, Doiron.  Also living at home is her sister, a 19 year old divorcee with a 4 year old son.

That led me to a marriage record for Frances to a man named Melvin Doiron in October of 1938. At the age of seventeen, she married Melvin, and five months later gave birth to Ronald. Four months after Ronald was born, she married William. One must assume that in the nine months between the two marriages, there was a divorce or annulment. (I would hope)

You might ascribe this behavior to youth, however, Frances went on to marry FOUR MORE MEN. That brings us to a total of six husbands. There’s a possible indication of a seventh, but I haven’t been able to definitively prove that.

By 1941, at the age of 19, Frances was on her third husband. Of course, on her marriage license to husband number three, she said it was only her second marriage. Of all her husbands, Frances managed to marry a McQueen, a McKim and a McKibben. I wonder if there’s a strange psychological reason one might be attracted to a certain part of the alphabet.

I find myself pondering what was going through the mind of Frances, why she couldn’t keep a relationship. I can’t imagine she enjoyed all the ups and downs, although I suppose it’s possible. Part of me wants to believe so many marriages indicate a woman who is a hopeless romantic, even if she didn’t have the skills to pick a  man.

In 1970, Frances and her 5th husband, Gail, divorced after 8 years of marriage. Seven months later, she married her sixth husband, Charles. That marriage lasted from November through to May of the following year. Less than a year after her divorce, she remarried Gail. Somehow, that gave me hope that Frances found happiness. Unfortunately, they divorced again three and a half years later.

More than what was going through Frances’ mind, I think about her son, Ronald. From everything I can see, he was an only child, the product of a short-lived first marriage between his teenage mother and his 23 year old father, who himself ran off at 15 to join the military. Ronald was on his second stepfather before his third birthday. His mother would go on to bring four additional stepfathers into his life. That’s not a lot of stability, although her third husband was around through his teen years.

As for Frances, I’m not sure she got her happily ever after. When she died in 1989, at the age of only 68, She had outlived all of her ex-husbands. I have been unable to find an obituary for her, nor have I been able to locate her grave. Perhaps her son wasn’t sure what last  name to put on her grave marker, so he just had her cremated. If they charge by the letter it might be pretty expensive to create one that says: Here lies Frances Lenora Godfrey Doiron Hubbard (which really should be Woodcock) Fulmer Mcqueen McKim Mckibben McKim (didn’t work the 2nd time either).

For me, these people aren’t just names and dates on a chart. I mentally connect with them, imagine their lives, the era and geographical areas they lived, and I find myself rooting for them to have happy endings. I mourn their losses and cheer their success. The lure of the story takes me places I never imagine when I start looking.

You know you’re down the rabbit hole when you’re looking at the immigration papers of the second wife of your great grandmother’s ex-husband’s second wife’s fifth ex-husband, which is where I currently find myself.

If you would like me to go down YOUR family’s rabbit hole, please contact me at Shoreshfamilyreseach@gmail.com, visit my facebook page Shoresh Family Research, or my website Shoresh Family Research. 

 

 

Independence Day Confessions

 

 

This photo courtesy Pugsonparade

As I prepared to write this blog, I went looking for funny Fourth of July photos and memes. Instead, what I found were a lot of mean-spirited things, things that reinforced my dismay at the state of our country, and stuff that in today’s political climate just made me sad. It’s hard to be mad at patriotic pugs, so I went with this one.

This year, I must admit, I’m struggling to get excited for the Fourth. I guess that’s my main confession. Checking out at the grocery store, going in for a facial appointment, talking to friends, everyone asks, “Any plans for the holiday?” It takes me a moment to even remember what holiday they are talking about.

In years past, it was a big one for me. Since I was a little girl my family has celebrated, and I have fond memories of each. When I was younger, we would go to my grandparents’ or my great aunt and uncles house (across the street from each other) down in Laguna Niguel. We would spend the day at the beach, followed by barbeque and a very deliberate and organized firework display. Uncle Bud would light one safe and sane tower or cone, we would clap and cheer, and when it was done, he would move on to the next. The kids got the snakes and the sparklers, and my grandfather would randomly drop firecrackers to scare whomever was standing there, minding their own business.

After moving to Washington, we sometimes spent the holiday camping in Coeur D’Alene. Once again, my grandfather, who rarely talked and walked at the pace of a mummy, would casually let go of  a lit firecracker and keep walking. It was a little passive-aggressive, and he thought it was hilarious.

For the past twenty years off and on (mostly on), my parents hosted at their house. Sometimes we would have 15 people, sometimes 50. Many were people we would only see on that one day a year. My father used a propane torch to set off mortars from the launch tubes he nailed into the guard rail that lines the hill alongside their house.  Every year we knew it was going to be THE year someone lost a digit or set the house across the street on fire. It was always an extravaganza of food, fun and fireworks.

Last year was the first year we didn’t do the party, and I was okay with that, but a little melancholy. This year, I’m not even feeling sentimental about it. It’s as if this past political year has sucked the patriotism right out of me. Frankly, I was more excited about Canada’s sesquicentennial on July 1st.  (I think that technically makes confession number two.)

As I have been thinking about why I’m not excited, I’ve been  processing my patriotic feelings in general. Some are positive, some are not. And because I’m battling a nasty cold, my brain is too fuzzy to put these into any order of importance. Here, in a stream of consciousness, are my confessions:

  1. I hate apple pie. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word. It’s probably at the very bottom of my pie choices. I might eat it if it were given to me without alternative, but I really don’t enjoy it. I like apple crisp (as long as it’s granny smith apples) and I really like the apple berry crumb pie from the Snohomish Pie Company. I’d prefer “American as peach pie” or maybe “American as Rocky Road ice cream.”
  2. I cry every time I hear Neil Diamond’s “America.” I can’t help it. It makes me think of what real patriotism is about, not the kind where we only celebrate those who were born here, but those who were escaping dire circumstances in their homeland and saw this place as a beacon of hope and freedom. On the flip side, if I never heard “Proud to be American” or “Born in the USA” for the rest of my life, I’d be perfectly okay with that.
  3. I no longer idolize our founding fathers. I’m not even sure I like them. The amount of historical research I have done has led me to a place where I can appreciate the things they did with good intent, while not ignoring their serious character flaws. I think we do our kids a huge disservice by putting these men on pedestals, because I can say from my own personal experience, it sucks to see your heroes fall. Why do we teach only the cute little poems and legendary stories, while completely ignoring reality? While being men of great vision, they were not moral paragons. They definitely weren’t all (or even mostly) Christian, despite what my local town newspaper published this week. They were deists who had an agenda, and it wasn’t a utopia of freedom for all men, it was an opportunistic one that would benefit THEM. They wrote that ALL men were endowed with certain inalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR, while simultaneously holding fellow human beings in bondage of chattal slavery.  Those are not traits I find admirable. And guess what? I can love my country and recognize their contributions while being honest about their flaws.
  4. I love Citizenship ceremonies. I love seeing people from all over the world, from every ethnicity, nation and religion, who know more about our democracy and our constitution than the majority of natural born citizens, pledging to contribute to the beautiful patchwork that makes up the people of this country. I remember going in to my dry cleaners and every time, the woman who worked the counter would put down her citizenship study guide to help me. It made me feel proud to belong to a place where she felt welcome, and that she wanted to be a part of it. At the same time, I recognize that our immigration system is messed up, that it’s too hard for immigrants to come legally, and too easy for some to come illegally. Because I was born here, I consider myself lucky, not entitled, and I don’t begrudge anyone born into a place where there is poverty, famine, war or authoritarian regimes wanting to come here to escape that. I don’t fear people who are not like me, I desire to learn from them.
  5. I am not a fan of the melting pot analogy. I am a fan of cultural diversity. I love to visit the International district in Seattle, Chinatown in San Francisco, Little Saigon in Westminster, Olvera Street in Los Angeles, Little Havana in Miami, Little Italy in New York, the French Quarter in New Orleans. I have no desire to see the colors of the rainbow melted into one giant brown homogenous goop. I want to know about where people come from, I have no desire to strip them of their traditions to ‘Muricanize them. Our country is great because of its people, and the people of this country come from all over the world.
  6. Hatred, fear, exclusivity, elitism, nationalism and racism are not American values, and they sap my patriotism. What invigorates my patriotism is unity, celebration, hospitality to those in need, men and women who risk it all to serve our nation in the armed forces, Veterans, the families of service members who have made so many sacrifices in support of their soldier, their sailor, their marine, their… what do you call Air force people? Ah, Airmen.  And the Coast Guard. However, our treatment of veterans is definitely not a source of national pride for me.
  7. I am related to Francis Scott Key, author of the poem that became the National Anthem. He’s my 3rd cousin, 6x removed. I was excited to discover that fact, less excited to read the 3rd verse that no one really thought about or knew existed prior to the protests of Colin Kaepernick, the now much-maligned and former quarterback in the NFL. On a side note, protests are as American as… peach pie.
  8. For those who have known me a while, it may not be a surprise that I have a strong affection for the First Nations people of America. As a young child, I wanted to belong to a tribe. I didn’t know enough to know that there are more than 500 registered tribes, all with varying languages, culture, traditions, history. I think we are really missing out by painting them all with one broad cultural brush.
  9. My great grandfather was a World War I veteran, National Commander of the American Legion, LA county Assessor,  candidate for governor of the state of California. and a strong advocate for veteran’s affairs. His father was an immigrant from Ireland who settled in the central valley of California, having left his home during the Great Famine. I can admire my great grandfather while also acknowledging that he had a huge blind spot regarding immigrants. You see, despite the fact that his father came to this country seeking a better life, he believed that immigrants, particularly those of Mexican descent, were taking jobs that rightfully belonged to veterans. Rather than solely addressing the failings of the US government to serve the needs of returning veterans and their families or the widows and orphans created by our involvement in global conflicts, he found a convenient  scapegoat. If he were alive today, I would argue to him that we can welcome immigrants and serve our veterans. These two issues are not mutually exclusive.
  10. We’ve spent hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands, on fireworks over the years, on something that literally goes up in a puff of smoke (with report). My husband used to joke “some have a 401k, we have fireworks.” This year, as with last year, we have spent zero dollars. I can tell you it feels really good.
  11. I used to think the American experience was the same for everyone. I didn’t know that there were different levels of “freedom,” depending on your ethnicity and/or your income. I believed opportunities were the same for everyone, and that the American Dream was a reality for anyone who wanted it. I still  believe it’s true, but I’ve talked to too many people for whom race and poverty have impeded that dream, obstacles had to be overcome that I never had to face, and discouraging discrimination that I never experienced. I don’t take my freedom for granted, not only because I know that it’s a rare and valuable thing, but also because I know many people who have been deprived of it in many ways. I acknowledge my privilege and fight alongside those who haven’t been born with it.
  12. Wonder Woman may be my favorite American this year, and she’s Amazonian. Or Greek. It’s kind of confusing.

I know this is rambling. Like I said, I’m in a weird place, I’ve got the remnants of a nasty cold, and it’s just been a strange year.

So, happy birthday America. Hope you get some therapy and next year I’ll feel more like celebrating. I’m headed to Canada in a couple weeks, and that Justin Trudeau and socialized medicine is pretty appealing. I just think you should know, I’ve got options if you can’t pull it together.

For Such A Time As This

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Yesterday, March 23, 2016 was the Jewish holiday of Purim. For those who are unaware, Purim is the commemoration of  the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. At the time, the Jewish people were exiled in Persia, and were not masters of their own fate. Esther was singled out by the King of Persia to become one of his wives, much to her dismay. But the king truly admired Esther, so when her uncle Mordechai discovered Haman’s plot, he urged her to speak up for her people, even though it put her welfare at risk.

Long story short, she did, the king put an end to Haman and his plot, and the people were saved.

Zoe and Parker attended a Jewish preschool, so we observed Purim every year we were there. I hadn’t heard of it prior, despite growing up in the Christian church, where I knew of the story of Queen Esther.

Purim in the Jewish community is akin to Halloween. Every year there was a carnival, where kids dressed up in costumes, played games and ate treats, such as hamantaschen ( a pastry). During the week leading up to the carnival, the kids also wore costumes and took treats to the neighboring Christian preschool.

One year, the year “Enchanted” came out, Zoe insisted on the wedding dress from the Disney Store.

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It should be mentioned that at this same time, Zoe was in looooove with an older boy named Sammy from the preschool. She was 4, he was 5. She had decided she was going to marry him, whether he liked it or not.

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He looks thrilled, doesn’t he?

While any costumes were acceptable, most of the girls preferred to dress up like Queen Esther.

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The year before the wedding dress.

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Zoe and all of the Esthers. (And one Alice in Wonderland)

That phrase “for such a time as this” has echoed through my mind often over the past several years. Recently the echo has become louder and more frequent.

This is a troubling call for a person like me. It’s a call to be brave. It’s a call to stand up for what’s right in spite of the inherent risk. It’s the prompting towards a life of purposeful resistance rather than silent acquiescence.

While I like to think of myself as one who rises to the challenge, many times in my life I have balked at the road less traveled. I have opted for comfort rather than controversy and harmony over conflict.

I can’t count the number of times I have stood on a precipice and wavered.

My m.o. is to keep expectations low, lest someone (typically myself) be disappointed when I fail to meet them.

I’m the person who has 3/4 of a college education for fear of what might be required of me if I ever finished.

When I went to summer camp back in elementary school I was required to take a swim test to participate in the majority of water activities. The swim test was simple- swim the length of the pool and back, and then tread water for 3 minutes.

I started at the shallow end, swam to the opposite side and back. I began treading water in what probably was no more than 3 feet. One minute prior to completing the test, I told the test monitor that I was quitting.

She said, “You can’t quit! You’re only a minute from being done! You can do this!”

“I can’t.” I said. I climbed up the ladder and out of the pool.

The truth is, I was terrified; Terrified of what might be expected of me and if I was up to the challenge. Terrified of making a fool of myself, I chose the safer option. I sat in a canoe with the other “non-swimmers” in our life vests, watching the majority of campers doing all sorts of fun activities. I was embarrassed and ashamed. But I was “safe.”

As some of you might have read in my blog Facebook post the other day, Zoe was walking behind one of her fellow 6th graders and his 8th grade friends when the 8th graders began bad-mouthing and making fun of another boy in her class. Her friend calmly replied, “Did you know he’s a foster kid? Do you know what he’s been through? Did you know that he lives with a girl at our school and if her family hadn’t let him stay with them he’d be homeless right now? That he has no family? He’s goofy, but he’s not special needs. He’s my friend and it’s not okay to talk about people like that.”

It takes a certainty of identity to live that kind of courage.

We all are provided multiple opportunities each day to be the person we were created to be, to live the life God intended for us, whether it be in our career choices, our hobbies, our passions, our family life, our friendships, our romantic life, our spiritual life.

My friend Yolanda said to me today, ” I do not want to waste one more day not living in the identity God has intended for me.”

I don’t believe in happenstance or coincidence. I believe we each have been put in position “for such a time as this.” For each of us, the “this” is something different.

Currently our country is in political upheaval, we are a divided people, in a world filled with fear and violence. If we allow it, there is much to fill us with great insecurity.

However-“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7)

The tools are right in front of us. The Power Source is waiting for us to put in our plug. The Source of all love wants to lavish it upon us so that we can then in turn lavish it on those around us. The Spirit longs to free us from all sorts of bondage by enabling us to exercise self-discipline.

Whenever we face a challenge, both internal struggles and external circumstances, our best hope is to remember that it’s no accident we are there, and we have the ability to effect change in “such a time as this.” Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. You never know whose life you might save. Maybe even your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tripping Over Family Tree Roots

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The other day on my way home from walking Parker to school, I got distracted by a passing baby in a stroller and tripped over this tree root. I knew the root was there, as I walk past it (around it if I’m paying attention) every day. Twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.

It’s not a normal root. This root has evil intentions. It’s somehow sticking out and up at an angle, causing it to be 6-8 inches into the sidewalk and 3-4 inches off the ground. This root has stopped serving any purpose to the tree and now simply lies in wait for victims.

This time the root got me pretty good. I stubbed my toe, flew forward a couple feet, but managed to keep my balance by making some wonky maneuver that left my back feeling pretty tweaked.

I thought to myself, “Someone should do something about that.”

I decided it should be the city, but when I called, no one answered the phone.  I was annoyed that duties were being shirked.

The next day as I walked past the root, I glanced over at it and felt a twinge in my lower back. It was a reminder that I needed to do something about it.

I didn’t.

A few days after that, my lower back was still in pain, and since I had been compensating for a sore back, my neck was beginning to hurt. My hips were beginning to hurt. I was an achy mess.

Every time I walked past the root, I was more irritated. I didn’t plant the tree. This sidewalk is walked by many every day, and no one had done anything about it. Someone could get hurt. Someone DID get hurt! (Me)

I called the city. The first woman I spoke with said I needed to talk to the lady who would decide whose responsibility the tree root was. Then she would determine who I needed to talk to about getting the root removed. She transferred me to the planning department, but alas that woman was out of the office for the president’s day weekend and wouldn’t be back in the office until Tuesday.

I sat and pondered my options. The reality was, I could sit and try to get someone to take accountability for the root, but there was a pretty good chance that since the city expects us to keep those trees alive by watering them, they would expect us to maintain them in other ways, such as malicious root growth.

After all, even though the tree grew on the street side of the sidewalk, it was parallel to my back yard.

If someone gets hurt because of something I know has the potential to cause injury, it doesn’t really matter who’s responsible for the root. I will have neglected to do what I could have done to prevent it. And as time goes on, as the tree grows larger and older, that root is going to become more of a liability.

Such is the case with our family trees and family legacies. In our family trees we have heroes and villains, and we have regular men and women who lived average lives and then became vaguely familiar faces in faded photographs to the generations to come.

But names and dates and black and white photos don’t tell the whole story.

When I first started genealogy research 13 years ago, I had two quests: find the famous connections and go back as far as I could go.

However in the past year and a half, my research has been dovetailing with my own personal growth path which includes spiritual studies, therapy and a complete overhaul of my thought patterns and behavioral habits that haven’t always put me where i want to be.

As a result, I find myself focusing in more closely on the stories of the people from whom I descend. As I have done that, details have emerged that explain generational family cycles that have been unwittingly passed down.

The stories I had been told as a child highlighted the best of my family history, but they don’t paint a complete picture.

Sometimes we are aware of the legacies of dysfunction, but feel like it’s in our DNA, it’s who we are because it’s who they were. We feel powerless to break the cycle.

Sometimes we are living our own frustrating cycles of behavior and have no idea why we do the things that we do. It leaves us feeling broken, and a little crazy.

But I have good news!

We are not powerless against those errant tree roots that mar our family trees and threaten to bring us down. It doesn’t matter whether we planted the tree; Once we have recognized the danger, it’s up to us to get out our metaphorical hack saws and cut that nasty root out of our lives, out of our families, preserving a healthier tree for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

“I’m a yeller.”

No, you’re not. You’re someone for whom yelling was a modeled behavior, and that behavior was modeled to them, and so on. All it takes is one person to break the cycle. That person can be you if you choose!

“I don’t know why I feel so insecure.”

Well, probably because your parent had insecurity and abandonment issues. Or their parent did. My grandfather was abandoned by his mother at 18 months old, by his father shortly after, and left to be raised by his Irish grandfather and haughty German step-grandmother. His way of handling that was to be an emotionally distant workaholic. That doesn’t breed security in your children or your marriage. It leaves scars on that family tree, and on the people who come along afterwards.

” I’m dumb with men.”

Maybe. There’s probably a reason for that too. I learned this past year that my great great grandmother was married multiple times and wanted her grandchildren to call her “Aunt Fanny” instead of grandmother. Her daughter got married at 16, was divorced a short time later, and had a baby with a man (by the appearances of the records) she never married. By the time she married my great grandfather, she was a woman with a past and baggage, probably a boatload of  shame,  who desperately wanted to be loved and cared for. That longing for love and attention caused her to be openly flirtatious in letters we found to her daughter’s fiance. She loved her husband dearly, but the vacancy inside her couldn’t only be filled by him. Honestly.  It couldn’t be filled by any man.

My own family tree is overflowing with great men and women. It’s also riddled with alcoholism, drug addiction, codependency, perfectionism, emotional disconnection, divorce, and abandonment.

So what do we do with the information that who we are isn’t only the choices we’ve made, but also the things we’ve learned to be as a result of generational brokenness?

First, we understand that knowledge is a gift, even when it’s of the ugly that lurks in our family. Knowledge and awareness creates opportunities for personal growth. We take accountability for our own choices. We recognize the role our family history has played in shaping us, and we chop off that damn root completely. For ourselves, and for our kids. And for their kids.

It only takes one person to change the dynamic of the whole family for generations to come.

We don’t have to chop the whole tree down, just the root that is giving us trouble. Then, come spring, that tree will be blossoming because it will no longer be sending its energy to that nasty root.

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PS: If you are interesting in “rooting out” your family tree, visit my website http://familyresearch.strikingly.com/ to learn about the genealogy research packages I am currently offering at 50% off!

A Legacy Of Significance

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It’s an innate human desire to leave a legacy. We all want to know that at the end of our time here on this planet, our lives have meant something, had a purpose, and that when we are gone, we will have left a mark of some sort.

It’s a rare occurrence when someone leaves a legacy  like that of Mr. Charles “Tuck” Gionet; For he obtained his own legacy of significance through imbuing a sense of significance in those who had the privilege to know him. Every kid who set foot in his classroom, every athlete that stepped on his track came away a better person from knowing him, and came away believing in their own potential.

As I stood near this tree yesterday, awash in tears, I found that I wasn’t just grieving the loss of this amazing man, but was also overwhelmed with the joy of the beautiful stories I was reading of lives changed forever because he gave so much of his heart, his time, his wisdom.

The second greatest loss, after knowing you will never be able to see someone again, is the realization that you missed your opportunity to tell the person what they meant to you. When I first found out Mr. Gionet (after all this time “Tuck” seems so informal) was fighting cancer, this homage began to write itself. And then I remembered the man, and that he would HATE that. As he said to my mother last year, “What, a guy’s gotta get sick for people to tell him how great he looks?”

Truth is, I never believed it would come to this, or that he wasn’t going to overcome this challenge.

I first sat in Mr. Gionet’s classroom in September 1986. While others had trepidation, as his reputation for toughness was well known throughout the halls of Snohomish Junior High School, I had none. For you see, I already knew a secret many of my classmates didn’t: behind that no-nonsense man was a heart of gold. My older sister Colleen had him as a teacher and track coach in 1983-84, and her admiration for him told me everything I needed to know.

Looking back, it’s unfathomable that he was really only a kid when I first had him as a teacher. He already had a commanding presence in the classroom, and a wisdom that belied his age of 26.

On the very first day of World Cultures he did a name exercise. It started with the first person in the front row, they would say their name, followed by the second person who would say the first person’s name, and then their own. The third person named the first two, then said their own name. It went on like that through the whole classroom, until it came to Mr. Gionet, who would then rattle off every single person’s name; Names he never forgot. Ever.

That year he asked me and another student, my friend Eric, to attend a local government meeting. I can’t remember if it was a county council meeting, or if it was a chamber of commerce meeting, but I do remember that he chose us because he said he saw leadership qualities in us. We each gave speeches about “kids today” and what issues mattered to us, and then we opened it up to questions from the officials at the meeting. I will never forget that feeling of knowing that he saw my potential, and gave me a venue to explore it.

There’s something that happens inside you when someone you admire looks at you and says, “I believe in you.” You are forever changed.

By the time I was a junior in high school, Mr. Gionet had transferred up there, and I got him again as a teacher for U.S. history. While others may have dreaded what they knew would be required of them in his class, I was thrilled.

Our very first assignment that year was to write a persuasive essay, which would be strange in a normal history class, but he was no normal history teacher. He cared less about what our opinions were, much more about our critical thinking skills and how well we could defend those opinions.

This was my essay:

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I don’t know if he really preferred banana Popsicles (see, I’ve learned to spell Popsicles since 1988) or if he was simply playing devil’s advocate. That was pretty much a foretelling of the nature of most of our interactions. He would say something, I would contest it. I would say something, he would challenge me.

For all I know, he actually agreed with me most of the time, but he would never admit it, lest I become complacent.

Last Friday night I was sorting through my high school mementos in anticipation of the next night’s 25th reunion, and I came across this cartoon:

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This satirical comic was printed that year in my high school newspaper, created  by one of my fellow U. S. history classmates. While I believe our banter was was much more congenial and light-hearted than this, it illustrates the point well enough.

Notice the teacher is wearing slacks, a button down shirt and a tie. This was something that mattered a lot to him. Manners mattered a lot to him. Civility mattered a lot to him. Involvement and investment mattered a lot to him. (Also, proper spelling of the words “a lot” mattered to him, as my friend Andy reminded me yesterday.)

That first semester I got a B. I wasn’t happy about that. However, in Mr. Gionet’s class, I knew the grades given were always and only the grades we earned.

Our final major assignment of the school year was an oral report on some major event in U.S. history. I knew if I was going to get an A, I was going to have to go all out.

I chose to do my report on the Vietnam war. I didn’t want to stand up and read dry facts off of note cards. I decided I would create a vignette in which I was a teenager during the war, and I would act out a scene of reading and writing letters with a friend who had been drafted and was serving. I compiled actual letters between my mother and her high school friend from his time in Vietnam. I recorded videos off of TV like “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane to be playing in the background as I read the letters out loud. I infused my mother’s responses with facts about the climate in America and what he could expect when he returned home. And I did all of this dressed head to toe in full hippie gear.

Somewhere in my mother’s house is the VHS recording Mr. Gionet insisted on making of my report, and I can tell you that my transcript showed an A for that semester.

When it came time to get letters of recommendation for my college applications, it was a no-brainer that I was going to ask him. There wasn’t a teacher in that school whose opinion mattered more to me, and who I felt knew my potential the best.

I wasn’t disappointed. He wrote me a letter of recommendation that I have kept and looked at occasionally over the years, if only to remind myself that someone great once believed in me.

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The first time I ran into Mr. Gionet after graduation was at the wedding reception of a close friend. I had dropped out of college after three years and was 7 months pregnant with my first child. I didn’t want to talk to him, because all I could think about was that he would be disappointed in me that I hadn’t reached my potential. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Being a mom is the most important job in the world.” And I believed he meant it because he NEVER said anything he didn’t mean.

As news of his passing began to circulate on Saturday morning, something amazing began unfolding before my eyes. He wasn’t just MY favorite teacher who believed in me and made me believe in myself, he was that to nearly every student he ever had. How can it be that over the course of 30 plus years he could make each and every kid feel significant? But he did. The popular kids. The lost kids. The smart kids. The kids who struggled. The athletes. The loners. The whole damn Breakfast Club stood a little taller because this man told them they were more than, and they BELIEVED HIM BECAUSE HE BELIEVED IT ABOUT THEM. He was able to see what made each kid special. He was able to see where their confidence was lacking. He was able to get all of us to catch his vision of who we could be.

He did this without coddling. “Suck it up!” ” Don’t do anything stupid! ” “Fer cryin’ out loud!” (This was his signature phrase, and I can verify it goes back at least as far as 1987, as my yearbook attests. )

IMG_4561(My friend Robyn wrote that)

He did it by fostering confidence through achievement, creating standards, expectations of personal responsibility. He did it by seeing the innate value in each person, making it a priority to know their name.

The last time I laid eyes on him was last summer at the farmer’s market. He was nearly a year into treatment and still had his Clooney good looks, his ascerbic wit and kick-ass attitude. He was anticipating his son’s upcoming wedding, and scoffed at the invitation he had received to attend the class of ’89’s reunion that weekend.

“No one wants an old teacher hanging out at their reunion.”

As I drove to my own reunion Saturday night, my heart heavy with his loss, the words of old friends as they posted story after story of what he meant to each of them running through my mind, I thought to myself, “I hope he knew.”

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Please Hear What I’m Not saying

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Last night was a brutal night on social media. Even more so, it was brutal on the streets of Ferguson , MO and major cities throughout the United States.

From the outset, let me make it clear that this post is NOT about my opinion of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Not to say I don’t have an opinion, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I had quite an extraordinary opportunity last night when I witnessed the interaction on my posts regarding the breaking news between several people that I know, none of whom know each other.

As I watched the conversation become tense, I saw that people I know and care about were perceiving each other in negative ways and I found myself crying “Arugula! Aruugula!” ( Arugula is my safe word on Facebook http://kbjackson.com/i-think-my-brain-just-broke/)

I found myself wanting to explain to each one of my friends  who the others are, what I know about them, and where they are coming from.  It was an eye-opening experience. I kept thinking, “If they knew about each other what I know, they wouldn’t assume what’s in their heart.”

One friend chose not to engage because they realized their contributions might add fuel to the already stoked fire. Another deleted many of the comments they wish they hadn’t made. I know this was out of respect for me and I appreciate it greatly.

 

Every sentence that was pounced upon came from someone who has a unique perspective based on their own life experiences. Everyone who pounced upon a sentence brought their own life experiences to the conversation.

Two of my friends who commented on the post currently live in the South, and have for some time. Living in the South brings the concept of race relations to a whole other level.

One of my friends who commented is a former police officer who has dealt with having to defend his actions while on duty in a court of law.

One, my husband, comes from a family of police officers.

One is a pastor’s wife who helped create an organization to help local low-income mothers and children in need.

One is a pastor (not married to the wife above) who runs an organization dedicated to helping those in need, with a strong focus on serving the people of Haiti.

One is Haitian-born.

One is born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up seeing crack destroy the families of his surrounding community.

Two are teachers.

Most are college educated, at least two of whom have masters degrees.

All are hard- working and successful in their own fields.

Five were raised in my same small hometown.

One is a  sitting member of the US Dept of Commerce/NOAA Diversity and Inclusion Counsel.

One is a social worker, who has worked for Child Protective Services, rehabilitation in the prison system and Adult Protective services and has witnessed societal horrors most of us couldn’t imagine.

One has worked as an Alaska state trooper and was present in full riot gear for the tumult following the not-guilty verdict of the LA police  officers who assaulted Rodney King.

Most live in communities or near large metropolitan areas where police departments have had systemic racial investigations.

One has two white teenage sons, one has three black teenage sons.

One of those two men has to tell his sons to keep their hoods down and their hands where they can be seen.

One is dating a black man who has personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

Two are black men who have personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

One is a biracial woman who grew up in a nearly all-white town and is married to a black man who has personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

Most are white, some of whom have personally witnessed racism, racial profiling and police harassment of minorities, while others have not.

All are responsible, law-abiding citizens.

All are caring, kind, loving people.

Several are Christians, whose mandate is to love others.

A couple are agnostic but believe passionately in caring for others.

Some are angry. Some are sad. Some are both.

All are my friends.

Don’t assume who is who, you could quite possibly be wrong.

My point is this: When a statement is made online to a stranger, they don’t know the heart behind it, the life experience behind it. We must “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” -Steven Covey.

So many of our contentious discussions could be mitigated if we followed this simple idea.

At the end of the day, my friendships with all of these people still stand. Do I get frustrated? Of course. Do they get frustrated with me? Absolutely. I actually got two separate messages from friends who read but did not participate in the conversation. One said “Katie, for the life of me I don’t know how you think the way you think about certain things, but I hope you and your family have a happy thanksgiving.”

The other read, “I would enjoy a friendly discussion with you at some point based on different view points.”

I consider both of those messages an encouragement that I am finally, after years of bullying my way through conversations and shoving my point of view down people’s throats, figuring out how to have healthy debates where people don’t leave despising me.

I continue to pray for peace and understanding in the midst of the anger and chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

The Title of this blog post comes from the 1966 poem by Charles  C. Finn  http://poetrybycharlescfinn.com/pages/please-hear-what-im-not-saying

Thank You Doesn’t Seem Enough

Veterans-Day

A couple weeks ago Zoe came to me and said, “Do we have any veterans in our family?”

I said, “None who are alive.”

“NO one? We don’t know ANY veterans that I can bring to our assembly?”

“No. Papa Bill was too young to serve in Korea and too old for Vietnam. Plus he was in college and was a father. Papa Jim didn’t serve as far as I know. In fact, the only person in our family that I can think of is your cousin Kurt, and he’s serving the Coast Guard down in Oregon.”

“Can’t he come for this?”

“That’s the thing with military service, you don’t get to come and go as you please. He has to stay there and do his job.”

She was pretty peeved at me, and insisted that even if we didn’t have anyone she could bring, that I attend the assembly.

Their music teacher’s husband is an officer in one branch of the military, so she makes sure that every year there is a Veteran’s Day assembly. They begin practicing their songs early on in the school year, which is why you could often hear Zoe going around singing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

One day as she was singing I said, “While I understand that you need to practice, could you maybe move on from the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli to another branch of service? I got enough of that song when I dated a Marine20 years ago.”

I am really glad that I attended the assembly, though. Besides the fact that Zoe would be upset if I didn’t, I have to admit that veterans are close to my heart. As they called out the conflicts in which the guests had served, and I saw these men and women stand, particularly the two World War II vets, I couldn’t help but get emotional. What are hunched over little old men now, who go about their day like anyone else, were once brave soldiers; Young men who were probably terrified and didn’t know if they would ever make it home.

My grandfather, Captain Jack Bomke, served in the US Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. It was a Sunday morning, and he was having breakfast at his mother’s house when the attacks happened. He raced down the hill to the harbor to help wherever he could. He, alongside his fellow men, worked to rescue as many as they could.

jackandcharlotteCaptain Jack Bomke on the day he married my grandmother Charlotte Quinn

 

When I was 13, my parents and I drove down to visit my grandfather in Southern California. Along the way we stopped off in a small town and I grabbed their local newspaper. In it, there was an article, that I’m pretty sure I still have somewhere, about an event that had recently taken place. It was an event to raise money for the needs of the veterans in their community. The organizers had spent a lot of money on food and party supplies. Hardly anyone showed up. One of the veterans was quoted as saying, “It feels like no one cares.”

That article devastated me. I thought about the sacrifices these men and women had made, and that they felt like no one cared about their struggles. I saved the article because I intended to write to them and let them know that people DO care… And then I forgot about it. For a while. But I have never truly forgotten about that missed opportunity to show my appreciation.

I am thankful to have the legacy of my great grandfather, John R. Quinn, to look towards in the care for and advocating of veterans’ issues.

John Quinn was working on his father’s ranch in 1917 when word about the war reached him. He immediately left for San Francisco and enlisted. He was sent to France and served as Captain of Battery F, 348th field artillery, 91st division and fought in the Meuse Argonne offensive. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meuse-Argonne_Offensive

He stayed until 1919 with the Army of Occupation.

When he returned to California, he became active in the newly-formed American Legion. In 1920, when he realized that the closest AL post was in Bakersfield, a day’s drive for the men in his home town, he organized Merle Reed Post 124 in Delano, California so they could have a place to gather.

In 1921 John became the California Commander of the American Legion.

In 1922 he was placed in charge of the veterans’ welfare board in the San Francisco office.

In 1923 he became the Chairman of the Board for Veterans Welfare of the state of California.

That same year, due to his tireless fight for veterans’ issues, he was elected National Commander of the American Legion.

image President Calvin Coolidge, center, John Quinn to the right of him.

Starting in 1921, there was a push by the American Legion for veterans’ compensation. A bill placed before the Senate was vehemently protested by President Harding and eventually failed. It regained momentum and was finally passed in 1924 under the leadership of President Coolidge and National Commander John Quinn. The American Legion was a driving force in getting The Adjusted Compensation Act into law.

http://www.unz.org/Pub/Forum-1924mar-00354 (This is an article written by National commander Quinn arguing for this bill)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_Adjusted_Compensation_Act

It soon became apparent that veterans’ issue didn’t stop with the veterans themselves, but their wives, widows and children. John was a strong advocate for these families as well. http://www.unz.org/Pub/Outlook-1924jul09-00397

The World War Adjusted Compensation Act didn’t give immediate help to veterans, however. The act, passed in 1924, delayed payment to veterans until 1945. When the Great Depression hit, people were struggling, veterans in particular.

In 1932, the Bonus Army March was a movement to demand the payments no longer be delayed. Some sources report as many as 17,000 veterans, along with 26,000 family members and supporters, marched into Washington DC. President Hoover, who really should have known better, sent in 500 infantry soldiers, 500 cavalry, 6 tanks and 800 police officers to quell the revolt. In the end, 4 were dead, over a thousand were injured, including 69 police officers.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army

Hoover lost the election that year to FDR. While FDR opposed the veteran’s demands, Hoover was the one to turn the army on them. (Am I the only one who reads about Hoover and “We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover” from “Annie” pops into your head? No? Just me?)

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I don’t have an explanation as to why my grandfather supported Hoover in spite of this incident, but he was a progressive Republican (who knew there was such a thing), and FDR was a Democrat.

John Quinn spent his entire adult life fighting for the rights of veterans. He believed strongly in the obligation of our nation to pay the debt of gratitude to those who have served.

He went on to be honored by President Truman

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And President Nixon

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for his efforts on behalf of those who have served in our armed forces and their families.

The American Legion was instrumental in creating the US Veterans Bureau, predecessor to the VA. they continue to fight against the bureaucracy that is preventing the needs of veterans being met.

They created the “Flag Code” for proper treatment of the American flag.

They supported a fledgling organization called “The American Heart Association” and helped it become the force it is today.

The AL supported and pushed for the GI bill, which has provided higher education to millions of veterans.

If you’d like to learn more about veterans’ issue and the American Legion, please go to

http://www.legion.org/history

And to the veterans… thank you isn’t nearly enough. But still. Thank you.

 

 

Who Let The Dogs Out? (Hawaii Part 3)

 

hawaii8My husband captioned this photo, “Many levels of suspicion”

I’m back with another installment of our Hawaii trip. If you’re getting bored with these, don’t worry, there are only about 5 more to go. I could say I’m kidding, but I’m not. If I can survive the trip, you can survive these posts.

The day after Zoe’s birthday I suggested we head up the other side of the island to see the Polynesian Cultural Center. The kids had complained that Waikiki didn’t feel very “Hawaiian” so I thought this was a great opportunity to experience the culture.

The drive was amazing. Where the trip to Haleiwa had been sparse in vegetation, this side of the island was lush. As we drove along the coast, I spotted “Hat island.” Hat island isn’t really Hat island. The Hawaiian name is Mokoliʻi, which means “little lizard.” The belief was that in a great battle between the goddess Hiʻiaka and a dragon, the dragon’s tail was cut off and this is what remains:

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However, due to the fact that it resembles a traditional Asian hat many refer to the island as “Chinaman’s hat.” So much for being PC.

As we pulled into the parking lot to the beach area with the best view of the island, we also noticed a large site called “Kualoa Ranch.”

Sydney said, “These mountains look a lot like ‘Lost.'”

I said, “Well I know that ‘Lost’ was filmed somewhere on the island.”

I took her picture, as she pretended to be “Lost.”

sydney1 She’s even eating a banana like she would in the jungle.

I made the comment that the mountains reminded me of “Mighty Joe Young,” the movie about the giant gorilla starring my husband’s #2 favorite hottie Charlize Theron. (#1? Scarlett Johansson in case anyone is keeping track.) To which Nathan replied, “You’re a giant gorilla.”

One of us was right. The other was Nathan. Turns out Kualoa Ranch is the filming site of many movies and television shows, including “Mighty Joe Young.”

After a couple more pics in front of the island…

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We all piled back in our giant rental vehicle and headed north. We noticed that there were a lot of signs protesting expansion and development of the area. With as lovely as everything was over there, I can see why they would want to protect it.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot for the PCC we were relieved to see the parking lot was pretty empty, except for a few tour buses. There was a bit of a scuffle under the plumeria trees as we lathered the sunscreen on everyone.

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For those who don’t know, the Polynesian Cultural Center http://polynesianculturalcenter.com is a living museum/sort-of theme park owned and operated by the LDS (Mormon) church. The majority of employees are students of BYU-Hawaii and they work for scholarship money.

While there is mention of the purpose of the park, there are no overt “conversion” attempts, it really is simply a tribute to the various Polynesian cultures.

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The park is designed with each unique country having their own space to highlight their housing styles, traditions, music, clothing, etc. We didn’t know where to start, but Parker insisted on heading for the canoe rides. There is a river that flows through each “country” and a tour guide talks a bit about them as you pass by.

We got to the canoe area and there was a large group already there. An employee came over to us and said, “How many of you are there?”

We told him 7.

He said, “The wait is going to be a little bit. We had a hundred and one Chinese show up in a tour bus.”

He suggested we go see the Samoa presentation that was about to start, and come back after they had gotten the “hundred and one” through on the canoes.

For the entire rest of our trip the phrase “the hundred and one” became code for large groups of tourists. As in, “We’d better make a reservation, otherwise we may get stuck behind the hundred and one.” Or, “I didn’t want to wait in the bathroom line. The hundred and one were there.”

We headed over to Samoa, and were stopped by a man with no shirt, a grass skirt and calves that were mesmerizing. I’ve never seen calves that muscular. Neither had Zoe, who leaned over and started whispering, “Do you see his…” before I shushed her. They were in the process of raising the Samoan flag and singing their national anthem.

The show consisted of Mr. Amazing Calves husking and shucking a coconut, all the while making funny jokes about the tourists watching. He is multi-lingual, and spoke to people in their own languages throughout. He is no longer a student, he was a fine art major who now sells his paintings in the Samoa souvenir shop and spends his days doing coconut demonstrations. Oh, and he showed us how to make fire.

They have hands on demonstrations for people to try at each “village” including fire making, hula lessons, basket weaving, etc. The kids can get a stamp in their “passport” and at the end, if they have completed all the tasks, they get a prize from the gift shop at the front of the park. My kids were interested in the prize, but not enough to try all the activities.

After Samoa we went back to the canoe ride, where the top photo was taken. The hundred and one had already cleared out, so the wait was short.

When we’d finished the canoe ride, the natives started getting hungry. By natives I don’t mean the people working at the park, I mean my kids. We found a spot to settle in to watch the parade of islands on the river front while Sydney and I went off to find food to bring back. By the time we got back, Jeff and the kids were surrounded by the hundred and one.

Can I just say: yes, your skin is lovely, but is it really necessary to put up umbrellas to shield your face from the sun while those behind you are trying to see over and around you? A couple rays so that you don’t block everyone’s view isn’t that much of a sacrifice.

My husband was a little shocked that I actually patted one of the women on the shoulder asking her to take the sunbrella down. At least I was nice about it.

Each island had their own float, where they wore traditional costumes, and did their own traditional dances and songs. After watching them all, I’d have to say the Tongans are the ones I would want to party with. They definitely seemed to be the most fun of the bunch. The New Zealanders (Aoteroa) were the most subdued. I found myself thinking my pale freckled face may say “Irish” but my body says “Polynesian.” I love that the Polynesian women are curvy and not skinny- except Tahiti. Those girls were by far the thinnest. I loved their outfits and they certainly know how to shake their non-existent hips. I could never make it in Tahiti.

hawaii6The Tongans

We decided that we were up for one more show, so we headed to Tonga.

The Tongan show was a drum show, and after doing some demonstrations, they dragged 3 men down to participate. The first was a white guy from San Francisco. the second was a black man from Miami. The third was a man from Japan.

The show was quite entertaining. One by one they took each guy and had them mimic their drumming. The Tongan guy would drum, then the participant would follow, attempting to replicate it. The drumming would get more complicated each time, and then they added some yells in Tongan. When the guy from Miami got up there, he was keeping up pretty well. When he got to the last set, the Tongan guy did a complicated drum beat and then yelled a very long sentence in Tongan. The guy from Miami stopped, looked at him, drummed something totally different and shouted, “Who let the dogs out?!?”

The crowd roared with laughter.

At the end of the show, Jeff came over to where I was sitting with Zoe and said, “Parker wants to get his autograph.”

Confused, I said, “The performer?”

“No. The ‘Who let the dogs out’ guy.”

I laughed. “Of course he does. ”

After some prompting on Parker’s part, Jeff, totally mortified, walked over with Parker to ask for Miami’s autograph.

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Suddenly there was a huge eruption of laughter from everyone surrounding Parker.

By the time I got over there, Jeff’s face was beet red.

I said, “What happened?”

“Parker threw me under the bus, that’s what happened. We got over there and Parker said, ‘My dad wants your autograph.'”

I looked at Parker, who had a sheepish look on his face.

imageParker’s “Autograph”

Zoe decided she wanted an autograph also, but she went for the shirtless Tongan guy. Not a bad choice.

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We walked towards the exit and Parker said to me, “What does it mean that daddy wants to throw me off the bus?”

“Not OFF the bus. UNDER the bus. You threw daddy under the bus. It means that you talked daddy into going over there with you and then said he was the one who wanted the autograph.”

This phrase has been used by him many times since; Usually out of context and not worded correctly. But if you hear Parker talking about throwing people on, off or under the bus, you’ll know where it’s coming from.

Funny thing- the next day Jeff and Parker went to the hotel pool and who did they see?

You got it- Mr. Who let the dogs out guy.

Out of all the hotels on Oahu where he could have been staying- he was at ours.

I said, “Did you say anything to him?”

“No I was hoping he didn’t recognize us.”

Later that day they got in the elevator. Who was in it? You guessed it.

Parker had given Jeff a gift that just kept on giving.

Coming soon- The celebration bus, the mongoose, the awesome and the only only

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Review Of The Lone Ranger And Other Ramblings

loneranger1 Notice- no crow on Tonto’s head

Despite such stellar reviews as, ” Colossal, misguided, dust-choked mess,” (Dave White of Movies.com) , “An extravagantly squandered opportunity,” ( Stephanie Zacharek of “The Village Voice.” )and my personal favorite, “Except for the dynamite finale, The ‘Long’ Ranger feels like a long, slow ride to the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump,” ( Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post- Dispatch) We took Zoe, Parker and Nathan to see “The Lone Ranger” Friday night.

Our alternative was spending another sweltering evening sitting by the floor dryers half-naked, scavenging for whatever particles of food Parker could reach if we hung him upside down over the dehumidifier blocking our pantry. There was no way going to the movies could be worse.

I will say, the reviews made sure I had very low expectations, so in that regard, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure it was long, and Parker was extremely antsy, and Zoe had to go to the bathroom 3 times because she drank too much iced tea at dinner. But I’ve sat through longer. “Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo” comes to mind. Yes, I know it’s an hour shorter. But time is relative. “Lone Ranger,” in contrast, was a reasonably entertaining movie.

Many people complained that the Lone Ranger played second fiddle to Tonto in this movie, and I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. Johnny Depp is difficult to contain. He’s a scene stealer. I did find myself wondering why he would choose to play Tonto, the sidekick, but eventually the backstory on the enigma that is this new incarnation of Tonto revealed an unexpected depth to the character. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I found Tonto shift from amusing to tragic in that moment.

I do think that Disney should have been more careful in some of the scenes in this movie. Was it necessary to show Butch Cavendish eating the heart of the Lone Ranger’s brother? Whether the movie is PG-13 or not, kids will want to see it. They can’t claim they didn’t intend for it to be a kids movie and then put out stuff like this to entice children:

Lego-lone-ranger Amazed that Parker hasn’t requested this yet. Tonto even comes with the bird on his head.

There is a lot of violence, which I wasn’t surprised about, but there is a line between criminals and true evil. They chose to make Cavendish the latter, and several times his behavior had Zoe and Parker covering their eyes and ears. There is a way to show his character without being so graphic.

The family in front of us was a father and his two young boys. They came in late, and the dad seemed to either have hearing problems or a lack of theater etiquette. This knucklehead constantly snorted when he laughed and made loud commentary about each significant scene. When it appears that John Reid (aka The Lone Ranger) was dead just a few minutes into the film, he bellowed, ” Ok boys! Movie’s over! Time to go!” Chuckle snort chuckle. Sometimes I wish there were a vetting process for movie goers.

My favorite part of the movie came when The Lone Ranger and Tonto are captured by Comanche. I have a confession to make: I’ve never been much for cowboys, but from the time I was a very young girl I have had a mild obsession with Native American culture. I don’t know where it came from, but some of my earliest memories are of sitting on the floor of my bedroom with my fisher price record player

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playing with my doll with the papoose on her back, listening to my 10 Little Indians Record.

10indians45rpm Notice the “Indians” on the cover.

Even at such a young age, I seemed to grasp the idea that something terrible was happening to these 10 little Indian boys. First, their numbers were increasing, but then things would happen to them, and one by one they were gone. It’s a pretty sick song if you listen to it. Here is the original poem:

Ten little Injuns standin’ in a line,One toddled home and then there were nine;

Nine little Injuns swingin’ on a gate,
One tumbled off and then there were eight.
Eight little Injuns gayest under heav’n.
One went to sleep and then there were seven;
Seven little Injuns cuttin’ up their tricks,
One broke his neck and then there were six.
Six little Injuns all alive,
One kicked the bucket and then there were five;
Five little Injuns on a cellar door,
One tumbled in and then there were four.
Four little Injuns up on a spree,
One got fuddled and then there were three;
Three little Injuns out on a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two.
Two little Injuns foolin’ with a gun,
One shot t’other and then there was one;
One little Injun livin’ all alone,
He got married and then there were none.
See what I mean? I was traumatized.
I was even more traumatized when I went to search for these lyrics and came to realize that there were alternate (even more racist) versions of this song performed by The Christy Minstrels in blackface all over the country, and that one of my (previously) favorite authors, Agatha Christie,also wrote a book titled “Ten Little ____ (N word)” which was then changed to be called, “Ten Little Indians” before being made into a movie as “And Then There Were None.” What’s worse? It’s her best selling novel of all time. Deep sigh.

I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old when my obsession began. We were living in Huntington Beach, California. I didn’t live anyplace where I was exposed to Native culture, really. My mother says one of her favorite things I ever said as a child was, “If I cut slits in my clothes, do you think people might think I’m Indian?”

You tell me. Do you think a little fringe in my clothing would give people the impression that I was Native American?

image Looks like I tried to “fringe” my bangs, as well, also without much success.

My mother made me a dress to wear. I still have it.

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My kids have used it for dress up occasionally, but none of them ever got too into the Native American culture the way I did. Poor Sydney was forced to sit through “Pocahontas” several times as a kid when she would have preferred “Lion King’ or “101 Dalmatians.”

sydscan230 Also not a convincing Native American.

Parker loved wearing the dress, but more as part of his obsession with Peter Pan.

image Not sure about the eye patch.

A couple years ago I decided to wear a Native American costume to our neighbor’s Halloween party.

image Yes, that is my husband, the SWAT officer. And yes, I am a natural blonde who dyes her hair brunette. It probably only PARTIALLY has to do with my childhood obsession.

The dress was below knee-length, not tight, not revealing in any way. But give men a few drinks and a girl in braids, and suddenly they’re pun masters. “Pocahotness” “Poke-your-heiny” “Pocahottie” “Peekyourhontas” and “Me want Wampum on your bum bum.” Doesn’t have to make sense, they all think they’re hilarious. Soon after the party I started wondering if it’s culturally insensitive for a non-Native to wear such a costume, but for me, it was less of a costume and more of a fantasy come true.

Last year, my mom gave me a Native American doll for my birthday. It was a thoughtful, sentimental gift.

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My daughter’s friend took this pic and has, on occasion, pulled it out just to giggle about it. My children are convinced the doll is possessed and have taken to putting her in each other’s beds, moving her around the house, and sometimes I will find her shoved in a closet just so she will stop staring at them.

image Or, riding a giant purple dolphin.

Oh wait, I was doing a movie review, wasn’t I?

The truth is, I don’t feel so protective of the Lone Ranger’s legacy. If he is a little boring, or not portrayed so much as the hero, but Tonto’s stooge, it doesn’t really bother me that much. I think my biggest gripe is that the best part of the original “Lone Ranger” story was a little lost in this remake. Yes, He refuses to shoot a gun, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone, it’s all about justice. But in the midst of the violence and quick-witted snarky lines, the true heart of the Lone Ranger wasn’t shown.

The best way I can explain that is by showing the creed from the original show. If they had made THIS Lone Ranger, I think the response may have been different:

“I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one.
That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.
In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
That ‘This government, of the people, by the people and for the people’ shall live always.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
That sooner or later… somewhere…somehow… we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.”
the-lone-ranger-movie-poster-1938-1020202735 Am I the only one who thought he said, “Hi-Ho Silver!” ?