Sunday, August 23, 2015

The separation between church and state

“This world is your sanctuary and if that world comes in contact…
Yes! It blows up.”  From Seinfeld

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that church and state needed to stay separate so that the government could stay out of church business.  Before y’all think I’m about to break it down politically, I will, but not how you might expect. In my life, church is also a metaphor, specifically for the dance communities to which I have belonged.  For over a decade, I was a club kid and my church was soulful San Francisco house music.  Church is when the music is perfection and you feel the Holy Ghost.  It can involve gospel-style vocals and the dancers engaging in call and response but basically it’s what we hope to achieve anytime we’re on the dance floor.  When our favorite DJs were spinning, we were in church many days/nights of the week.


For the last three years, I have been taken part in #sambachurch.  When the bateria gets going and we are all feeling the music, we are elevated to a new level of movement and joy.  This can happen in the dance studio, at a community event,  or during a parade.  As with my original musical church, it is the experience of heightened positive energy.

State is how bills get paid. State is structure. It keeps the day and my way of life moving forward most of the time.  It includes my job, my obligations as a citizen, consumer, etc.  So church is needed. Church is sacred and holy.  Why would I muddy up my solace, my inspiration, my freedom, my alegria by involving my clients?  Y aunque no estes de acuerdo, I will henceforth(don’t you love that word) refer to my students as my clients. My clients, while I may like, respect and even care for them, are people I’m ENTRUSTED and PAID to serve.  I’m using all caps because these are two important facts I literally can’t afford to forget.  The state has given me the duty and responsibility of overseeing these young people in their parents’ place during my work hours.  I am liable for any harm that may come their way.  The state pays me a decent wage to do this work. If I jeopardize my job, I will not be able to provide for myself and my family. Because it’s such an important job, I would and should not be able to continue working in this field if I were to jeopardize the physical, mental, and/or emotional health safety of my clients.

I will be the devil’s advocate.  What to make of my longtime friendships with two former clients?  These women are both in their 30s(!) now. They are grown women with careers and lives entirely of their own. When we first socialized as friends, they were adults in college, and we certainly did not meet up at the club.  Church and state do not mix. 

Recently, these two worlds almost collided, through no fault of my own. Hell no, I thought. I have worked too hard to become a person of good judgment and good health. I’m not about to jeopardize what has taken years to build. I value my privacy. 

I made mistakes as a young educator of putting too much of my private self into my public work.  Thankfully, my mentors slapped me upside the head and reminded me that my professional identity was worthy of protection.  As a matter of fact, I willingly shut down my original blog.  In time, I developed the ability to express myself in various settings.  More importantly, I realized, after lots of reflection and experience, that my primary task at work was to teach, not to parent and befriend. These days, my task has changed but my resolve to keep church and state separate has not waned. I owe it to everyone involved to keep those worlds apart.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

White privilege made me late to work the other day

It began when I ran across a Vogue fashion spread about Frida-inspired fashion. Because M and I were attending a Frida birthday celebration in San Jo, I was researching Frida in popular culture as a counterpoint.
Once again, Kermit ended up sipping tea because an expensive outfit couldn’t possibly capture the artistry of Frida(or any artist for that matter.)

Two weeks later, a friend’s Facebook post caught my attention. http://www.someecards.com/life/fashion-beauty/allure-afro-white-appropriation/
I read and posted the article about the responses to an Allure photo shoot onto my timeline.  The Allure photo shoot was more culture vulture nonsense.  Sure, I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply. But I needed to discuss, if only online. I decided to share it on my Facebook timeline because I knew my friends would respond as I had. Mujeres en la lucha, warrior women analyzing and strategizing, commiserating over cultural appropriation as we do other issues that affect us.  


Then, an acquaintance, an older white woman I know through a TV show on which I occasionally appear, joined the online discussion with a statement that made no sense and offended everyone who came across it: 
 If I were black, I'd much rather wear afro hair instead of plastering it down where it looks all greasy and dirty....
She engaged in ongoing arguing with many of my friends and refused to apologize. She exited stage left:  African American women are always offended ..... I said nothing discriminatory. Goodnight Ladies..



Because that’s how it works, this privilege I don’t have.  The privilege to jump into a conversation that wasn’t meant for her. The privilege to never admit ignorance.  The privilege of refusal to learn.  The privilege of walking away without being held accountable.  Call it obliviousness or Manifest Destiny or que son sinverguenzas. It is rampant and real.

It was too much. It weighed on my mind for days. On Wednesday, already upset that I couldn’t rejoin my beloved human rights education institute due to work obligations, I couldn’t get it together to make it to work in the morning. Why give this situation and this ignorant person that power? Why pay this fool any mind? 
I was equally angry with myself for not taking her on publicly. For not cussing her out. I’m sick of taking the high road, of handling situations with professionalism, of being grace under pressure. I can’t. No puedo. 

Online, I have cut off communication with this person. I sent her a terse inbox message, unfriended and blocked  her. We will likely never cross paths again. But she won’t be the last person to test me and those I love in this way. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Scratch test

“This indecision is bugging me…” “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The Clash

“When something itches…the natural tendency is to scratch.” From The Seven Year Itch

In the last decade, I have worked in three different schools and held three different jobs. Every three to four years, I search for something new. I refer to this as my three and a half year itch. Fortunately for my familia and friends, this pattern seems centered around career.  I served in ministry in my last parish for six years. I have actively volunteered with Girls Inc. of Alameda County for five years.  I have been running half-marathons for nearly nine years (with a few health-related breaks). I don’t lack the ability to commit, especially when I find an activity and/or organization purposeful and positive. But once the itching begins, calamine lotion won’t help.

That three-year mark is a test. I analyze the pros and cons of moving onto something new.  I evaluate my progress and areas for improvement. Mas que nada, I ponder the value of change. I refuse to be complacent for too long. If I’m not learning or I begin to become negative (i.e. resentful, cynical, unmotivated), then it’s time for me to move on. Change is difficult yet it moves me forward.


I don’t worry that I will always be on a quest for the next best thing. 

I have surrounded myself with friends who have fostered my growth for years, if not decades. I pursue my passions. My family is my foundation. The challenge is to find that(job/activity/organization/fill in the blank) which helps me be at my best.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mindful eating, the first chapter

When I decided I would have my gallbladder removed this summer, I asked about diet changes.  I know four friends/colleagues who had their gallbladder removed and know of countless others. Some folks are back to eating as they did before their surgery; others decided to forever modify their diet. I am part of the second group.  In the month that has passed since my surgery, I am much more mindful of what I eat.

I am an emotional eater. Food has been a painkiller over the years. Recent example: June is a crazy time for educators.  End of year and graduation keeps you busy and stressed. Mix in characters that probably shouldn’t work with other people(especially not children!) and you have a volatile environment. 

One afternoon, after a long day that ended with an unpleasant meeting, I walked into the house, grabbed the can of Pringles my daughter and her older sister had saved after their sleepover, and sat on the couch for a solid ten minutes. No praying, no meditating, no strategies learned in CBT or DBT. Crunch, crunch, crunch.


 As if every chomp could eliminate the foolishness of others. As if my tendency to internalize others’ nonsense could be swallowed like so much salt and grease. I won’t be seeking comfort from binging on chips anymore. 

 My lifestyle change isn’t about solely about giving up processed snacks or fried food or avoiding emotional eating; it’s about an overall change to my cooking and eating habits.  At home, I am making more stews and soups with less chicken. When going out to eat with friends and family, I now choose different meals. Vegetable-based soups like tomato basil paired with salads with honey mustard dressing or vinaigrette make for a satisfying meal. Most Asian restaurants offer plenty of vegetarian options. The Bay Area boasts great vegan restaurants including one of my faves, Souley Vegan, and a new discovery, Gracias Madre.  Even a trip to the ice cream shop with the kiddo hasn’t been torture: fruit sorbets are tasty.


At the moment, my body is letting me know what is best. I still feel queasy if I ate too much animal protein in a meal.  Trying a piece of birthday cake at a party is probably not wise. Dairy is off-limits for now.  For the most part, I am back to my normal routine. I have resumed daily exercise, light morning cardio for now, and have begun taking a Zumba class with my dance mom friends. I look forward to running and dancing with SambaFunk in the next few weeks.  Yes, I am at my lightest weight in twenty years, 125, (lighter than the weight discussed during my last weight loss journey:  http://mujerevolving.blogspot.com/2012/10/three-more-pounds.html )  I am committed to sustaining my health; that is the ultimate goal.