Technicality

grandparents

G’Dad and G’Ma

Our grandkids would be embarrassed. G’Dad and I are constantly fumbling in the dark for a solution that is readily available through the Google. Yes, I said “the Google”. Youngest G’son laughed when I first used that term. It’s kinda like Trump when he refers to “the Blacks”. I am frequently referring to “the Google” which I think is appropriate because it is both a noun and a verb.

By way of background, G’dad and I work hard to keep up with technology, but it is impossible. He started out as a database specialist (i.e., data mining) and I was a computer programmer (i.e., systems engineer). Keeping up is not only hard for us but for others. Like the dog chasing the truck down the street, we’ll never catch up, but we have lots of company.

This morning I found myself lamenting that I no longer have a clock radio (an old fashioned combination of clock and radio used to wake people up for work.) so I can listen to NPR when I wake up. Oops, I forgot that I can get Podcasts.  Duh! That’s another thing…. They keep renaming things. A podcast is just a series of recordings so why don’t they just call them recordings. Like Aps are just “applications” that used to be called programs. And the one that tops them all is movie versus film versus video. Oy vey!

But I digress. This whole streaming thing is wonderful. Not only can I get NPR podcasts, but I can get just about anything that has been filmed, recorded or spoken for many years back. We used to lament having 800 channels of junk, but now we have streaming with Youtube,  Empire, Game of Thrones, Billions, and all my favorite tv shows that I missed. That’s the upside. The downside is that I now spend too much time bingeing on series/movies/films.

Oh well…. Have to get back to season one of Billions.

 

Ignorance is Bliss

Colson Whitehead, Author Underground Railroad

 

Being born in the semi-south (northern Virginia) and raised during the 50ties, I had a brush with segregation. I use the term brush because when compared to my more southern counterparts, my life was a piece of cake. I recall that I could not try on hats at the local Woodrow and Lothrop department store. I could not go to the movie theater one block from my house, and could not eat in local restaurants. Nor could I attend local swimming pools, skating rinks, and schools and neighborhoods were segregated. These were just a few of the many things that were part of my life in the semi-south. It was easy to view these things as “the way life is”. Then 40 years later my education about the system of slavery began.

My mis-education about the system of segregation and slavery was based upon the minute information disclosed during elementary school history class which was buttressed by the sanitized movies about the wonderful lives of slaves (aka Gone with the Wind). Even Bill O’Reilly said slaves at the white house were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” Whitehead’s book, Underground Railroad, turned my thinking about the institution of slavery upside down and inside out.

I read Whiteheads’s book during an intersection of events. First, was a couples vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, which I learned was ground zero for the slave industry. The second event was the receipt of a Smithsonian magazine titled Black in America prompted by the opening of the  African American Museum. The third occurred because I was desperately looking for a good book to read, which led me to the New York Times book review where The Underground Railroad was listed. Finally, I joined a book club and naturally the book being read this month is The Underground Railroad.

I probably would have overlooked any one of these events and filed it away under miscellaneous knowledge soon to be forgotten. It was the convergence of the four events that has thrown me into a tailspin.

While visiting Charleston, I was able to view the history of the major center of the slave slave-posterindustry from a purely business perspective. How well organized it was with great record keeping systems.. At one point, there were 40 different auction businesses housing brokers with jail cells for the “enslaved Africans.” It was in Charleston that I learned the term “enslaved Africans” as the correct new terminology that acknowledges the humanity of people considered property. The auction houses were the terminus for a network of slave catchers, slave thieves, and brokers ranging across the southern states. When someone needed money they would simply sell some of their “property” through this network. Viewing this from a business perspective allowed me to ignore the emotional impact of selling children away from their parents and wives from their husbands.

When I returned home from Charleston, the Smithsonian magazine was there to continue my education. It was filled with stories from the new African American museum which addressed the contributions of Enslaved Africans to the development of the United States. It described the migration of enslaved Americans after the 13th Amendment was passed (12/6/1865) and the effects of that migration. Then when I picked up the Underground Railroad all the emotions began to flow as I read of the degradation, beatings, hangings, maiming, rape, and psychological damage inflicted upon my ancestors. His book is based upon “slave” oral histories captured by the Library of Congress wrapped in incredible creative writing skills.  The “business perspective” barrier that I had erected came crashing down around my ankles.

Now I am faced with book club where I will be the only brown skinned person in the room. This should be interesting.

I believe

Image result for spirituality

While taking a tour of Charleston, South Carolina, the tour guide asked everyone where they were from, and I said Alexandria, Virginia. Since he was very familiar with the area churches, he asked “what church do you belong to?” Everything he had said up to that point made it clear that he was a a devout church goer and choir member. I knew I had to come up with a name or he would launch into a stream of questions about my beliefs, and a tour bus was not the place where I wanted to have this discussion.

Fortunately, he knew the area I was from and added more specificity to his question. “Do you belong to Alfred Street Baptist”. To which I quickly answered “yes”.

Now, this was not the first time I had encountered a scenario like this. The first time was at a Baptist women’s retreat. My best friend, Maryland, was always asking me to attend functions at her church. So, I finally said yes. We broke up into groups, and started chatting among ourselves. Then came “the question” “what church do you belong to.” Without thinking, I said “I don’t belong to a church”. You would have thought I had admitted to being an alien. The earth stopped spinning. Conversations stopped in mid-sentence, and all eyes were on me. The answer is complicated. How could I explain to them that I didn’t believe in one of the basic tenets of their religion…. The bible. How could I explain my spirituality versus their religiosity.

I chickened out. I said that my husband and I visit churches, but hadn’t picked one. Fortunately, that was an excuse they could understand, and  the world started spinning again.

I’m going to have to work on my answer. I want to be able to answer with conviction. I want to admit that I believe in the connectedness of all mankind, which exceeds the bounds of religions. My wussiness is my major character flaw. Next time, I will stand up and witness!

Stay tuned

Reinvention

ut news desk

“Staged at UT Studio”

You know you’re important when you walk into a room or step up on a podium and heads turn. You know you’re important when people go out of their way to acknowledge you and cater to you. You know you’re important when people come to you for advice and guidance. So what happens when all that stops? Does that mean you are no longer important?

Is that why people un-retire or never retire (i.e., Phelps, Letterman, Ali)? I’ve seen people who hang on to vestiges of themselves and it is not pretty. You see them at receptions where it is obvious that their time is past. People are polite to them, ask how they’ve been and then move away as if they didn’t exist. I could join Boards and committees, but I will not be a vestige. I will not waste time trying to hang on. But, what do I do with the business knowledge accumulated over the last 40 years. Be a consultant…  been there, done that. Be an educator…. Been there, done that. Or… move on.

Of course, what is really important is definition of oneself apart from definition by others. Now that I think about it…. I’ve actually played many “important” parts over the years…. Mother, congressional fellow, grandmother, sister, professor, boss, wife, association executive, and other roles that I can’t even remember.

How wonderful it is to be able to define myself once again.

Stay tuned

Soweto Gospel Choir: A Preconceived View

Expectations and preconceptions skewed my view of the Soweto Gospel Choir. I had read about their Grammy awards and as an African-American woman, I looked forward to their performance with great anticipation . When they walked out on stage, I joined with the rest of the audience to applaud their presence here in the US at George Mason University, but the first thing I noticed was the women’s hair and second was the costumes.

I know it is unfair to prejudge, but it is only human to have expectations, and I expected the African women to wear African hairstyles and/or hair wraps. So, I was taken aback that all but one  of the women had African American hairstyles, which means braids and weaves. One of them even had strawberry blond hair.

Additionally, all members of the troupe word nylon or polyester costumes. Somehow that didn’t seem like native attire, which was my expectation. So, as unfair as it is, this skewed my view because I was looking for authenticity.

On the other hand…. the music and dance was outstanding. The male dancers greatly outshined the women with their high kicks up to their heads. The only other disconnect was a tap dance routine performed by the men. Again, it may be my preconceived notions about African dance, but tap dancing does not fit into my  idea of African Dance. The end of their program had the audience on their feed which was appropriate because their music made you feel like dancing, and their rendition of Oh Happy Days was rousing. At the end of the day, it was time well spent, extremely enjoyable, and everyone walked away with a smile on their faces and a song in their heart.

 

 

I Am Starring in the Truman Show

As I power-walk down the street, I observe perfection. Perfectly manicured yards. Perfectly clean streets. Perfect weather. Perfectly behaved children. No two houses the same and many of them architectural jewels. Life moves at a slow pace and what they call traffic is laughable.  The people are southern-friendly. Everyone owns a bike and uses it regularly.  As Garrison Keillor would say it’s a town where  “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average”. Naturally, it was just proclaimed as having one of the top best school systems in the US.

Everything is so sweet and simple that it is jarring. There is so little crime that all the police have to do is give out parking tickets and chastise residents for going without bike helmets. Housing is in such high demand that rentals are gone within 2 hours of being published in the local paper. Kids roam freely throughout the community and like Cheers…. everyone knows your name. It feels fantastical. I keep waiting for someone to pull back the curtain and show some man pulling strings like the Wizard of Oz.

Waiting to wake up from this dream. In the meantime… I will enjoy life in Coronado, California.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEAM USA: The Best of the Best

archery 2

Met a young man training to be on the US Olympic Archery Team. He let us know that he is ranked number 10 (not sure if that is national or world), but either way… it is damned impressive.

In fact, all of TEAM USA is damned impressive. As part of our “do everything now while we can” campaign, we had the opportunity to visit the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center (CVOTC).

The CVOTC is designed to train athletes in outdoor events such as soccer, track and field, biking, running, motocross, tennis, etc. The facilities are superb and we coincidentally got to see the women’s soccer “B” team practicing. The one thing that all the athletes have in common is the absolute knowledge that they will win. The young archer we met was preparing for an upcoming national competition. Apparently, archers must place in the top 3 to qualify for the Olympics. He said with confidence… “I’m ranked number 10 so I expect to make the top 3.”

As if they don’t already have enough confidence, the Center even has an obstacle course designed like American Ninja Warrior to push the athletes to do things they don’t know they can do. Since winning times are often seconds apart… its often the confidence that makes the difference.

It is amazing how one’s confidence grows when accomplishing the imtriathlon 2possible. I had that experience when I completed a triathlon, but that’s another story.

The US does not support our athletes, but these kids work hard for the United States… consider making a donation.

Stay tuned.