Racism – The Third Rail

3rd rail v3One of my favorite memories was visiting the barbershop with my Dad.  Mom made Dad take me with him as often as she could. Not because he didn’t want me, but because I was a girl and it wasn’t always appropriate or convenient for him to take a girl. He knew that the barbershop was one of the few places where men could express themselves using “manly” language. But when he took me, they had to adjust their vocabulary to accommodate a little girl.

I loved listening to the men talk about nothing and everything. It felt good being in their presence and I felt special because they all acknowledged me and my Dad. They didn’t have appointments back then, so men just showed up and waited their turn, and no one minded because this was time to critique all matters of sports; solve the problems of the world; and exchange neighborhood gossip. When a hot topic was under discussion, men would sit back down after their haircut just to continue the conversation.

Then I moved to San Diego which like most towns has its own unique culture. There are few neighborhood barber shops.  Men make appointments so the “talk time” is limited or non-existent as they arrive on time, get their hair cut and then depart. I happened to have an appointment the day after the Charleston church shooting. As I sat waiting my turn, I came to a sudden realization that no one was talking about THE major news event.

In my old neighborhood, the barbershop would be vibrating with discussion of Charleston. The debate would get so intense that men would stay for hours jumping in and out of the discussion with the shop owner sometimes intervening as referee. Then I realized why Charleston was not discussed in the San Diego Barbershop. The shop is interracial with both white and black barbers and their white and black customers.

They say there are two issues that one should never discuss in mixed groups… religion and politics. Now we can add a third… race.

Good Job!

Knee 3An older woman walked into an exercise studio filled with women average age 30-something. Instructor demonstrated exercises that would be covered in the class. A helpful lady next to older woman introduced herself and re-explained what the instructor just went over. Twice during the hour-long exercise, the helpful lady told the older woman that she was doing a GOOD JOB! At the end of class, the helpful lady went out of her way to befriend the older woman and again told her what a GOOD JOB she did.

It is obvious that the helpful lady assumed that the older woman would need help understanding and doing the exercises. As you may have guessed…. I was the Older Woman. I was offended and found myself explaining that I had done a triathalon (my one big claim to fame) and that I was trying this class because I needed to step down from a bootcamp that I have been taking (which was true). Then I got angry with myself for being defensive.

I was defensive because I’ve been feeling my age lately. Because, I can no longer do what I once did. My body snaps, crackles, and pops like a box of Rice Krispies.  Occasionally, I wear a knee brace to stave off the knee replacement that I will need in the future. I sometimes need a heating pad for my back after a long bike ride. I refer to myself as an aging athlete, and It’s clear that I’m no longer a spring chicken, but I’m not ready to be written off. I’m disheartened that people look at me and see an “older woman”.

Then I remembered an “older woman” that I knew from a prior exercise class. She too was an aging athlete. She could no longer do century bike rides (100 miles), and had cut back to half centuries. I guess she was 10 years senior to me. I also remembered that, unbeknownst to her, she was a role-model for me.

I hope I can be a role-model for others.

Stay tuned

Sipping My Tennessee Honey Jack

tempAlways needed to be in charge. To pull the strings. Always knew how to do it better. But that’s okay, because I loved juggling projects, customers, employees and maneuvering through the minutia.

But, being in charge is like the burden of Sisyphus, because no matter how hard you push, there is always a new bolder and another hill. After awhile what used to be a challenge becomes a problem, a headache,  or pain in the derriere.

As a business owner, I operated in the fast lane. Ate problems for breakfast, and asked for seconds. As a university professor I shifted over to the middle lane and problems were primarily caused by coddled students who couldn’t accept anything short of an “A” grade, plus demanding adjuncts who didn’t understand that adjunct meant temp. As a consultant, I eased into the right lane where I took on projects as and when I chose. Life was easy and good as I cruised down the right lane.

One day, while sitting on my back deck working on a cient project and sipping my icetea, I momentarily lost my way. It was as if a blinding migraine headache had struck and I couldn’t think straight. Suddenly I had a need to be a mover and shaker again! Wanted to prove to myself that I still had “it”. Wanted back into the fast lane! Like a mother, I had forgotten the pain of childbirth (aka management).

Took on a killer job only to find that there were too many jockeys and not enough horse, anddd… that I was the horse. Like being on a stage with Penn and Teller, I had been operating under the illusion that I was in charge. When the reality lightbulb went on, I knew it was time to take over the reins and pull back. But the most important lesson was that I did not need to prove to anyone including myself, that I still had it. What a humongous waste of time that was.

I no longer care about the marketplace. I no longer care about customers, contracts, or unintended consequences of self-driving cars. Thinking about Trump and his ignorant follower’s raises my blood pressure.  I no longer care. Yes, these things matter, but I’m not in charge. I am not responsible. It’s not my problem. I don’t have to plan, implement, or sweat it.I’ve seen what’s behind the curtain and it is not pretty.  It’s time for other folk to worry about the minutia.

I’ve now moved off the highway to the grandstand and am immensely enjoying watching the silliness, the puffery, and the inane while sipping my Tennessee Honey Jack.

Stay tuned

Post Racism

racismDad was President of the Arlington County NAACP for most of my life. In all those years, words were never uttered against any group of people. Hence, I was raised post racist before there was post racism. Spent so much time with white-folk that I became colorblind. Being the only non-white person in class for most of my education; the only non-white person in my workplaces; and the only non-white in many of my places of residence required that I be colorblind.

Twice in my life people took the opportunity to remind me of who and what I was. In the 4th grade, Johnny called me a nigger. Over 50 years later, the pain of that experience lingers in the recesses of my memory. As a nine-year old, I didn’t understand what he meant, but I knew it was bad by the way he said it. That one word and the hatred that projected it toward me was as painful as if someone had poured boiling water on me. My psyche was scalded. I cried all the way home.

While attending college, I was looking for an apartment closer to the university. racism 2The phone conversation with the owner of the apartment was very pleasant, and she invited me to come take a look. A half-hour later, when she answered the door, there was a brief pause before she explained that the apartment was just rented. Here it was thirteen years after the Johnny incident, and I felt just as hurt, and for the same reason… I couldn’t fathom the how and why of racism. As Spock would say…. It is illogical.

It is impossible to explain the unexplainable. Why so much hatred for the Jews, the Irish, the Sunis, the Shia, the Catholics. My personal experience with prejudice was against gays, and like all racists, it was based on my ignorance. Until the age of 30, I thought gay people chose to be gay. Not sure where I got that idea, but when I look back on it, I am ashamed.

Having walked the earth wearing my color-blind goggles, has allowed me to believe that Americans have evolved beyond the ignorance of racism. Thanks to my parents, I have always believed I am equal to everyone. This mindset has allowed me to move freely without the chains of suspicion, doubt, and fear. But, Charleston and Ferguson have caused me to peek  over the top of my glasses and acknowledge the truth.

Acknowledging that racism is indeed alive has the downside of forcing me to consider that I am not judged based upon my character but by my mocha-colored skin. I am now temporarily hobbled by the possibility of discrimination. When looking for accommodations for the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, I left messages for the landlords and included the fact that I was African American so they could decide whether to return the call or not. When none of my ten calls was returned, I was left to consider that it was because of my Blackness. I proceeded to rent a hotel room. It is further away, but the law, my (deceased) parents, and the bible say they must accept everyone.

Stay tuned….

Take Small Bites…

Bayshore Bikeway 2“Real bicyclists” travel the 27-mile Bayshore Bikeway as a warmup to their century rides. My balcony overlooks part of the Bikeway so I cannot escape these energizer bunnies who I also see at the local coffee shop. They are all ages, shapes, and sizes. In fact, I’ve often wondered how someone can be fat and a bicyclist, but that’s another story.

The Bikeway is well known in the San Diego biking community, and watching the cyclists makes me nostalgic, because somewhere in me is a woman who would easily bike 25, 35, 50 miles or more. This woman, AthLEticA, was an avid racquetball player, bicyclist, so-so tennis player, and skier.

AthLEticA has been responsible for talking me into activities ending in knee surgery’s, back aches, foot sprains, and has caused many dollars in contributions to the medical industry. Therefore, I have told her that under no circumstance would I tackle the Bikeway, but yesterday, she and my husband conspired against me. He suggested that we do 5 miles of the route. At the 5-mile mark the ride turned into a challenge to see which one of us would cry uncle, and turn around.  Since both of us are extremely competitive, we ended up doing the entire 27-mile route.

Message 1… if you want to do something big, break it up into little pieces

Message 2 …. Push yourself to do what you thought you couldn’t

Next Stop…. Appalachian Trail!!

Stay tuned….

Comic-Con: A Parallel Universe

Comicon - Meatwad and FrylockYou cannot escape the world of Comic-Con in San Diego. The geeks/nerds are everywhere. (I can call them that because hubby and I are one of them.) You cannot help but run into them as they are highly recognizable by the costumes they wear.

Before I continue, let me explain that Comic-Con is a four-day event held every summer at the San Diego Convention Center. According to Forbes, the convention is the “largest convention of its kind in the world.” This year, 2015, it filled the Convention Center to capacity with more than 130,000 attendees.

The Convention Center is right out our backdoor, so we had to go! Plus we had to get our geek/nerd membership card updated. Even though we’ve gotten into cosplay a few times this year, we were not prepared with a costume, but the first event we attended had face painters. We got to choose between several well-known characters as shown in picture below.Comicon - Meatwad and Frylock heads (2)

Granted, these characters are only “well-known” to geeks/nerds who stay up late at night watching shows like Aquateen Hunger Force. (Full Disclosure: I had never heard of Aquateen prior toComic-Con, but Hubby knew all about them. Not sure, but I think it’s better that he watch these wierdly funny shows late at night instead of XXX programming, but it’s a close call.)

I selected the character, 2nd from the left called “Meat Wad”. He is described as “having low intelligence, naivety and trusting nature which causes him to be abused and manipulated by others…” Had I known more about his character, I probably would not have selected him (not sure why Hubby didn’t redirect me). On the other hand, he chose Frylock (3rd from the left) who is described as “by far the most logically thinking member of the Aqua Teens.” In hindsight, I think hubby set me up.

After we got our faces painted, we were officially “in costume.” We felt like celebrities because people kept stopping us to ask to take our picture.

A good time was had by all….

Stay tuned….

Make Your Life Story A Best Seller


After four months of de-stressing from a “complicated” work life, I finally awoke renewed. My formula for de-stressing was lots of walking, hiking, dancing, museums, costuming, travel, and jazz. In other words, I filled my calendar with activity. On occasion, I still feel my blood pressure rise when thoughts of my last job intervene. But, last Monday I knew I was ready to find my groove and begin anew.

The feeling reminded me of a blog I wrote two years ago that is worth repeating….

After reviewing a conversation with a 20-something, I realized what I should have said. She has a 6-month internship and is enjoying life after college doing all the things you would expect… happy hours, drinking, followed by happy hours followed by nightclubs and more drinking… repeat.

I should have asked her how she wants her life-book to read at the end of 6 months. Does she want it to say she spent countless nights at happy hours and nightclubs or does she want it to say she explored all possibilities until she was exhausted? That she biked, jogged, took a walk through the history of our country by visiting all the museums, swung through the trees on ropes, volunteered, visited all the jazz/orchestral/rap concerts in town. That she drank fully from the cornucopia of things that Washington DC has to offer.

For that is the way we should consider our lives…. that we are writing our story. Every day we write another page. Imagine that you are reading your story from yesterday or last week. Would it be interesting? Would it be filled with life or ordinariness (if that is a word)? Was it the same old, same old? But, more importantly, is that how you want your book to read?

Then after “reading” your story from last week, you get to decide how you want today’s chapter to read. Because, remember…. this is your life and you get to write it.

I’m going to follow my own advice.

Stay tuned.