Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Was Going to Let it Go

Everyone and their next-door neighbor has had something to say about it. So I was going to let it go. I was going to let it go and let everyone have their say and just let it go.

And then the Tribune reminded me: therein lies the trouble.
The owner of the LA Clippers was recorded by his female companion making racist remarks. Shortly after verification of his identity on the recording, the NBA's commissioner made a public statement fining the owner, banning him from NBA games, and encouraging other owners to insist on his sale of the team.
Round of applause, please!


Why are we congratulating the NBA for late-to-the-party decency? Do you think this owner's viewpoint on race and its place in his life has never been expressed prior to this episode? No one knew he is a racist? Uh. That's a lie. That's a lie and I won't let it go.

It's a lie that the NBA deserves credit for being the most progressive organized sport in the country, or the most moral. One gay guy doesn't cure the league and little boys in Englewood are not killing one another over tennis rackets. 

It's also a lie that racism doesn't exist in the NFL or MLB or any other sport. Writer John Smallwood with the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote this last year regarding racism in the world of FIFA: "It is the most popular sport in the world, so it only makes sense that soccer would be infected with the universal virus that exists and thrives everywhere. Intolernece based on race, religion, sexual orientation, secular origin and other factors was the world's game long before humans decided to kick a ball into a net." 

So really, save your artificial shock, it's wasted on me. You know it's a lie. And we don't even care.

As the Trib editorial in today's paper succinctly sets out, what we care about is money. When racism does not interfere with our profit, we are rendered mute. When our recorded bigotry is exposed and infects our potential earnings? Then! Then we are moral, upright and serious.

We banned a millionaire from a game and we're hugging and kissing like cousins at a we-solved-the-problem-of-racism-in-America reunion. Kind of a low threshold, but o.k., let's tell the kids on the West Side they can breathe easy. Situation handled. 

Of course, while we're at it we should be fair and tell women that the sports-loving public doesn't condone racism (yay us!) but treating women like trash is another subject. The young woman who recorded our friend Don during his bigoted rant? She has been alternately described as  a "hoe", "gold-digger", "b**ch", and "girlfriend from hell".  Thanks for that.

I probably can't solve these problems alone. Heck, I know I can't. And neither can you. But that Frozen gal got it all wrong, at least on this subject. There's no way in hell I'm going to let it go.

Monday, April 28, 2014


I named you for the thing that brings me most joy. Smart, am I, even in my accidents.

So I don't surprise; light when I see you, in wake and in slumber, the warmth of you resting beside me is completion.

What thrill! I, unwitting gardener, tend to your growing years knowing as I do that you ease away with every season.

Still there is no more for me; this is what I am for.

And glad, glad, more than filled am I with gladness at my fortune.

Do I thank you, you ask?

In every breath and blink

so deeply

I am thankful

you are my baby.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Still Babies

We have three sets of twins in our family. The first, Isabelle and Elizabeth are 15 today, which in our culture, marks their passage from childhood to young adulthood.

That means different things to different people, but to me it means they go from being self-focused to being world-focused, on a path to finding their own place of value and contribution, serving a purpose within the conditions around them, changing those conditions as they may see fit.

These young ladies have long been on that path, have always been kind and compassionate, thoughtful and empathetic. In practical matters, they are willing and competent cooks in the kitchen (a must in a Mexican family), nurturing and playful with babies (also a must in our family, but any really), whip smart and accomplished in school (it is gross to hold a brain, Isabelle - gross!), and eternally fair-minded and loyal. If they just keep up the good work and do nothing else, they'll be women of great substance living extraordinary lives. I'm actually expecting a bit more than that, based on who they are already.

When Isabelle and Elizabeth were babies, they insisted on being held to fall asleep - no matter that there were two babies and sometimes only one adult on duty. The family struggled with these little stinkers to make them fall asleep on their own, in their own beds. I, book-read and bossy, would constantly give my brother- and sister-in-law advice on how to handle this. (That was before I had my own twins and realized books don't know crap about babies.)

During one particularly difficult night, when my brother- and sister-in-law were out, I told my mother-in-law I'd handle it. The girls were wailing in full voice - screams that might bring the neighbors over to investigate a crime scene. I went upstairs serious and bent on business. As soon as I rounded the corner the tears stopped and when the girls could make me out in the darkness, and I them, they lifted their arms, reaching for me and - in unison as twins are wont to do - smiled "TIIIIIAAAAA".

I held them both, one in the crook of my left and one against my right arm, and rocked them until they fell asleep. Then I leaned back and slept myself. It was a good, deep sleep and when Tony shook me awake to let me know that Kim and Eddy arrived, I grudgingly gave up my sweet babies to their beds and went downstairs.

"How'd it go?" my sister-in-law asked tentatively.

"Great!" I tried not to look sleepy, "I don't know what you guys are always complaining about. Your girls are like angels."

Still are.

Happy birthday, babies.


Friday, April 25, 2014

On Chicagoland and the Leader of Russia

I've lived in Chicago for forty-five years. There is crime here, despair and poverty. There has been all of my life. There is also grace, irrefutable decency and good. There is wealth - in material and culture -innocence and fine etiquette. There are those who give themselves over to the darkest places and others who bring clarity to every soul they touch. Most are well entrenched in the middle. Oh! And we have the number one high school in the state (in my neighborhood, actually), top 40 in the country, and two of the top-ranked universities in the world.

That's the reality.

The portrait of my city in the CNN series "Chicagoland" is an embarrassment, not to my great town, but to the clearly biased and ill-prepared team that put that drivel on and gave my name to it. In the modified words of my current mayor, 'They can go flower themselves.'

In some ways similar to my
current mayor, the current leader of Russia finds himself in an interesting predicament. He is a jerk, in a world that is leaning away from jerk-based foreign policy. Unlike his despot-counterparts in other parts of the world, Mr. Putin is not quite Don Cheadle enough to earn himself a movie, though he flaps and flails eternally in this pursuit. Sadly, and much to his own chagrin, the man is a bore.

Could he use his enormous power to propel his country forward, leading a charge for some great new era of discovery and success? Meh. Been done.

I'm entertained by the idea that our staring at him incredulously, as he pouts about using 80s style tactics on a world stage that no longer permits the cover his predecessors enjoyed, is perceived as weakness. I feel like it's a generous (I'll allow maybe overly so) pause. Kind of like when your mom tells you you can't have that cookie and you slowly walk to the table and reach out, trembling over the plate while your mom glares holes in your head. Never mind that she may not clobber you before you get your hands on it - she's giving you a chance, after all. If you grab that cookie and shove it in your mouth you will get nailed.

Perhaps someone should get Vlad a plate of cookies.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Little Wallow

I am sad, little baby. The smile that was once mine, no more.

I am sad, little sunshine. You walk in hurried step away, away from my door.

I am so sad to go unnoticed, preening in vain.

I am sad my sadness is foolish, wasted pain.

What is this layer between us? When did it arrive? How can I dispel it?  Pest, weed in its thrive.

A little wallow for today.

I am too prideful to let more than this show.

I am so sad, my little baby, to watch you, watch you go.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cold Water for a Lost Son

Each year, I find some strand in the fabric and focus on it, keeping it in front of me for all the days of Lent and - when possible - from there forward. It's complicated, obviously. The Easter thing, Lent, the whole thing. There is so great an intimacy with pain and faith pressed into this ritual, if you tried to consume it all - even academically - at once it would make your head infinitely spin.

So as an adult, having come upon the need to reflect at about the same time I realized there was no way to ever resolve my complex feelings about the season, I set upon a different, more directed system.

This year I was particularly drawn to finding connection with the loss of a son.

It has left me sad and serious, filled with doubt.

I wonder how a deity could offer his son in sacrifice for the benefit of others. Would I do the same? Would I watch my child's deep pain, his abandonment, abuse and injury and not intervene? Could I allow him to accept my order to lose himself so that others might be found? As a deity would I know for certain that I could get him back? What if I had erred? Did the Lord have any of these doubts as he cast His son to the wicked?

Even while I have had this on me, in me and consuming my thoughts, I've held it all at bay, because I can honestly say I'm not strong enough to think about it any more deeply than what an arm's length examination allows. The loss of my own
son would ruin me in ways I am certain I am too feeble to even imagine.

I know I would doubt. I would doubt and likely choose, selfishly, cruelly, to keep my son to myself. I am weak, even though I convince myself of a real and abiding faith. I suppose we should all be grateful I'm not the gal who had to make the call. Then, too, we should be grateful that the truth is the truth and we shall all know it, whether for good or worse, some day.

I gave up hot water showers during the days of Lent. This, because I was trying to find a way to remind myself daily of the shock and despair of a lost son, so that I could in some tiny way empathize with that pain and bring myself closer to the true sacrifice. I failed, obviously, because I still can't take in that searing pain; no cold water could compare.

I am humbled (often) but always on this day as I am, again, unworthy of such sacrifice on my behalf and unable to recompense for such loss.

Perhaps I won't return to the hot-water shower tomorrow as I had planned.

Perhaps I could endure just one more day of cold water for a lost son.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sometimes It's Right to be Crazy

So you hold our citizens hostage for over a year and in response we don't give you permission to travel to our country. And you're walking out of that deal feeling offended? I'm not sure you should be a negotiator for a living.

The Chicago Tribune today reports that Hamid Aboutalebi will not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. Mr. Aboutalebi is the person Iran has named to represent their country as a United Nations Ambassador. He also happens to be a guy who participated in the hostage crisis that for 444 days kept 50+ innocent Americans trapped inside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. OH! You're a diplomat now?

Sorry, Mr. Aboutalebi. There are consequences.

When you terrorize, brutalize and bully my brothers and sisters for over a year, ruining them and their families, and then continue a pattern of arrogance and defiance toward me, you do not deserve a soft admonition and a short attention span.

If Mr. Obama was even tangentially involved in beating, starving and terrorizing a group of Iranians for over a year would he be received with good grace and a handshake in Tehran? What message does Iran send to our country when this individual is selected to be their chief diplomat?

It may well be a violation of some rules to refuse this visa and there may be consequences to using legislation in this manner. That's fine. The first message that should be coming from this stance is: our commitment to justice does not mean you can use our rules to your benefit and our detriment. That would be crazy. The second message that should be coming out loud and clear is: we know crazy and you do not want to test our crazy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Remember Your Mother

My old boss' mom just passed away. She was about a million years old, I think. (OK - almost 102! - but that's really, really OLD.) I hadn't seen her since the late 90s and, as luck would have it I was unable to join the family in sitting Shiva, a custom this old Catholic rather appreciates.

So I didn't get a chance to hug my boss and tell him how I love him and am thinking of him. I didn't get a chance to hug his wife or his daughters and I didn't get to share the stories or smile at others' recollections. I didn't get a chance to tell my boss: I remember your mother.

When I first started working for this boss he was at the very top of his game - young, ambitious, not a little bit cut-throat. You had to be in his line of work, and I was at once attracted to and a little repelled by the force with which he managed to shut people down or inject frenetic action into a room. A warrior, he was, fully armed and charged for battle every day.

That is, until his mother called.

You could almost hear the armor falling behind him, clanging like abandoned toys as he would turn and walk to his office.

'Ohhhkaaayyyy,' he'd heavy sigh and, head hung, trot off into the dark, wood-paneled room, casting aside piles of files and urgent messages to hear her admonitions, answer long, thickly-accented questions, and so on.

When he was in a particularly brave mood, my boss would ask me to ask her if he could call her back - never 'tell', just 'ask'. Over the years as she and I got to know one another, she'd sometimes rather prefer to speak to me than to him.

"Don't bother him. He's busy, I know," she'd tell me.

So we'd chat for a moment or two and without fail, most of her chatter was about her son - asking me if he was eating enough, in rain if he was carrying an umbrella, in brisk weather whether he had a scarf, boots to keep his feet dry.

Here was her son, just fifteen feet from me, talking to some of the greatest captains of industry, a stone-and-steel expression on his face, critical transactions being bandied about the office, stacks of importance against every wall and the constant ringing and clacking of a busy, busy operation...

And here I was, reassuring his mom that the boss had a sandwich and that I would send him home with warm, dry clothing. There was so much humanity and vulnerability in her need to watch over him even in that late stage of her parenting, and there was so much grounding in knowing that part of his life. I've sat across from millionaires often in my life since then, and always I smile to myself wondering if their moms call their offices to check on their well-being.

I'm a mother now and I have a son. I cluck and fuss after him and try to make sure he's eating well and staying warm. Every so often, as the winter months forge new generations of Chicago survivors, I pull my son to me and wrap a warm scarf around him and give him a kiss because I love him so, so much.

And, EB, I remember your mother.