Category Archives: The Me Behind the Mommy

The Nookie Jar

This evening, while in the car, I turned to my wonderful husband.

“I’m thinking  I’m going to buy a cute jar and label it ‘Nookie Jar,’” I told him.

His eyebrows raised.

“Now THIS has the potential to be interesting.”

Ahhh, but alas poor husband, it is nothing like that.

For quite awhile now, I have been admiring the Amazon Kindle. OK, coveting would be a much more appropriate word. I’m a woman with an English degree and a love of cool electronic things…it’s a no-brainer that I would want it.

But today. Oh, today. I opened my email and found a big, pretty advertisement for the new Nook from Barnes and Noble.

MAJOR GEEKGASM.

People, I WANT ONE. More than the Kindle. In a perfect world, someone from Barnes and Noble would offer to give me one to review for them. But, alas, the most exciting thing I’ve ever been asked to review was tooth-whitening strips. And I couldn’t even do that because I was pregnant at the time. So, I have hatched a plan wherein I am going to start selling the contents of my bookcases and stashing the money in my Nookie Jar (get it—Cookie Jar, but for a Nook…) so I don’t have to feel guilty about buying one (which fits in perfectly with my current determination to declutter my house).

Still, my husband’s stuck on that “Nookie Jar.”

I suggested that if he were putting forth noticeable contributions to ensure I get my toy faster, well, that jar just might accomplish both of our goals. He said that’s doable, but he would probably have to start diverting money from our vacation jar. And the kids might start asking questions.

That’s fine. When they do, he’ll just have to tell them to talk quietly…Mommy’s reading.

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Filed under Books, The Me Behind the Mommy

A Simple Kind of Life

First, let us pause to observe a moment of silence for Skippy the Squirrel, who tragically lost his life at his own paws yesterday when he decided to explore the breaker on the electrical lines in our back yard.

Skippy, we saw the light as you scampered towards it (and heard quite the pop, too).

Private to our local power and light company: Isn’t there something you can do to that box? Because, really? I’m not a fan of barbequed squirrel. Or power outages in the middle of breakfast. Or my kids oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over smoking, contorted, hairless dead squirrels.

R.I.P.

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The weather is starting to cool down around here. Autumn is in the air, and I love it. This is my favorite time of year. This year, though, as everything dies and prepares to sleep through the winter, I find myself already excited about the possibilities of the spring.

While it now looks as though it has suffered an apocalyptic event, I consider my gardening experiment this year to have been a success. After yesterday’s canning, I now have 27 quarts of salsa to attest to a decent tomato crop. But I’m already plotting how I can make it better. I am reading a book about lasagna gardening. I now have a bucket! for rotting things! sitting on my kitchen counter! because I’m apparently off my gourd and now become excited about stuff like that.

Off course, the bucket of rotting things is nothing compared to the big pile of rotting things in my side yard that we plan on making a little fence around. Because rotting piles should have picket fences. Maybe I’ll wear pearls to dump my bucket into it. If all goes as planned, it will all turn into super-dirt for me to use in my garden and around my house where I finally, after almost six years of living here, plan to plant decent flower beds. I’m not at all behind on landscaping or anything.

And as my garden is dying off and my canning is winding down, I have now been looking for good orchards around our area. I’m ready to start making freezer applesauce. (Of course, we don’t have nearly enough room in our freezer for how much I want to make, so I’ll be trolling Craig’s List soon for a chest freezer.) And, since I’ve enjoyed the garden so much this year, I am planning on planting a small orchard in our yard this spring. I’m thinking about six apple trees, two pecan trees (now that’s a total act of faith), and maybe some apricots or pears. Oh, and maybe I’ll top it all off with a beehive. Because my mom’s honey is yummy.

My dad is currently building a new shed/mini barn in his yard. He is giving us his old one with the idea that, with some work, we can turn it into a play house for the kids. A couple of days ago, I asked Sean if he was still thinking that we were going to take on that challenge.

“Yeah, we can do it,” he told me.

I gave him a sly smile.

“Because, you know, we could always turn it into a chicken coup instead.”

“I had thought of that, too,” he said.

What???

Heck, we could keep white rabbits in there, too. Then they could invite the Mad Hatter over for tea because I definitely just landed on the wrong friggin’ side of the looking glass. He’s always acted like I was crazy when I talked about looking into raising chickens. I still don’t think that it will happen any time soon, but the fact that using that shed for chickens had crossed his mind, too? Unbelievable.

So, there you go. Gardens, chickens, compost, and bees. These are the things that occupy my mind on these chilly early-Autumn evenings.

 

And all I wanted was the simple things
A simple kind of life
And all I needed was a simple man
So I could be a wife*

*A Simple Kind of Life, No Doubt

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Filed under Books, Daily Life, food, Healthy Living, The Me Behind the Mommy

Still “The One”

Today, I celebrate ten years of marriage to my wonderful husband. Since we started dating five years before we got married, that means that I am getting ridiculously close to the point where I can say that he has been part of my life for as long as he hasn’t.

 

It’s been worth every minute.

Being the hopeless romantics that we are (and since it is raining enough that Wyatt’s soccer practice will probably be cancelled tonight), we are probably going to sneak out by ourselves tonight to see Harry Potter. I know, we’re hopeless saps. I don’t even expect him to bring me flowers. Of course, I would love more than anything to be able to give him a single little Violet for our anniversary (the lack of anything resembling a contraction, however, makes that rather unlikely at this point).

I love you, Dear!

 

And, because I can, one more Shania Twain song—the one we danced to on our wedding night:

Who needs Delilah? I can send out sappy song dedications all on my own.

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Filed under The Me Behind the Mommy

Self-Reflection from the Sidelines

I am a competitive person.

If I go to the gym, you can rest assured that I am looking at the settings on the treadmill/spin bike/elliptical machine next to me. As neurotic as it may sound, I don’t want to feel like I’m being “beat” by the person I’ll never see again working out on the next machine over.

Now, don’t confuse this with meaning that I’m overly athletic. I was a cheerleader. And, since I didn’t grow up in Texas, I wasn’t that kind of cheerleader. The average 1.5 cheerleading competitions my school attended every year were not of the caliber that made it onto ESPN. Heck, I don’t think that they even made the eleven o’clock local news. No, we pretty much just jumped up and down and screamed until we lost our voices. Good times. Cute outfits. Not overly athletic.

Ahhh…but church sports. It is only as I look back as an adult that I see just how much my competitive personality was sprouting there. My church had a very organized basketball program. We had a season. We had a schedule to play against the other congregations in the area. We held practices and ran plays.

If I remember correctly, we won the playoffs all six years that I played.

We played well together as a team (for the most part). But we were, ahem, aggressive. Actually, I remember one of the refs once yelling at us that we gave him more attitude than the boys. We regularly fouled out players. Heck, we intentionally did it when we thought a foul could get us an advantage. We’d just plan out who would do the fouling so as to lose the least important players for the remainder of the game.

I remember one week, showing up for a game despite the fact that I had been vomiting for three solid days prior. I was white as a sheet, could barely stay upright, and had lost about seven pounds from the puking. As it happened, several of our girls couldn’t make it to the game—I played, or we forfeited.

I didn’t take a break that whole game.

I really don’t play a lot of sports anymore, what with constantly being either pregnant or taking care of newborns for the past several years. So I don’t usually think about that weird competitiveness that comes out in me when I am doing something athletic.

It was a good thing I was pregnant tonight.

Our youth had a combined Young Men/Young Women activity this evening. They played indoor kickball. It is amazing that no one ended up with a concussion.

One of the young men playing the game decided to take an intimidation approach with the opposing team’s kickers. As soon as the ball was rolled, he would run right in front of and towards the kicker. Kicker after kicker would mess up out of fear of hitting him with the ball.

One of our leaders accidentally did peg him at one point. Her face showed sheer mortification and she repeatedly yelled “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” while running to first base. (Hmmmm…come to think of it, she did still run, so maybe she didn’t feel quite that bad after all.)

As I watched, I knew exactly how I would be inclined to react if it were me.

I just kept imagining stepping up to the plate and calmly explaining to that young man the point value I had assigned to his body parts. Five for a knee cap. Ten for the head. Just to make it clear that, should he choose to run in front of it, his proximity to the path of the ball would make absolutely no difference to me. Quite frankly, I’d see him less as a potential casualty and more as an interesting target. Because, when someone plays a game that way, it’s a challenge.

And I’m just that competitive.

 

 

And the people I go to church with are now questioning the wisdom of allowing me to work with the youth. 😉

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Filed under A Scary Look into My Mind, Church, The Me Behind the Mommy

Make Lemonade

I’ve had a hard time making myself sit down to write the past couple of days. Not for lack of things to write about, certainly (at the very least, I still have one more post to do about Eric Holder’s speech last month that may be the most important point that I have to make). If anything, I’ve had too much that I have wanted to say. And the niggling little aggravations of life have left me in no real mood to say it.

Of course, I finally solved one of those aggravations last night. I have, for a while now, been planning on making changes to my blog. A complete overhaul, actually, including a new name (I am rather sick of the almost daily hits I get off of the search term, “pictures of b.0y$ n.ut$”—lovely, huh?).  Never to be one to go the simple route, I decided I wanted to play with CMS, which I know absolutely NOTHING about. Forget about being in over my head. This is like dropping a person who can’t swim in the middle of the Mississippi with defective water wings.

I got web hosting. I figured out that the company that I picked sucked for the CMS platforms I was looking at. I switched to a different host company, who had automatic installs for the two platforms I was interested in (Drupal and Joomla!). I went through the simple install. It didn’t work. I talked to two different customer service people and submitted an email ticket over the course of the past week. Different fixes and the same problem persisted.

Last night, I called the host company again and explained my whole exasperating journey thus far to just get the stinking software installed so I could maybe try to figure it out. She put me on hold, then came back and said she had a couple of things to try before sending it on to the more advanced tech people. Fair enough.

She asked if I was only using letters and numbers in my password. I said “yes.”

“No special characters like exclamation points or periods?” she wanted to know.

Um, since those aren’t letters or numbers, my answer was still “yes.”

Next, she asked me what web browser I am using. I have the most current version of Explorer so it’s not like I’ve got anything funky or out of date. Nevertheless, she asked if I would be willing to try downloading a different browser. Even though it seemed completely inane, I agreed to do it so I could get my issue passed on to the true techie geeks.

I’m now using Firefox.

And tonight, after I pick up the copy of Joomla! for Dummies that I am buying with some late-sent birthday money (yes, I have officially crossed the line into total geekdom), I will sit down in front of my easily installed CMS and try to make some sense of what I have in front of me.

It may still be quite some time before my blog moves elsewhere.

Still, I wish that all of the aggravations in my life could be solved that quickly.

So, anyhow, all of this to say that I have maybe felt a little bit hypocritical about touting my “Lemonade” award so nicely bestowed on me by Tami since I’ve felt a little less like making lemonade than like shooting juice in people’s eyes.

lemonadeaward

But, honestly, I am grateful. I am especially grateful for her calling me “real.” That was one of my biggest hurdles before deciding to start a blog. I was already aware of just how easy it is for people to create their own little realities from behind the safety of a keyboard, and I never wanted to do that. I hope that I have succeeded. I hope that, when the people who know me in real life read this blog, they see me as “real,” too. Otherwise, what’s the point?

And now, the bloggers I would like to pass it on to:

  1. Nicole at Hudson Haven Happenings. I have known Nicole since shortly before she and I each had our second children. This pregnancy is the first one since then that we haven’t gone through together (unless she’s holding out on me 😉 ).  Nicole has an amazing ability to see the positive in life, and is really an example to me.
  2. Mommo and Daddo (aka: Cindy and Louis) at Them Floyds. Again, I’ve known them for a long time. I love reading their stories about their kids. It goes back to that “real” thing. They are such awesome people—it does my heart good to see that their kids are prone to occasional wackiness, too.
  3. Julie at Rarely Home Mom. One of the coolest things about blogging is finding other people with lives like yours. I found Julie shortly after I started my blog and couldn’t help but stick around. After all, she’s also adopted one child transracially, has biological children, and has the same weird attraction to The Real Housewives as I do (don’t think less of me…).
  4. James and Cari. I’m not going to go into the specifics here. I’ll just say that, after how traumatic the car accident this January was for me, my respect for them borders on absolute awe. They are incredible people.
  5. My mom. Because I think she deserves some recognition for her stubborn insistence throughout my life that we try to always be positive about certain things. Even when we don’t feel like it.

And now I feel guilty, since there are so many more of you that I could gush about. I hope it is some sort of reflection on me (maybe, if I’m lucky) that I have so many people in my life (and on my blog reader) who see the lemons in life and make lemonade. I appreciate you all. Really, I do.

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Filed under Memes, The Me Behind the Mommy

Black Culture—How Black is Black Enough?

As I have already mentioned, Sean has a black uncle and, therefore, four biracial cousins. When the oldest cousin, S~ (whose appearance tends more towards the white genetic influence), was still in high school, she started to go through some rebellion. A conference with the principal was arranged.

On the appointed day, S’s white mother and black father walked into the office of the black school principal. As they sat down, he chuckled.

“Well, that explains it,” the principal said as he looked at S’s father. “We were wondering why she has started trying to act Black.”

Unfortunately, by “act Black” he was not referring to an increased interest in academics (or even sports). No, he was referring to her sudden interest in hoochie clothing, urban slang, and 50 Cent.

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Culture: The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.

The concept of defining Black culture first became important to me about seven years ago, as I began exploring the idea of transracial adoption. As anyone who has adopted a child of another race can attest, the concept of birth culture is given much emphasis in pre-adoption discussions with social workers.

Certainly, defining the differences in culture are relatively simple when adopting a child from another country. The American experience is vastly different than the Guatemalan experience, the Vietnamese experience, or the Cambodian experience.

But how, exactly, do you define the difference between the American experience and, well, the American experience?

Do not misunderstand—I do not claim that there is not frequently a difference in experience for people of different races in this country. Of course there is also a difference in experience for people of different socio-economic status, or even people from different parts of the country. Yet, I don’t recall anyone impressing on me the importance of developing a twang and participating in pageants if my child came from the South.

But, I was a good little pre-adoptive parent. I attended the classes. I explored my feelings on race. I bought the book, Inside Transracial Adoption. I even read most of it and successfully denied the urge to throw it against a wall on several occasions.

Here’s a little tip: Always know who you’re getting your advice from.

Part-way through the book, one of the authors describes the “small, Midwestern college town” that they lived in, and how they decided that it was too conservative of an area to raise their family in, so they moved to San Francisco. A few pages later, and I realized that I knew the town she was referring to. I grew up near it, and went there often.

My husband, who grew up in northern California, hated that town because it reminded him so much of Berkley. It was that “conservative.” Seriously, the University that she was referring to chose, several years ago, to have their commencement address delivered by a convicted cop killer. That was the kind of area that was “too conservative” for the woman who literally wrote the book on transracial adoption.

What was some of the advice dispensed?

  • If your religion doesn’t have a Black congregation, you may want to consider changing your beliefs.
  • You should consider forgoing the Montessori preschool that your other children attended that was so good at fostering creativity and self-direction so your child can attend the rigid Cambodian preschool and learn the necessary traits to become a good little Communist in a room full of faces like his.
  • While your other kids are off at band and soccer camps, send your adopted daughter to Korean culture camp so that she can be reminded of all of the ways she is different from you.

Instead of focusing on ways to incorporate your child into your family culture, you are encouraged to constantly emphasize the child’s birth culture. And, while birth culture is important (we all need to explore our roots), it frequently turns into a neurotic, academic over-emphasis. There comes a point where it exceeds the well-meaning intention of giving a child a sense of “past” and becomes a constant reminder that “you aren’t like us.” No child needs that.

After research and thoughtful consideration, I came to two conclusions:

  1. A lot of conventional “fact” is crap.
  2. It was important to me that my son see positive, professional examples of people from his (and other) cultures.

I wanted my son to grown up, first and foremost, as part of our family culture. But, someday, if and when he wanted to further explore his birth culture, I didn’t want him to think that the definition of success needed to include a great jump shot or a Wikipedia entry that sported the phrase, “after leaving drug dealing to pursue a rap career…”

In 1972, the National Association of Black Social workers took a “vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason.” They justified this by saying (among other things):

The socialization process for every child begins at birth and includes his cultural heritage as an important segment of the process. In our society, the developmental needs of Black children are significantly different from those of white children. Black children are taught, from an early age, highly sophisticated coping techniques to deal with racist practices perpetrated by individuals and institutions. These coping techniques become successfully integrated into ego functions and can be incorporated only through the process of developing positive identification with significant black others. Only a black family can transmit the emotional and sensitive subtleties of perception and reaction essential for a black child’s survival in a racist society. Our society is distinctly black or white and characterized by white racism at every level. We repudiate the fallacious and fantasied reasoning of some that whites adopting black children will alter that basic character.

Looked at from the historical perspective of being written in the early 1970’s, I can almost understand where they are coming from in their assertion that black children needed to learn proper coping techniques.

I am bothered, however, by the fact that the National Association of Black Social Workers has never retracted this statement and, in fact, still stands behind it, claiming that transracial adoption is “cultural genocide.” As far as they are concerned, every child with any black heritage should be placed in a black family. End of story. I am also bothered by the extent to which the adoption community, and even society as a whole, seems to cling to this idea.

In a country where the majority of the voting population just chose Barack Obama (and most of us who didn’t made our decision based on his politics, not his race), you just cannot argue that the same level of racism exists as did previously. However, the fear of racism, and level of distrust because of it, persists.

The National Association of Black Social Workers is right; I can’t teach my child to fear white people and the possibility of racism. And I’m glad for that. He won’t be crippled by an overwhelming distrust of society. Heaven forbid, I may even succeed in sending him out into the world with the belief that he’ll be seen as just as capable as the next guy. What a shame that would be.

When I first mentioned, about a week ago, my discomfort with having the slavery talk with my son, Lilola left an interesting comment on my blog. She stated that, appearances aside, Noah is just as much white as he is black. I have known Lilola for several years and know, as anyone who knows her does, that she is very rarely wrong. This time, however, she is.

The fact is, appearances aside, my son is more white than he is black.

And how do I justify saying that? Because he is the recipient of the most horrid of all Liberal epithets: White Privilege (which, good heavens, gets its own—very long—Wikipedia entry). So many of the things that liberal thinkers blame on “Black disadvantage” are not issues for my son. He has a stable home environment, involved parents, access to a good education, security…heck, we even go on family vacations. As the beneficiary of my “privilege,” he is not having what many define as a “Black” experience.

Now, here’s the kicker. The same is 100% true of our current president.

He was raised by a white mother and white grandmother, with almost no involvement from the black side of his family. He had the experience of international travel. He went to Harvard.

The pervasive attitude that Barack Obama is going to understand the poor and oppressed because he is “black like us,” drives me nuts. Like my son, he didn’t grow up with “Black disadvantage.” He grew up in a white (well, and Indonesian) society with some amazing experiences/privileges. But, because of the color of his skin and, I suppose, the fact that he plays basketball and listens to hip hop, he has been certified as Black enough.

Hmmm…I wonder how the National Association of Black Social Workers feels about that?

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Filed under adoption, politics, The Me Behind the Mommy, transracial adoption

Black History—a Part of the Whole

As I stated in my preamble, Eric Holder’s speech on February 18th regarding Black History Month left me with a variety of topics to cover. The trick, of course, is trying to categorize them in a way that makes sense to people other than me. At this point, my intention is to go with three main topics over the next few days: Black history as part of American history and the public discourse surrounding it, Black culture, and the importance of learning from early slavery instead of just harping on it. More or less. We’ll see.

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In his speech, Mr. Holder begins by calling us “essentially a nation of cowards” for what he sees as a lack of discourse regarding race relations. More than once, he proclaims that American history can not be appreciated without an understanding of Black history.

That’s true.

Of course, American history also cannot be fully appreciated without an understanding of Irish-American History, Asian-American History, Hispanic-American history, or the history of any other group that may or may not have been exploited in the building of this great nation. We are, truly, a melting pot. Each culture that has entered our borders has brought its own set of values, its own list of trials, and its own share of great minds to contribute towards getting us to where we are today.

How do you think a push for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant History Month” would go over?

Yeah, me too.

Obviously, there is one significant difference between the Black population and others—they were the only ones who lived through government-sanctioned slavery. Certainly, that is a blight on our history. It, and the years of segregation that followed, were a time when horrible people did unforgivable things.  It is a time we should remember and learn from.

But, it is a time that has passed.

I will not pretend that discrimination is dead in our society. It is alive and flourishing. It has the potential to intimately effect all people, regardless of age, gender, or skin color. If you don’t believe me, do a search on college scholarships exclusively for African Americans. Now, do a search on scholarships for which you will only qualify if you are white.

Mr. Holder is right about one thing—honest discussions on race are hard to come by in a multi-racial setting. This is because, as non-minorities, we are taught to feel that we should continue to bare the responsibility of, and make amends for, the actions of our ancestors. Never mind if they were actually slave owners or not, we still remain guilty by nature of being the recipients of “White Privilege.” And, of course, that status as Privileged makes it politically incorrect to suggest that people strive to be judged on the capacity of their minds or the content of their character, as opposed to the amount of melanin in their skin.

But, Mr. Holder makes impassioned pleas that we strive to acknowledge the pigmentation, not just the accomplishments.

He loses me, however, in his insistence that Black history needs to be more thoroughly incorporated into the study of American history. Growing up, I learned about Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln (oh, wait, does he count as part of Black history?), Frederick Douglas, and Rosa Parks. I even learned how the Civil Rights movements following Ms. Parks refusal to move to the back of the bus was really more about a seething reaction to the treatment of the murder of Emmit Till than because people were really that mad that a tired lady couldn’t get a seat up front.

I learned about the Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, and the Civil Rights movement. I studied mandatory busing and saw the devastating effects that it had on some of the schools close to where I grew up.

I really don’t remember if I learned any of these things during the month of February. All I know is that I learned about them in their historical order, as part of a comprehensive look at American history. I didn’t spend one month learning about “them” and the rest of the year learning about “us” as Mr. Holder’s speech seems to imply.  I just learned OUR history.

Of course, there are things about our history that I don’t remember ever learning. Too bad for Mr. Holder, they fly in the face of some of his assertions. Mr. Holder claims that other significant civil rights movements, such as feminism, “were all tied in some way to the spirit that was set free by the quest for African American equality (during the Civil Rights era).”

As if fated, the history lesson that I did with my kindergartener today was on Susan B. Anthony. Like Mr. Holder, I have always seen the fight for women’s suffrage as coming after, well—not the Civil Rights era for goodness sakes, but after the end of slavery. After all, that is the order in which they are studied, right? Today, however, I learned things that I never remember learning before.

Susan B. Anthony, who was born in 1820, was an impassioned abolitionist. By the time she was 25, she and her family were holding weekly anti-slavery meetings which were, at times, attended by Frederick Douglas and William Llyod Garrison (another noted white abolitionist).

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who was never taught that Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony knew each other and worked together to fight slavery.

Susan B. Anthony—one of the most notable pioneers of feminism—began her work for women’s rights because she was sick of not being taken seriously as an abolitionist because she was a woman. The fact is, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked for Black Suffrage at the same time that they were fighting for Women’s Suffrage. Their dedication wasn’t spurred on by the success of the anti-slavery movement (and certainly not by the Civil Rights era), but by their desire to have a strong enough voice to HELP MAKE IT SUCCESSFUL.

I didn’t notice Ms. Anthony or Ms. Stanton on Mr. Holder’s list of people that should be studied as part of Black history.

I read Mr. Holder’s remarks on Black history, and I am left with the strong suspicion that he was the type of kid that just couldn’t help picking at scabs. He’s right on one thing—there is healing that needs to occur. It won’t happen, though, if we insist on constantly ripping open old wounds.

This country’s history is OUR history—all of us, no matter what the color of our skin is. It needs to be acknowledged. It needs to be viewed for what it was. It needs to never be forgotten so that it will never happen again.

And then we need to move on so we can acknowledge our present and the tremendous progress that has been made.

Because, in case you didn’t notice, Mr. Holder, in 2008 the majority of our country elected a minority President.

That’s got to count for something.

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Filed under politics, Soap Box, The Me Behind the Mommy