Why it’s Not JUST Chicken

I just read a blog the other day written by a momma (who’s also a lawyer) about her take on the issue. She is admittedly quite a fan of Chick-Fil-A which doean’t bother me. She will not stop eating there. Again, doesn’t bother me. She recognized that the Constitution protects our right to free speech and the owner of the company is protected by that. Agreed. However then she went on to say that she “admire(s) the owner’s bravery” for standing up for his beliefs.

WHUCK?!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about being a multi-cultural family and despite feeling like I wanted to refocus on those aspects of our family on this blog, nothing has jumped out and I don’t want to force it.

And then I read this. And though I’m way behind the news cycle I just couldn’t bite my tongue on this one.

And though we are not a LGBT family we have many friends that are and this is something that effects the world that our children will inherit. This IS the civil rights issue of our time.

Many may argue that being LGBT is not cultural. Many more may argue that gay rights are not the same as the historic Civil Rights movement. But I am not one of those people.

Dan Cathy, COO of Chick-Fil-A, is absolutely entitled to his opinions and voicing those opinions are within his rights. However his bigoted views should not be admired. And he certainly should not be held up as being “brave” for being a bigot.

That’s like calling George Wallace brave for saying that Alabama will always be segregated. Think about it. It’s the same type and amount of bigotry. And because one man is a politician and one is a businessman is no different. Using their platforms, be it the state capitol or thousands of drive-thru windows in America, their are using their power and position to promote hate.

The city aldermans and mayors that have publicly blocked Chick-Fil-A  in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco are the brave ones in my book. These politicians will be on the right side of history when the dust settles and the inevitable occurs. Because make no mistake, the equal rights of all individuals, be they black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, male, female, Muslim or Christian will be confirmed. And though it will take hard work and time to get there, it is inevitable that we recognize equality for all.

In reality ours is a family that would not have been possible only a generation ago. My parents weren’t even legally able to marry in some states until the 1970’s. That’s only 30-something years ago. Michael’s parents, being from two very different cultures, though not illegal, was certainly not the norm or widely accepted.

For us, diversity is not just something you train for. It is our entire lives. Our entire families. Our wonderfully, beautifully blended children.

These same beautiful children who will grow up with multi-cultural friends. With friends that have two moms or two dads. With friends that speak different languages or eat different foods. Because that is the reality of the world that we live in.

Can you imagine if you couldn’t marry someone you loved? Because the law said so. Because of rich bigots that sell chicken tell you that God said you can’t marry? And pay for political representation to reflect their bigoted views?

I cannot. And I will not and cannot support such a business. Nor will I teach my children that it is brave to stand up for your beliefs when your beliefs have such hateful and negative effects on people. Not in my house.

Shit, I don’t shop at Walmart for less than what this man is saying.

Thankfully there are no Chick-Fil-A restaurants near us. And if there is one, well, they will not be getting our dollars until they change their tunes.

 

Happy 70th Birthday Mom

Friday was my Mom’s 70th birthday. Can you believe it? 70!! Man, she’s old.

I kid, I kid…well sort of. Check out what Cedella says when she finds out how old Grandma is…
Ella sings Happy Birthday to Grandma

My mother was born in Hartford City, Indiana and grew up in rural Lapeer, MI. She was born in the midst of WWII. Before color TV. Thankfully after electricity, indoor plumbing and cars were popular. Before civil rights and women’s rights and gay rights. I don’t think they had rights back then…

When she was a girl she had a pony and was a competitive roller skater. After graduating from her tiny high school she went to college in Detroit at Wayne State (also my alma mater) and got her master’s in Library Science at the Detroit Institute of Technology.

That’s where she met my Dad. At the DIT library in the 70’s. He was 10 years younger than her and African-American. Cause she’s a trailblazer like that 😉

They traveled all over Europe. And in 1975 they were married.  And in 1978 they had me. My sister followed in 1980. My brother in 1983. And my baby sister was born in 1995. And has been living permanently with Mom since 1997.

She has worked as a librarian for a lot of her adult life, but she also worked tirelessly for many many years for my grandparent’s company, Eppert Oil. But now she is back to doing what makes her the happiest.

My mom is affectionately known my hundreds of kids from the Metro Detroit area as “Miss Linda”. She has been the Children’s Librarian at the Hazel Park Memorial Library for over 10 years. It was my extreme honor to have worked with her for nearly 6 years, before leaving to have Cedella.

And those they may just be random and useless facts to most, but to me they are the dots that connect to form a picture of this tremendous woman. A mother who has always sacrificed anything and everything for her children.

A woman who never shied away from a challenge or from something that was different or out of the ordinary. A woman who took all sorts of risks.

She has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. Not thinking twice about taking in and raising our baby sister despite the fact that she is my father’s child with his second wife. It was never a question of whether she could manage, she just did it. And Kylara is all the better for it.

Sure my Mom is a librarian but she is truly a wealth of information. Most of it trivia-worthy and otherwise useless, but full of it nonetheless. If I ever have a question or need advice she is the first person I call.

Wanna know how to get Sharpie off your naked baby? How to properly paint a dining room table? When did Michigan become a state? She’s got an answer, I assure you.

But even being full of answers, Mom is not a know-it-all and certainly not an advice-pusher. What impresses me the most about her now that she’s a Grandma? She has never once questioned our parenting decisions, criticized the way I parent, or made me feel like I’m doing things wrong.

Even though she wasn’t a fan of cloth diapers at first (or ever) she never questioned our use of them. Despite thinking I was absolutely nutso for having an unmedicated birth, she was there, for both, holding my hand and cheering me on. Even thinking our water birth was “so cool”.

She has never made passive aggressive remarks about how something was “good enough for my kids, why isn’t it good enough for your kids”. In fact, Mom just lets us be and offers help when asked. Period. And I love her SO much for that. And maybe even value her opinion more for the simple fact that she offers it only when asked.

It’s sad to me now that I spent so much of my adolescence hating my Mom and fighting with her. I never wanted her advice and god forbid she tell me what she thought I should be doing. There were many years I couldn’t even stand being around her.

And I questioned her decisions constantly, her decision to stay with my Dad in particular. But when Michael and I were having marriage issues last year, she never once said a bad word about him, or questioned my decision to make things work. She just listened and gave me comfort.

After my Dad died and my stupid boyfriend at the time broke up with me because I “cried too much” she drove with me to Chicago, packed up all my things, and moved me back home to Detroit. It was on that trip that I knew that my Mom was who I wanted to be when I grew up.

She never once told me I was stupid or silly for loving that jerk, she let me be alone when I needed to be, and she commiserated with me when I was ready to trash-talk him. And she paid for movers. Considering we lived in a fourth floor walk-up I love her even more for that.

When I moved back from Chicago we started working together at the library. There was no nepotism involved, I got the job all on my own, and hopefully made her proud with the work I did there. In fact, I know I did. We worked closely on the Summer Reading club and other kids programs, and I even trained her once when we upgraded computer systems. She helped encourage me to finish my degree and I finally did. It was a good era.

It was always nice to know that right across the room from me sat the one lady that would have my back no matter what. If a patron got loud with me or insulted me, she was right there to tell them what’s what and vice versa. And if someone complimented my customer service or reference skills, she was the first one taking credit for giving birth to me.

And if someone, inevitably, hated my mom’s people skills, and called her racist, I was right there claiming “She’s not a racist! She has black kids! She just hates stupid people!” This happened on MANY occasions. 😉

Though it was MUCH harder to get away with playing hookie or being hungover at work with your Mom as a co-worker, it was worth it. We shared countless lunches, inside jokes, co-worker gossip, library board drama, crafts and more than a few hundred books during those years.

It was easy to take for granted always being able to give her a hug, or just know that she within shouting distance all those years. Every day I miss her being right across the room.

But moving away from her was worth it to have her grandkids. Cause to see her with her granddaughters is a sight.

She is instantly calm and at ease. She knows when Cedella’s not quite ready to talk or hug and she backs off. But when Cedella’s ready, well Grandma Linda melts right into silly Grandma voice and has all the things kids love: toys, crafts and books, SO many books.

 

She sings silly songs and makes silly faces and cracks Cedella up every time. And while she isn’t able to chase them down the beach she makes up for it by hours of puzzles and board games and tower building and yes…more crafts.

There are so many things my mother has raised me to be. Unlike all my siblings, I am the only one that has my Mom’s love of camping and being outdoors. Could have been the 10+ years she was my Girl Scout leader that did it.

But we all share our mother’s love of books. Reading is something my mother is constantly doing, and all of us are exactly the same (except maybe Ky who hasn’t quite found her love of books yet).

I believe that she has passed her tireless work ethic to me, because I would much rather work until the job is done right, even if it means not getting paid for all of my time, than leaving a job half-completed or half-assed, just like her.

And I know that in my heart she has given me a wide-open and explorer’s view of the world. My love of travel and adventure comes from her stories of traveling in Europe when she was younger. Hell, she bought us plane tickets to Italy for our wedding shower gift. And I definitely have a passion for research which probably from her curious librarian’s view of always questioning and trying to find answers.

Her willingness to love someone, regardless of race, at a time when it was not acceptable and barely legal in all 50 states, has always inspired me. Her ability to make the best out of nearly any situation and to keep her composure while all the rest of us fall apart is remarkable.

And just to prove her selflessness and want for each of her children to be the best they can be this is how she replied to my facebook status update about her birthday:

“Thanks for all the lovely thoughts, Ali – glad you are my daughter (not so glad about you becoming me though–be YOURSELF!) XOX”

I can’t say enough how absolutely proud and thankful I am that 70 years ago my mother was brought into this world. I hope she lives another 70 years cause I don’t know what I would do without her.

Thank you so much Mom for being so wonderful, for your inspiration, for your support, for your love and for all the laughter, hugs and kisses over the years!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

 

Why I Love Roots

Not the band, though they are a personal fav of mine (ask me about the time I sang backup for them). I’m talking about the classic 1970’s miniseries Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Starring a young LeVar “Gordy” Burton, John “Mr. Evans” Amos, Robert “Mr. Brady” Reed and Louis Gossett Jr. Cicely Tyson. Ben Vereen. Lloyd Bridges. Burl Ives. Leslie Uggams. Richard Roundtree. Todd Bridges. Maya Angelou. And OJ Simpson for crying out loud. Pretty much every black actor with a SAG card in 1977.

I remember watching Roots when I was a kid. One of those things my Dad insisted we sit through to learn about our ancestors. Somehow my sister doesn’t remember this. Maybe he saved this special brand of what I’m sure amounted to torture at the time, just for me.

Then in middle school and high school we would watch the whole Middle Passage sequence during obligatory February Black History Month units. Though I don’t ever remembering having seen the whole thing, at once, in context. Then there was college. I minored in Africana studies and watched several different parts of Roots for research. But again. Never all together. Never the whole thing.

It was getting to be the middle of February and it dawned on me. It’s Black History Month. Since being out of college and the library it seems like it just fell off my radar. There’s no special programming on TV. (Wait, to be fair, there’s not really any black programming on TV as it is. Oprah. Tyler Perry’s shows. That’s it. But I digress.) There were no black history playdates or craft days in my Mom’s group. No trips to the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

I felt guilty. I felt like I missed such an important opportunity to celebrate my heritage and to teach my daughter about hers. So I self-assigned a large undertaking. Watching Roots. In it’s entirety before the end of the month. And I’m just about done. I know, it’s March already. But I don’t have nearly enough time for marathon TV watching that I used to.

And you know what? It was fantastic. It captured our country for eight straight days and spawned two sequel miniseries for a reason. It is engaging and imaginative and heartbreaking and moving. Sure, maybe it’s a bit hard to get over the production value, it was the 70’s and made for TV, so it doesn’t look too pretty on an HDTV. But modern aesthetics aside there are so many pure and important moments to experience and some incredibly difficult ones as well.

At the heart of the story of both the best-selling novel and the miniseries is the idea of recapturing and passing down our family stories, our collective past. From one generation to the next they pass down the legendary story of Kunta Kinte, the Mandinka warrior and proud African that was the first of his family in America. Each generation passes his dreams and aspirations to be free to the next. Each passes the pride and hope that one day their children’s lives will be better off then their own.

Cedella is 1/4 Black, 1/4 Lebanese and 1/2 White (German, French & English), though she is truly and completely American in her multi-ethnicity. Though she’s still too young to appreciate the breadth and scope of Roots, what she can begin learning now is this, the stories of her people.

She should know her great great grandfather Elam Sims that was a black soldier in World War I, who enlisted even though blacks were still second-class citizens and relegated to menial labor duties with the Army.

She should know about her ancestors tending to the centuries old olive trees in Lebanon only to have their trees and land taken from them by Israel during the war.

She should know about her 7th great grandfather that served in the Revolutionary War, not only because that makes her eligible to be in the DAR, but because ironically his parents left Germany to flee the violence ravaging their nation.

These are all stories I have learned in researching our family tree on Ancestry.com. An obsession passed down to me from my maternal grandmother Rose and my great aunt Billie. But it’s not the research and facts that have sucked me in. It’s the stories.

And so as our new tradition and to honor the struggles and triumphs of all of our ancestors, not only will I take the reigns as the family genealogist, but I will tell her these stories. Like the story of her stubborn great great aunt Garnet refusing to wash the dishes for three years because her husband insulted her.

The story of her 4th great grandmother who was born into slavery but died a property owner.

How both of her grandfathers were the first in their families to have not only college degrees, but Master’s.

This new tradition may come in the form of bedtime stories but they will be an integral part of the fabric of Monk’s character as she grows. Because these people, these ancestors, what they did, who they were, make us who we are now. That’s what Roots teaches us.

And my new tradition? Watching Roots, in its entirety, every February. And when my kids are old enough, this will be required watching for them too.