Tag Archives: family

universally diverse…Mother Nature is my favorite weirdo

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i hesitate to broach such an emotional topic, but  i’ve been poked from a couple of directions these last days by thoughts about diversity. i live in a big bowl of it here in the DC metro, diverse people, foods, shopping, cars, financial positions, attitudes and careers. i’ve lived here longer now than any other place in my 39 year-old life, a whopping eight years. in the last ten, i have lived in five different domiciles here, in different suburbs, punctuated in the middle by an 18-month sojourn in New Jersey…right at the now infamous “shuah” (translation, “shore”). in other words, i’ve done very little “settling down.”

right now i live in a predominately Korean suburb. my neighbors to the left are Ethiopian. my neighbors to the right, Louisianan (ask a yankee who’s been there if Louisianans should be included in diversity numbers), and most of the rest of them are Caucasian retirees. my two year-old daughter has been exposed already to four different languages, and some hybrids i’m still wrapping my brain around (Dora in Arabic? what’s Arabic for Spanish?). she learned heavily accented English and some Urdu first from her Pakistani daycare provider. i love that woman…she provided stability, love and a comforting ear during a rough mommy year. she watched my world fall apart, never judged me, and marveled that i spoke candidly with her, brought her flowers and gifts, and was genuinely curious about and appreciative of her perspectives on culture and of her experiences, both in Pakistan and the US. i marveled when she told me that i was the first American parent who had ever bothered to get to know her…the co-provider of care for my precious, tiny, learning baby.

when i moved from one ‘burb to another, into the Korean neighborhood where I now rent a cute little townhouse from a cute, loaded landlord (loaded with cash, not booze…though who knows?), i had to find a new daycare provider for my littlebean. i found her more than that. besides her warm and amazing teacher, she now has a third “grandpa” (Sido in Arabic), and a whole loving family to help man the village i require to care for a toddler while i work, Love and live. there she’s learned to love Halal food made with special products shipped directly from relatives in Jerusalem and Jordan. i’ve also come to love ms. tima’s home cooking…since the dear woman hands me a hot plate of something fresh at least two nights a week. ms. tima and all her relatives are Palestinians from Jerusalem. i embarrass myself privately sometimes by saying “Pakistani” when i mean “Palestinian” and “Palestinian” when i mean “Pakistani.” they are far from interchangeable…very, very far.

all around me, languages and alphabets overlap. all of my life the diversity of the US has enraptured me. i went to a university in the deep south without much diversity. our relationship with what we did have was pained at best. i see now in alumni magazine snapshots that diversity is growing there, if not slowly. (i also find it rather poetic that we teach something called “diversity” at a place called a “university.”) i’ve soaked up new cultures in New York City and the DC area, and seen tolerance foiled by the fear and homogeneity of many towns in the midwest and all over the “dirty south.” (i can call it that, i lived there and still have the t-shirt and accent to prove it).  i’ve met great people in every place i’ve ever lived or visited. i’ve found that the diversity of opinions and attitudes all over this country are like fertilizer for the progress and ideas that seem to make us unique.

i read an article yesterday, written by a Native American writer and celebrator of diversity, where he called on those of us who write to be cultural bridges spanning and linking the world’s and our country’s many peoples and ideas. (http://oscarhokeah.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/cultural-bridges-builders-weavers-architects/). i love Oscar’s perspective and felt his mission hit me right in my wheelhouse. diversity is the natural state of things…fully embraced and necessary. we work as a global community to explore and preserve it all over the planet, even as Mother Nature herself continues to mutate to support growth and survival. and we all know that mutts are generally healthier and better adjusted than purebreds. (i’m talking dogs, not people, although….) my point is that fighting against diversity is about as futile and counterproductive a fight as any there is. each of us has a choice to spend that energy differently…to use it to study the world and spread Love, to learn and experience all of the things that unify a wildly varied human species…to Love unconditionally our fellow humans as if it were our calling.

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gratitude for a stateside attitude

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i have a lot of disparate thoughts this morning, hard to gather and sort in time for an early post. i awoke from a decent night’s sleep for a change…though still chock full of imagery and dream decisions…to a monday of pets gone wild, ants on the warpath and a procrastinator’s army of tasks to accomplish. my thoughts remind me of these ants, marching single file, breaking apart in a chaotic looking mission meant to culminate in wiggly piles of hunger on every trace of sugar or tiny food bit. it occurs to me now that the bounce in my step this morning may just be ants in my pants.

some of my disparate thoughts land uncomfortably on news items from the weekend. we’ve been at war, a real war with guns and helicopters in place of my metaphorical war on ants and racing thoughts. this morning i’m remembering 30 troops we lost to a combination of guns and helicopters, and the news that i now know another young widow. for all my losses and heartaches, the empathy i feel toward the widows i know….acquaintances, all of them…makes me ever more grateful that i’m here to complain about ants and dog poop, and that my little daughter has her father still, even if the family tree has grown a bit crooked.

i have a heart full of prayers this morning, both for our troops in the sand and all of the family members left behind to worry and fret, and sometimes, to grieve. it’s hard to understand all of this death and destruction and glean real purpose from the battles and mistakes of the last decade. our own terror has faded, if only slightly, since 2001 when all of our hearts began beating wildly on a crisp and beautiful september morning. it was horrific. and almost ten years ago. the loss this weekend reminds me that many of the people we fight with and for have lived whole lives with that kind of terror in their hearts every day…so much that they grow numb and hard, confused and angry. in many hot spots in the middle east, widows and childless parents are more common than long marriages and intact families, mortars more common than flowers.

we have it so good we’ve forgotten how hard some have to work just to stay alive. we complain about cell phone service in air-conditioned office buildings, crowded mass transit parking lots and platforms, wait times or language barriers on customer service calls, drivers who don’t use blinkers (ahem), and all of those inconsiderate people who wreck their cars during rush hour. i wake up mortified at the idea of using stop-gap neurotoxins on my ant invasion, while people halfway around the world keep masks on hand in fear of the neurotoxins of war. it’s so easy to feel small on this planet, for troubles to feel small, especially for those of us stateside, especially for those exposed at one time or another to the third world or real revolution. for the rest of us, with couches and cable, it’s easy to get lost in our daily struggles. it’s easy to forget to be grateful. it’s easy to spew vitriol about unfairness and entitlements. the truth is, we are entitled to keep breathing, as long as we meet our needs for survival and that’s about it.

for the rest of the gifts i take for granted most days, i feel my gratitude today. for the love and support of friends, for a monday full of mundane responsibilities and for the healthy, happy child whom i can hear breathing softly through the baby monitor thanks to dependable power lines and a cheap transmitter. i’m grateful for the opportunity to be my outrageous self, in a country of outrageous selves, some who leave you outraged, some who leave you inspired, and some who have absorbed unimaginable grief with a sense of duty and a lot of faith.

do you feel grateful today? for having 10 minutes to read someone’s blog as a latte slips down your throat? for having a life to live? for the love of your friends and family? for getting stuck in traffic on a smooth, 4-lane highway? for the opportunity to accumulate bills and struggle to pay them? if you’ve forgotten for a moment, take a deep breath and thank your higher power for the comforts you enjoy and even the challenges you face. it will make the comforts more comforting and the challenges less challenging.  it’s certainly working for me this morning.