God will never give you more than you can handle.

You've heard it before. God will never give you more than you can handle. I'm here to challenge that a bit! This post goes out to all the women who are holding it together.

god knows I'm a badass

The ones who are cleaning up dog shit from carpets that you just paid a fortune to have cleaned.

To you who are making sure that your children have all that they need, even when it means you go without.

For those of you who can't remember the last time someone told you "I like that sweater!" yet you consistently dole out accolades and compliments.

I see you, Mama Bear who wants nothing more than to see her son fit in, and have friends ... but you don't know how to encourage him, so you simply cook his favorite dinner and hope that suffices in some small way.

My friend, who struggles to know what's "cool" when it comes to planning a birthday party for a tween, yet chooses to plan away anyway, with no regard for the eye-roll and the hair flip.

To you folks who have partner who is away more than he or she is HOME. I can see their absence and raise you a "they are providing and doing the best they can."

Maybe you are the leave-ee. Maybe YOU are the one that is footing the bills and trying to make up for homeruns missed and bedtimes passed by. To you, I say, I can see your absence too ... and I don't judge it. Don't let anyone judge it ... do what works for you and your family.

On that note, to the ladies who are traveling for work, packing suitcases and saying goodbye. Make a habit of leaving love notes for your family. And if you're the one staying behind? Start training the leavee to scribble a quick note for everyone before they fasten the seatbelt on the way to the airport.

For those who are hurting because your current load is triple that which you signed up for, I'll bring you a frozen lasagna if you're close enough!

You may feel that god is giving you more than you can handle right now ... but if you'll be a bit transparent, ask for the help that you need, you'll find that people will show up.

(and if they forget to show up or neglect to commit, remind them again)

 

 

What are you? I check the "other" box

Mixed Race and Checking the Box
Mixed Race and Checking the Box

What are you?

I am deep in the middle of writing down my stories. I'm using Old Friend Far Away by Natalie Goldberg and the content of her book is enough to keep you writing for a year straight, I swear. I have decided (since it's a library book) to just pen the prompts that she provides (hundreds of them) into a blank journal and work on them as I have time.

One of the themes that keeps sneaking back to me as I perform her "just write for 10 minutes" suggestion is my mixed heritage. My mulatto status. My half-breed moniker and the box that I used to wish desperately that I could check due to the simple fact that my father is black and my mother is white.

As time goes on, those monochromatic boxes have expanded. Girls like me used to just be relegated to choosing white, black or other. It wasn't that long ago!

Then came the wave of Native American boxes being added ... then the inclusion of the Hispanic box. Now there is the "other" box and ahem ... drum roll, I am even seeing "mixed race" or bi-racial as a box.

Because I was not schooled traditionally, I probably only have 14% of the typical issues that others might be able to share who were born in the late 1970s and raised in the very non-diverse 1980s in the middle of America. I admit that I was sheltered from much of the pain that others have felt, but it doesn't mean that I don't have an opinion on what it means to be unsure of where you belong --- from an early age.

Smith Siblings
Smith Siblings

I grew up in a very small town in Nebraska. Actually, I grew up in the country, 30 minutes outside of a very small town in Nebraska. We were there because my father worked for Union Pacific and as I remember it, there were a lot of Hispanics also working for the railroad, but not very many families that looked like ours. I have four siblings, three of us are biologically related and there is one sibling (adopted as a very young babe) that none of us can imagine a childhood and life without. I can still remember the whispers at Hinky Dinky in the checkout lane while buying groceries, "where do you think that one came from?" (referring to the black kiddo holding hands with his very white mama) or the mean kids at the public pool who called us all names because we weren't pale skinned like them. There were assumptions made about our ability to succeed at sports, and even surprise uttered when my mother corrected a nosy nelly who had the gall to state that there must have been an affair inside of the marriage for there to be different colored babies. Growing up, it was ok for one of my brothers to use the "N" word and not the other.

Smith Babies
Smith Babies

White girls are jealous of the "body" that is ever present in my my curls. I don't suffer from a greasy scalp and have never known "limp hair" or the syndrome of "it just fell flat!" They purse their lips and buy "booty lifters", neither of which I need, because both of those things came with my bod, as do my semi-high cheekbones and year-round tan that looks like an expensive bronzer. The black chicks have been known to dis me (yes, that's a term and yes it's happened to me as an active verb) for the fact that I can comb through my "good hair" and had light skin and great cheekbones. My nose is not one that was handed down from my dad's side of the family and my skin doesn't tend to get too terribly ashy.

Smith Siblings
Smith Siblings
Smith Daughters
Smith Daughters

I cannot be easily identified as belonging to any one race or nationality at first glance.

I get the question "so, what are you?", (what they mean is "what race are you" but no one is dumb enough to put it THAT way). Which box do I check when it comes to my race?  When I tell them what my nationality is (German, Danish, African American and some Native American Indian), most people say "I would have had NO idea!" When we lived in India, I had several experiences where I was asked if I was Punjabi and in Spanish-speaking areas, especially when in Florida, I have to consistently say "no habla espanol!" I am asked this question FREQUENTLY.

Just yesterday, one of the hotel staff, after several curious smiles and long stares looked at me, cocked his head a bit and said "Hey, so what are you?"  Oh, yes he did.  I just graciously smiled and said "Do you mean, what nationalities make up my background?"  I used to get annoyed and frustrated and tell people who asked "I am a girl, what do you think I am?" but have realized as I have matured (a bit) that ignorance isn't always rude or intentional, it's just a product of unawareness. Usually, I try to hold onto the conversation a little bit by explaining that so few of us anymore can identify with just ONE race, or just ONE nationality. The world is better with a melding of backgrounds and richer for it.

Here's where the post gets a little messy.

I do not identify with any one culture, or heritage that makes up my bloodline. I don't have a series of time-honored traditions that represent the nationalities that make up my genealogy. I also don't know where I fit in on the spectrum of issues that STILL divide a nation, a people group, a community when it comes to color and racism. My understanding of racism while growing up, and the issues I had to deal with because of the pigment of my skin revolved solely around the reality that my family was a mixed set of shades. The first life change that affected my interaction with racism happened when my parents divorced in the mid-80s. The next major shift happened when I left home at the ripe old age of 16 and was no longer seen together with the rest of my family. The older I get, strangely, the moments trickle away into a very quiet whisper that are only triggered by stories that happen to other people. I married an Italian man and my children all have olive-colored skin and we all *match* each other. We still get inquiries about the family's background, since we tend to blend in most any place we have lived, but weirdly, people seem to be most enamored by my husband's Sicilian background.

I DO cringe when people describe others using their skin color and get incredibly frustrated when black people holler about racism and white people continue to claim ignorance. I'm consistently saddened that we are still having discussions about equality and minorities and segregation and lack of diversity.

My honest reality is that it is difficult for me to feel I have a voice when it comes to discussing all of those really important things. 

There was a hashtag awhile back that had some air time on Twitter. While I watched tweet after tweet roll down my feed, I was extremely conflicted. I felt that if I were to jump on the bandwagon of a group of women calling for equality between white and black women, that I would literally ... be in the middle.

How am I to know what it's like to be a BLACK woman. How am I to know what it's like to be a WHITE woman? I check the "other" box. 

I bring all of this up to bring a little light into the discussion about cultural awareness and sensitivity as it relates to racism. Obviously the situation is one of complexity and confusion, otherwise we humans would have already figured out a way to live our lives without it. It's not just about black people and white people. It's about not being able to understand those who are different than you are. It's about being defensive when you feel your normal is being challenged.

It's about feeling uncomfortable when you don't agree that someone else is your equal.

It's also quite simply about refusing to listen.

If we would spend more than the 5 seconds that it takes to "tick the box" we might find that we get to know our neighbor, or actually befriend the grocery store clerk regardless of her hajib. The hooded boy who shuffles past your driveway every day after school might need a summer job cutting the lawn that you're too busy for. That grumpy old man who uses inappropriate slurs for that hooded boy might just be a product of a generation that uses the excuse that they didn't know any better.

I have been talking with a couple of people about their upcoming relocation to a place in the world where very few people are going to look like them. I am reminded of the very important need for cultural awareness and racial sensitivity when it comes to moving overseas, or anytime you find yourself in a situation where others don't look like you (or act like you, or eat what you eat, etc.).

What would happen - seriously - if we quit relegating everyone to a pre-disposed set of boundaries based on the way they looked? What if we didn't have to check boxes or label ourselves?

So, what are YOU?

 

Updated March, 2018, nearly four years after I published this: Meghan Markle has had her say on the topic as well. Published in July, 2015, she has this to say: More Than An Other

I wouldn't wish Chikungunya on my worst enemy

I wouldn't wish Chikungunya on my worst enemy

The word chikungunya is thought to derive from a description in the Makonde language (Tanzania), meaning "that which bends up" and describes the often contorted position that you find your limbs when afflicted with chikungunya. This is my story of contracting chikungunya and my journey of living life with it.

I am a triangle and other tips for repatriation

I am a triangle and other tips for repatriation

Repatriation is a secret that no one wants to talk about. However in this article, we discuss a practical concept called I Am A Triangle that breaks down in real terms what it's like to enter and re-enter different cultures. Culture adaptation does impact us as humans and it's nice to know we're not alone. 

On being square in a round hole.

I'm not actually repatriating, so I'm kind of stuck in the middle.I can glean some suggestions from the websites and advice books on how to fit back in, but at the end of this summer, I'm still returning to my expat life.

I moved to a community where I don't know anyone and owe nothing.  I'm too far away from most friends to see them this summer.  The most pressing thing on my schedule every day is to make it a better day than the one before. It gives a person some crazy reflection time.  Time to examine what kind of a person you are when you have nothing from the outside influencing you directly.Nothing but family and personal choices.

During a FB chat with Michelle, we were discussing "moving back" and I have to admit that as I walk through this process of returning to the United States to set up a summer home, I realize fully that I have morphed into a full-on square. A square in a round hole.

Not the kind of square that struggles socially, but the kind of square that doesn't fit into many shapes.   Think round peg in a square hole kind of thing.

[Although if you're a small enough shape, you can fit inside of MANY shapes ... which also could be a whole discussion about expanding your world ... hmmm.]

Living abroad has changed me, hardened me, enlightened me, exhausted me, excited me, and most obviously, expanded me. There is so much more ... to life, to a marriage, to relationships, to intentions, to goals and success. My friend Jen recently asked me to help identify a song ... and when I looked in my music library, I was able to tell her that it was Brett Dennen.

When I heard the news, my heart fell on the floor. I was on a plane on my way to Baltimore. In these troubled times it's hard enough as it is. My soul has a known a better life than this.

I wonder how so many can be in so much pain, while others don't seem to feel a thing. Then I curse my whiteness and I get so damn depressed. In a world of suffering, why should I be so blessed? I heard about a women who lives in Colorado. She built a monument of sorts behind the garage door, where everyday she prays for all whom are born and all whose souls have passed on. Sometimes my trouble gets so thick, I can't see how I'm gonna get through it. But, then I'd rather be stuck up in a tree then be tied to it. There is so much more. I don't feel comfortable with the way my clothes fit. I cant get used to my body's limits. I got some fancy shoes to try and kick away these blues. They cost a lot of money but they arent worth a thing. I wanna free my feet from the broken glass and concrete. I need to get out of this city. Lay upon the ground stare a hole in the sky, wondering where I go when I die. ...When I die.

I don't pretend to know the actual meaning behind this song, but several snippets of it resonate deeply. Especially this part :

I wonder how so many can be in so much pain,
while others don't seem to feel a thing.
Then I curse my whiteness
and I get so damn depressed.
In a world of suffering,
why should I be so blessed?

There is a weird phenomenon that happens when you repatriate, or return home.  Mental ghost symptoms of the life you left behind appear out of nowhere.  The friendships that were birthed as a result of our time in Delhi still remain, but the desperate grasp that you had for sanity's sake is replaced with nostalgia.

Readjusting to what you remember as normal is filled with aimless conversations about The Bachelorette and discussions at the grocery store checkout line about how expensive the cherries are.

Trying to make friends at the community pool renders us a bit paralyzed and we find ourselves staying "in" the day after, in an attempt to protect ourselves from repeating the inane and fruitless smiles to complete strangers, hoping that they will want to be our friends. 

Those neighbors that do make the effort to return our "howdy" waves, often glaze over at about the point in the sidewalk chat when they've started to tell us about the 1st and 4th grade teachers for this Fall.  I have to be honest and interrupt to let them know that we're only here for the summers.  Investing in square pegs seems kind of silly when they're going to fly away in July.

Another friend and I were talking about trying to reestablish roots and whether this is all long-term healthy for our kiddos.  I am now beginning to understand why so many expats skim across the surface of relationships.  It's easier to pull up and start over when your safety net isn't thrown very far out in the first place.

Big Breath.

I've no idea where this post is going, but I have needed to spill it for a little while now ... at least to get it out of my system and onto "paper" -- because when it's there, I find myself obsessing about it less.  

It takes too much energy to round off my corners so that I fit in ... and why do I want to anyway, when my family loves me as I am -- sharp corners and all!