What’s Normal?

To break a cardinal rule in writing, I will answer the question posed in the title right now…I don’t know.

Sorry. If you came here for the answer to that question…er…you probably will still want to know after reading…

I haven’t been normal. Ever.

Growing up in a Duke, Oklahoma where high school basketball is a second religion, I was an anomaly. Of course, I practiced in the gym, I had a uniform and traveled with the team. All really cool, because admission was free. I was THAT player the coach sent in with seconds left in the game.

You know, at the point where I couldn’t screw up too badly and lose the game on accident for us. Our team was usually pretty good, so we would be paired with the team with the poorest rating in tournaments. My BIG opportunity to showcase my lack of athletic talent came in those few games.

As I grew older, I began to appreciate suiting up but not playing in games.

1. I didn’t sweat

2. I didn’t screw up the game for anyone and

3. I got in free to the games.

What’s not to like…er…if you really don’t care that much about basketball? Free ride to every game, pay no admission all for the small price of warming the bench during the games and looking interested and enthusiastic.

The 80s was about big hair. Big hair meant lots of blow drying, hot rollers and curling irons and Rave hairspray after games.

If you played an entire game. I didn’t. Ever. So I could be ready to go socialize during the boys’ game in a few minutes. Probably more on that another day.

Anyway, books and reading had always been my thing. We had a pretty spare library at school, elementary library consisted of several book carts in the hallway. High school was a small room within one of the classrooms.

But, every 2 weeks or so, the bookmobile came to town. If you aren’t familiar with a bookmobile, it is like a mobile home that is gutted and filled with shelves of books. The librarians in our system tried to keep a variety of new releases on board and to change out books sometimes for all of us out in the outskirts of our library system.

In the summer, I would walk downtown, enter the bookmobile through a door near the back and check out a stack of books. Upon making my decisions, I checked them out with the librarian near the driver at the front of the bus. As I filled out my name on each card, I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading. I had two weeks and it was rare for me to have a book unfinished in that time. Did I mentioned I love reading?

The bookmobile also had a section of vinyl LPs that were the “audible” books of the period. Oh. I had a sweet little denim-print mono record player! I could LISTEN to books too!

Books were cool and all, but those LPs…so technologically FORWARD to listen to my book on a vinyl record, especially one I had read over and over…From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Mom was not excited about LPs. She knew the dangers of using someone else’s LP. Books were pretty durable, but if you scratched a record in those days, it was toast and she knew that. But she gave in once.

The day I checked it out was heaven…I would be checking out many more, I was sure. I had 2 glorious weeks to listen to my LP on my little denim record player. Sigh.

To this day, I would swear on a Bible that I returned that LP when the bookmobile came back two weeks later, but the library has the final ban hammer. No more books until I paid for that record. I was CRUSHED. No records and even WORSE…no books.

I didn’t have a discretionary spending fund at the time and mom paid the fee and I was told never to bring home an LP again.

Now you think that the story would include that I did chores, etc., to pay Mom back for that LP. No, sorry. Instead, my mom had the “lost” record to remind me each time that I needed to keep up with my books and records that were borrowed. Guilt works pretty well on me.

The LP never turned up in the many moves I have made….so Southern Prairie Library System you owe me an apology.

f you have never read the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, you should. Even if you are adult. To be honest, I have more dreams of running away from home now than I ever did as a kid. How would I get anywhere? I lived in Duke, Oklahoma. The closest city is 14 miles away. My great-uncle was the school principal. My great-aunt was THAT neighbor who watched everyone in the neighborhood out her kitchen window. I wasn’t sneaking anywhere back then.

Mixed Up Files is two children who run away from home and they literally live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for a surprising amount of time. They hide in bathroom stalls, keeping their feet up, at closing to keep from being detected by the museum security. Claudia, a pragmatic being, brings her younger brother along solely because he has more money saved than she does. There’s more to the story, of course, but I became obsessed with being able to run away and live in the MMoA…how cool is that?

Ok, I never ran away. The guilt would have killed me, to be honest. My parents had a pretty easy gig when I was younger; I was easily shamed. If I misbehaved, “What would your grandmother think?” was sufficient to get me on the trail of righteousness once again.

Back to the term normal. I wasn’t. I spent tons of time inside my own head. While other kids were playing hoops in their driveways, I was either in my bedroom reading or every once in a while, I would go outside somewhere and read.

Not sure what age I was, but when someone gave my mother some Harlequin Romance novels…a lot of them…I finally had reading material for days and didn’t need to return them in 2 weeks. I read most of them more than once. They were filler when I couldn’t check out a book in a library. Harlequins may also be responsible for my unrealistic expectations for love. More on that another time.

“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”
E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

When junior high rolled around and we had that special unit on the MENSTRUAL CYCLE, I was stoked because we got several pamphlets(reading material!) , probably provided by a corporate sponsor. The pamphlets also gave helpful skin care, hair care and makeup guidance for that young lady new to pubescence.

My dad wasn’t a fan of makeup and, well, rules are rules, so I settled on IMPROVING my skin care and hair care. The pamphlet made the very helpful suggestion of having small, travel-sized squirt bottles of things like water to tame hair when it became mussed.

So I filled a bottle of water. For good measure, I filled a bottle of baby oil, probably one of the only other beauty product available to me as a pre-teen. I would use it to moisturize my skin! Yes!

I didn’t label the bottles. Unfortunately for my hair. So while taming my hair for school one morning in that fog reserved for non-morning people, I accidentally used baby oil on my bangs. In shortening my morning routine, I had not reserved time to fix any mistake I might make…

Did you know that baby oil and water look very similar on hair until water dries?

I do now. I was the laughingstock of my first hour class because my bangs look like I had worked over a deep fryer all night with no hairnet. I am pretty sure no one from the Duke School Class of 1984 will forget when Cheryl decided to organize her beauty supplies and how a drowsy mishap gave me greasy hair instead of the beautiful, well-managed coif that I was envisioning…

Back to What’s Normal…I am not. These days, I am much more comfortable not appearing normal. I know too much. I have an excellent hair stylist who is a genius with people who go rogue with hair products and personal scissors…I don’t hate basketball, but I don’t play it either. My Kindle is my partner for life…easy on the eyes and books instantly…I would have never dreamed…

Yes, I still read books. Not one bit athletic… But I have sworn off baby oil for life.

If you have suggestions, comments, and even praise, please check out the Comment section on oppositeofserene.blog OR my homepage for my blog on Face Book!


Am I a Racist?

As the saying goes…if you have to ask…

Well, that may not always be the best barometer. Humans adapt easily to certain things and if something is unpleasant and they don’t want to discuss it…there are no hoops they won’t jump through to avoid a real conversation.

Be honest.

Look, we all live in this world and we hear and see things and don’t always register them as insulting, unkind or prejudice. Been there, done that.

I would LOVE to think I am the model ally and that I am aware of all of the pitfalls of trying to help POC have a platform. But, I am not. Every once in a while something creeps into my conscious and escapes through my mouth or through my expression and I may not catch it…but if I do, I feel horrible. So guilty. But here’s the thing…

It’s not necessarily about feeling guilty. It’s about admitting that people are not immune. Instead of saying, yes, this is a huge problem, tell me more…people get their hackles up and declare that they don’t see color(false), that they have relatives that are black(so?) and that racism was over long ago and they have no responsibility for what people did in the past(false). Not one of these will give you immunity.

Once people can admit that, yes, there are things in their present day lives that have probably been denied to someone because of skin color, then we can hold conversations and stop wasting our time with the clichés and non sequiturs.

We ALL need advice. We ALL say or do racist things. Just because no one called you out doesn’t mean it wasn’t racism or a prejudice of some kind.

I am a shy person by nature. 10 yrs ago, I wouldn’t have said a thing. However, knowledge has given me confidence and I don’t mind being the conscience. We need to do right by a LOT of people and why not start immediately? Who cares if *finger quotes* “slavery” happened years ago? In many senses it still exists. Education about our prison system. The school to jail pipeline. The very low expectations we have for women of color. All are products of a racist system.

The patriarchy serves white men(broadly speaking) so well, they will be the last to admit there is still a problem. It benefits them to play dumb…which they aren’t. We all know enough history to sense an issue that is festering. I can guarantee if you start being an ally for POC(people of color) that white men will be your hardest sell. Why? because they have the most to lose. I will talk about the women who love these men in another entry. Lots to say…

This is why some get pissy when you(if you are a woman) tell them you are not interested in a relationship, you don’t need their assistance, don’t want to hear them mansplain, etc. White men are accustomed to the power they wield and will go down fighting, sometimes to rash and horrible extremes. They take it all personally.

And as we learned in Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird, even the trashiest, thieving, incestual white man has more standing in a community than a poor, hardworking black family man. True in Alabama during the Depression…and still true today.

Long ago, I found a message board of women. While it consumed way more of my time than is an acceptable amount, I learned things there. So many things…

I am just a girl from a small Oklahoma town, but I was able to ask questions of women from around the world. Sometimes, as conversations do, it got downright bloody. Not everyone was American, Christian, a rural dweller, white, heterosexual or female, to be fair. We didn’t all agree ALWAYS. The one thing we all agreed upon was the Golden Rule. No matter our religion, spirituality or lack thereof. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing.

To circle around, I learned so much about culture there. I had no idea how sexualized young Latina and black girls are. From strangers on the street to their family, they were ogled. Endured catcalls as preteens. From EVERY race of man…some of these women had this experience from the time they were pre-pubescent.

One of the biggest takeaways of my online group is that the USA is not the center of the universe. As a whole, we are NOT as educated as well. We have a horrible health care system. We have no paid maternity leave. Canada gets a year…yes, a year. That’s while receiving a very high percentage of their pay. Additionally, they get another 6 months without pay if they want. And then step right back into the job they had before maternity leave. Basically, women are thrown to the wolves here compared to other industrialized countries…which is yet ANOTHER topic for another day.

One thing that was NOT tolerated on the website was…racism. It was mostly member-moderated, so it got addressed immediately.

And being a wife of a police officer, I was horrified to discover the lack of trust for law enforcement. It made me uncomfortable and I did what every wife does and tried to justify that my husband was “different.” That he wasn’t the officers they hated. But, turns out, they would have lumped him into the “bad apples” because they were unconvinced there were good police.

They were unconvinced because most of them had been dealing with racial inequality since the crib. Not for anything they personally had done. It was I who was the outlier, not them. It was definitely a hard pill to swallow and it caused me lots of hurt feelings, and sharp words said to me but in hindsight, it did me a favor.

I am a racist. I always have been. Ouch, that hurts. I probably will never NOT be to some degree. I could ignore it, deny it, live my best white life and continue insisting that not ALL white people are bad. Too bad it’s not convincing unless we do our best to change things for the better.

But, no, I will grow and learn and support where I can and be that person whose smile, cheer, kind words might be the only kind thing that happens. I will NEVER be perfect, but always learning.

The first post:

Hi,

My first post for my blog is actually something I wrote on Facebook.

It was one of the last large posts I will post, because on Facebook…it feels like shouting into the abyss…No one reads what you write.

Honestly, maybe nerds like me will read long posts…but most of the traffic will scroll on by.

With a blog, I hope to attract people who WILL read my entire posts. Agree? Disagree? Cool! Let’s talk! You won’t find obligatory memes here to replace conversation.

I may change my mind a thousand times.

First up: Something that makes me “the opposite of serene” is DISTRACTION.

Let’s face it, we live from one news cycle to the next. BUT-our job is to juggle all of the “firehose of falsehoods,” the righteous indignation of the companies changing the names of products, “How can he be innocent if he has a record.”

Bleh. Here’s my post from very recently.

Distraction. Every single time we have something as asinine as the George Floyd murder, for a day or two people want to know what he did to deserve it.

Oh, there’s video.

Yeah, that looks pretty bad.

Yep take those officers off the street.

Protests that turn into looting.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Damn looters now they don’t deserve anything bc they are just animals.

Well George had a criminal history.

What about cops that aren’t like Derek Chauvin? He was just a bad apple.

Other incidences of police brutality occur. Then come the memes om absolute favor of police. Please light a candle.

NO ONE has said their job isnt hard, but they can take some constructive criticism.

Tshirts.

Response tshirts. More distraction.

People whining that bc statues don’t stand in public squares that we will forget our racist past. Racist victims knowing that is very unlikely.

We have books. Video tape. Eyewitnesses. Victims.

Then we get to the absurd. Fighting over damn cartoons. Who really gives a single shit about cartoon characters having guns?

Oh, yes, then we can forget about the officer who held his KNEE in George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he was handcuffed on his stomach in the street. Executed, no less.

But distract, distract distract.

White people are uncomfortable right now and don’t WANT to revisit our racist past on anyone else’s terms.

Because it is unsightly. Some argue it was necessary…They were just animals…we have to keep them in LINE, I hear…maybe in so many words…

We want to distract by posting constantly about things that have absolutely nothing to do with a man who died begging for his momma at the hands of a white man who was an authority figure who could have made a different decision and George Floyd would still be alive.


My blog will approach and digest both the comfortable and the uncomfortable things like reviews of good books, spirituality, family dynamics, racism, police brutality, mental illness, disabilities, feminism, politics, education, parenthood, grandparenthood… whatever is on my mind.
It will at times be serious, angry, sarcastic, funny, heartwarming, uplifting and blunt, honest and from my heart and soul.

I can promise my posts will get better. I have lots to say about…everything.

Ok, I will let you contact me if you wish. I have always been a little pissy about constructive criticism myself(haha, touche) so be gentle and firm!