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Hijab Day

http://worldhijabday.com/sex-symbol-used/

Suweiba-Amzah-Ghana-150x150

Today is Saturday, February 1st, 2014.  I spent my morning taking my daughter to her gymnastics class, then her ballet class then we went to lunch.  We then had to go to the pet store to get the cats some food and the last stop was at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  We started at 8Am and got home at 1PM.  It was a pretty normal day with the exception that I wore a Hijab.

See this today is worldwide Hijab day.  I decided to participate because I wanted the experience.  I wanted to be able to show support with the wonderful and amazing Muslim women I have met over the years.  I wanted to bring my daughter a little closer to understanding and respecting another culture and religion in hopes of teaching her acceptance.

I started to prepare for today by doing a little research.  I first looked up the meaning of the Hijab.  How I understood the meaning (this is my own interpretation) is that a woman’s hair is like her ornament.  To stay modest, it makes sense to cover it up along with the neck, chest and shoulders.  If you look at our media in the Western world there is a lot of emphasis put on hair.  Long, short, straight, curly, thick, thin and any color you want it is out there.  If you are not happy with your hair being curly there is a product to make it straight, if you have straight hair and hate, well, you can make it curly.  If you have blond hair and want it black, there is dye for that, and on and on it goes.  Take a minute and think about all of that.  Kind of intense if you ask me.

In this western world where tits and ass are thrown in your face at every turn, I find the Hijab to be a rather welcomed change of modesty.  I found myself humbled by wearing it.  The day my daughter was born everyone commented on her hair.  To this day, I cannot go anywhere with her where someone doesn’t say something about how beautiful or thick her hair is.  It is flattering yet a bit unnerving.

I must admit I have my own issues with hair.  I had hair just like my daughters; long, thick, big curls and beautiful.  My mother loved my hair and took wonderful care of it.  However my father was not a fan.  Anytime he had to brush it he didn’t work out the snarls like my mom would.  Instead, he would pull it, thinking it would just go through without issue and I would scream in pain.  So around my first birthday while up north on vacation with my god parents family, he had my god mother shave my head on the longest setting possible.  My hair was then tied to the young tress on the property we owned up north to keep the deer away.  I remember my mother running off in tears.  For me, I could cared less.  I was a tom boy so as long as it was out of my face it was all good.  This probably explains why it took me 4 ½ years to finally get my daughters hair cut for the first time.

As I continued to do some research I came across a lot of negative commentary on the Hijab.  This disturbed me cause I felt that the comments about the Muslim religion being misogynistic and demeaning towards women.  I found this so disheartening because that is not how I understand the religion to be.  Let’s face it, all religion can easily be argued to be sexist and misogynistic but the fact that there was so much focused on the Muslim religion and the Hijab just enforces more false, negative , fear.  I am a feminist by all means, but what I read, by author who claimed to be feminists missed the true meaning and beauty behind the Muslim religion and the Hijab.  It’s not all perfect but nothing ever is.  As a feminist we must trust out fellow women to make choices that they are comfortable and confident with, without being judged.  Isn’t that what being a feminist really is all about?  Women making their own choices and not being told what to do?

I do not wear makeup unless it’s a special occasion and my hair has always been a way for me to hide.  That doesn’t happen when you wear a Hijab.  For me, I felt very vulnerable in the Hijab.  This isn’t a bad thing; it is just different.  I will say that initially there was some hesitation.  People who I have seen before, what will they think of me wearing this today?  There  has been some light shed upon a possible white supremist living in my neighborhood and this made me uneasy as well.  On top of that, Islam and anyone who looks like they practice it is always looked at more closely due to this countries Islamophobia.  But honestly, to wear the Hijab WAS freeing.  It was liberating.  It was beautiful.

My daughter was not a fan but what I liked is that she say her mom doing something to help her have a better understanding of those who are different than her.  She saw her mom continuing to learn compassion and empathy.  She asked me why I was wearing it and I tried to explain this all in a way a 4 ½ year old could understand.  She smiled and was like “Whatever.”  At the end of the day, she looked at me and said she didn’t really like me in it.  I said I understand cause it is not what you are used to seeing.  She agreed, gave me a kiss and went on like it was nothing.  My hope is that this continues to happen.  She sees things maybe a bit out of the ordinary from what she is used to and doesn’t think much of it and moves on.  As she gets older, I hope it sparks interest to learn more and ask questions and continue to be respectful.  I am grateful for today and this experience.

I graduated college…..and guess what?!?!?!?

I graduated college…..and guess what?!?!?!?.

I graduated college…..and guess what?!?!?!?

……I am on public assistance.

I get a bit sick and tired about hearing how people who receive any type of public assistance are lazy or druggies or are a huge burden to hard working Americans who have to pay all this money to support them. When did this self centered “me, me, me” attitude become so prevalent?

Ever since I was 16 years old I always had a job. Never once did I have to file for unemployment. For about 15 years I spent a lot of it in the banking world. For the past 10 years I have been working for one of the biggest banks in the country as a loan underwriter. I have always been loyal. I specialized in home equity loans for most of my time there. When I first started, it was at the height of the lending frenzy. I could underwrite a loan in under ten minutes. Sometimes a loan I underwrote in the morning was in closing by the late afternoon the same day. It was a crazy time. There were basic credit worthiness things we had to look out for, however for the most part, anyone and everyone was getting approved for a secured loan in those days. On top of it, we were encouraged to upsell to the maximum amount. The little 85 year old lady who has owned her home for 60 years free and clear, and was only looking to borrower 10K to pay for a new roof and water heater, we were told we should be upselling them to a line of credit for 100K. If you didn’t get the upsell you were pretty much shit.

I had horrible guilt about doing this. Needless to say sales was not my thing. I tried a few other positions in the bank throughout my time there. When shit hit the fan, I was lucky to dodge a bullet and my job was saved while well over 100 of my co-workers lost their job. Several very close friends. I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter at that time. My husband was not so lucky with his banking job and he lost his.

As mortgage rates lowered, underwriting for home equity loans became really tough. Not many were being approved cause of strict guidelines. On the mortgage side of things, it was the complete opposite. This is common in this line of business. Things on the mortgage side were getting so intense, it was decided that they were going to open a mortgage underwriting department at the location I worked at.  I just so happened was on the team chosen as the pilot group to see how it all worked out. So I spent a lot of time in training. I spent a lot of time stressed but still committed to my employer. After more than ten years of service, rolling with the punches, pushing myself to do better, learn more and be a great mortgage underwriter, I was laid off.

My husband was still not working. His layoff happened just prior to our daughter being born so it wasn’t so bad. He got to stay at home all while I was on maternity leave. We navigated being new parents together. After I went back, he stayed home with her. He looked for jobs but there was nothing coming in. No call backs or interviews. We looked at the situation that maybe it was for the best. If he did get a job, he would essentially be working to just pay for the day care. Just as his unemployment was running out, our daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We decided that it was now even better for him to stay home so he could take her to appointments and school and work with her one on one.

We were able to have a decent perspective on my layoff as well. When our daughter was just a year I decided to go back to college. I was making decent money, enough to support the family with the exception of medical expenses. My insurance did not cover any ASD therapy other than going to a shrink. This was great, but what good is going to a shrink when you have non verbal 2 1/2 year old? My decision to go back to college was because I truly felt my soul was being tainted and sold to the devil. I was told that I had too much compassion. Once I knew that my employer did not truly want their employees looking out for the best interest of their customers, that it was all a smoke screen,  I knew that me and my compassion needed to find something more rewarding.

I am proud to say that on December 21st, 2013 I graduated with honors from Alverno College with my BA in Community Leadership and Development. At the age of 35 I finally became the last of my parents three daughters to graduate. A middle child, but the last one to walk across the stage. A few days before I graduated, my father had said that being someone who never graduated high school, (he did get his GED in the military) it was very special to him to know that his last daughter was graduating. He said it hit him in a very special place in his heart. Being laid off on November 10, 2013 did not seem so bad since I knew I was graduating. I would have liked to been able to leave on my own terms but, in a way, I saw this was the stars aligning too tell me its time to move on.

I worked 40 hours a week all while taking 12-17 credits a semester for three and a half years. I was the sole income provider for my family. My husband, who to this day, has still not found work, decided to get into a carpenters apprenticeship. He has been going to tutoring for math so he can take the test and pass for the past six months. I have been looking for jobs since I first got my layoff notice. I have sought help from my school’s career services to help with my resume and to come up with strategies to help me find and land the job of my dreams. I paid my rent 8 months in advance with my severance but yet we still struggle.  That is when I decided to apply for some assistance.

We have gone without health insurance for 6 weeks. By the grace of  god, none of us got ill or in an accident or anything that would have screwed us financially for the rest of our lives. Today, I found out as a family, we will be getting insurance coverage through our state and SNAP funds to help put food on the table. This has taken so much stress and worry off my shoulders and has started to improve my mental health – s0mething I have suffered from for many years.

I dare anyone to call me lazy. I challenge anyone to say to my face that I am not doing enough or I need to piss into a cup to prove I am “clean” and deserve this assistance. I encourage anyone to tell me that their hard earned taxes are paying for my lazy ass, when in fact, they contribute six to seven times more to helping pay for all the tax breaks for multi-million dollar companies and millionaires than to social welfare programs. I challenge anyone to walk in my shoes. To have three agencies say my daughter is ASD but to have some ancient,t old state doctor tell me no, after she got help for 6 months and progressed at lightening fast speeds, from non verbal to a talkative 3 year old and be denied her disability.

Totally a topic for another blog post some day, but I dropped by catholic upbringing well over 15 years ago because of the hypocrisy I saw being taught. Now, to see the same book, the bible, being used to defend a government, one founded on separation of church and state mind you, to restrict a women’s right to choose, to decide who can and can not legally be married, to mandate prayer in public schools or erect religious monuments in government buildings but not be used to defend the funding of social programs to help those less fortunate is hypocrisy at its finest. Its racism at its finest. It is demoralizing and dehumanizing.

Now I do not claim to be an expert on the bible but 9 years in a catholic school does stick with you. When Christians claim they are being religiously persecuted because people oppose such laws as mentioned above, or they claim that we are a Christian country and we need to “get over it”, I ask them, where is their Christian faith to help defend the poor and less fortunate?  Bible versus are regurgitated to defend homophobia, racism, slavery, etc. yet there are passages ignored that specifically state to help those who are down on their luck.  So the next time you want to tell me why we shouldn’t be helping to fund social safety net programs because of what ever excuse you want to give, I ask you to take a look at these bible versus and truly ask yourself why it is OK to use the Bible to defend certain laws but not defend funding for certain programs.  Is that really what god or Jesus would have wanted?  If you can’t answer this or spew off excuses you feel are justified, then at the very least, look in the mirror and call yourself out as the hypocrite that you are and quickly find your way to the nearest confessional.

Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Matthew 10:5 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Luke 3:10-11 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

Luke 12:33-34 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

1 John 4:19-20 We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others

The holidays and what it does for my mental health

So we enter the time of year I just hate. I mean dread is better. I think I would hate December if it weren’t for all the exciting happenings of the holidays that happen. The distractions of the music, the bright colored lights, the planning, the shopping, the cooking, the baking and the excitement in my daughters eyes as she, in all her innocence, anticipates experiencing every day with awe. It is exciting for me too. To hear her talk so much this year about Santa. She didn’t really get the concept last year and she has come so far verbally that the inflections of excitement in her voice are just so contagious. I get brought back to my own childhood and the memories I had of this special time.

However, I also get reminded about how conscience I was, even at a young age, that this all signified a passing of another year. It meant that some of my most favorite times with my friends and family were only memories now. It meant I was another year older, another year closer to having to become a responsible adult and another year of innocence lost. Yup I was a gloomy kid, at 6 and 7 years old thinking about this. It never left me either. Here I am almost 30 years later doing the exact same thing. It makes this time of year so hard for me.

I do not know if I am finding it harder or easier with each passing year. My heart says it is harder. Last year it was kind of a transitional period. You see my mom and her sisters always hosted Christmas. Each year it alternated between their homes Last year both my aunts had become snowbirds and moved down south. Last year Christmas was by my Aunts house and things were so bear as she moved things out. So this year I volunteered to have Christmas at my place. I loved having it but it also signified a change. My aunts and mom have said for many years now how us kids would need to take over the holiday hosting since they were getting old. This time finally came I suppose.

As I stepped into the role of hosting the holiday family gathering I remembered when it changed over from my grandparents to their kids. I remember my grandparents house on Lancaster. I remember the dining room where we would all gather for the holiday meal. We would all sit around the table (I have that same table now in my house) and eat as a family. I remember siting in the living room playing with the wooden b locks or the tinker toys or Lincoln logs my grandfather kept for us. They were so nice made out of real wood. They lasted forever and we made some interesting things from it all. It kept us entertained and out of the adults hair so they served their purpose.

When they moved from that house out to the suburbs I remember the celebrations there too. It seemed to alternate from there and my uncles house since it was bigger. I remember seeing my older cousins and sister hanging out and wishing I could be grown like them. There were no cousins really my age so I went back and forth between the older ones and the younger ones that were my younger sisters age. I did more observing than anything else.

I also did a lot of reflecting. I remember the rides home where I just sat there and thought about how sad it was for all excitement of the time to end. Once home I would stay up in my bed or in the living room, siting with just the Christmas tree lights on looking out at the dark night. A lot of times I would cry about the passing of another holiday. A time when the world and the family seemed at peace. There was no real arguing going on. I didn’t seem parents worry about bills or anything. My dad being laid off didn’t seem to matter. Everyone just seemed happy. It was like we entered a different realm from Thanksgiving to Christmas. At a young age I realized it was only temporary but I sure wised like hell it wasn’t.

The holiday celebrations at my grandparents house stopped when my grandmother died. That is really when it switched over to alternating between my parents house and my one aunts house. I guess that is why this year, right now, as I do my usual reflecting afterwards I am having such a hard time. It switched. It is now in the hands of us kids. I am ok with the added responsibility but it seems like the ending of something. The ending of traditions and the way we celebrated the holidays. It means my parents and my aunts are getting older and that scares me.

It doesn’t help that both my mother’s birthday is 8 days before Christmas and my fathers 9 days afterwards. So not only does Christmas represent the passing of time for me but it literally means my parents are a year older. I have the hardest time dealing with them getting older. I mean my mind can not help but think how much longer before one of them passes and things change again? I know we do not know how much time we have with one another and to value each moment together like it is our last but I find that as a rather gloom and doom way to live life as well.

I think about how much they have been there for me and my family. I think about how much support they have given me. I think about how much they frustrate me (as I am sure I have done for them as well) and how much I value them. They make me who I am today. They have stood by me through every health issue, surgery, broken bone, mistake, happy and sad time and major milestones in my life. I think I just want to freeze time. I love right now. I love living in the right now. I think I fear the tomorrows.

Ummmm was this supposed to be funny?!?!?!

I came across the above post in my Facebook feed this past father’s day:

My first reaction was to post a response about it being racist. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the importance of language and their hidden meanings. This is something I was not really aware of several years ago in all honesty.
I started to really think about the ways in which this particular word is used and I wanted to get the input from others. I decided to repost this image on my own Facebook page and pose a question to all of those who I am friends with what they thought of the picture. As a waiting on responses I decided to write down some of my own personal reflections.
For the longest time I viewed the word ghetto not as a noun but as an adjective. Don’t get me wrong, I was fully aware that ghetto was an actual place but I feel as if it has more common use as the adjective. As a noun, I related to this word as a place where Hitler centralized the Jews during Nazis Germany and world war two. I also knew it as a place usually found in the heart of urban areas where life for those who lived there was often times a struggle and dangerous. Bit for me, I heard this word more and more often to describe pole, how they act, what they wear, what they own, the car they drive, the way their house is decorated, how they speak, etc. I used this adjective as a way to describe anyone of any race and never thought anything wrong of it. Until I went back to college to finish what I started many moons ago.
I decided to go to doctionary.com and look up the word ghetto. I was surprised to see a definition for both a noun and an adjective. For the noun we have the following four definitions;
– A section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.
– (Formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live.
– A section predominantly inhabited by Jews.
– Any mode of living, working, etc., that results from stereotyping or biased treatment: job ghettos for women; ghettos for the elderly.

Now for the definition of the word ghetto when used as an adjective:
– Pertaining to or characteristic of life in a ghetto or the people who live there: ghetto culture.
– Often Disparaging and Offensive. noting something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior: Her furniture is so ghetto!
This one little e-card post has gotten made my brain go into overdrive. As I write this, the jury is deliberating in the Zimmerman trial. A young African American boy, just 17 years old lost his life to a neighborhood vigilante. This vigilante had an unassuming last name; Zimmerman, yet he is a man who shares something with the young Travon and that is that he too, is a minority. The difference as that being half of Latin decent and half white, with lighter skin and a European last name.
As people discuss this extremely sad and tragic event, the topic of race has become very important. I have read a few articles on the internet and I also have read a lot of commentary from individuals who use their first amendment right to voice their opinion. I realize that when it comes to the internet there is a certain amount of trolling that happens just to get individuals fired up. I also realize that there are even more people who hide behind the anniminoty of the internet to speak truly what is on their mind. This is what strikes fear into me.
The fear comes from realizing that my ideas of race relations has been shattered into a million pieces. I thought we were further along as a country when it came to equality when it comes to minorities, but we aren’t. Sure there are things in place that try to even the playing field for all but there are even bigger things in place that keep things status quo with whites males on top and all others below them. It is true that places can’t discriminate or segregate but that doesn’t mean that there are ways in which we are all predisposition to think and act. What I have realized is that no matter your race, your gender, your sexuality or your geographical location, when we are born we do not see color. We do not see material things. We do not yet understand these complex ideas nor are we acting them out. What new, young eyes see is an individual. One who might feed them when they cry out in hunger or hold them when they are scared.
As we grow we take in the actions and the comments around us. We might not realize it in the moment, we can look back at our younger years and see exactly how physical location of where we live, where we go to school and where we play do in fact have an impact on how we view other people regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexuality. This is why we might take certain vocabulary and use it in a way in which we think is rather innocent and not realize how it might negatively affect another person because it is what is considered normal. This is what I think is key.
I will take this key to open up a new door next time. My brain and ideas need to try and sleep.

A Reflection, about me, about my education, about community, about race

      Growing up I never had a real idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  In first grade I wanted to be a scientist, a few years later it was a teacher.  A few more years later it was an artist, later on a photo journalist.  Since I never had a real idea I took the first semester off after high school before I started college.  I did two years on a path to becoming a high school art teacher.  I had wanted to teach in the public school system but realized that things economically were not looking to be that great.  The public school system in Milwaukee was always facing budget constraints and the first things to always get cut from the budget was the arts.  I didn’t feel that my future was that secure if I continued on this path so I stopped going to school all together.

            For the next twelve years I worked at two different jobs.  One was as an office assistant at a local private college.  My goal was to work there for a year so I could go to school free.  I only lasted a year at hat job.  I then went to work at a bank where I became an underwriter for home loans.  I am currently still employed at the same bank and I have seen the industry go from one end of the pendulum to the other.  I have read about many people who have lost everything in the financial collapse of 2008 and I think about the policies that my employer had in place and how they contributed to this fiasco.  I remember the numerous times that management ignored the employees concerns about lending the amount of money we were lending out to individuals on fixed incomes or selling products we knew would be difficult for customers to afford later on.  I wasn’t joking when I said to my family that it felt like my soul was turning black at times.

Eventually I moved into a department where I could see a little bit better what type of positive impact I was having on some individuals.  This might have been just being someone to talk too for the eighty-five year old gentleman who just lost his wife or the young family who was trying to consolidate their debt into something easier or the middle aged couple trying to pay for their child’s college education.  There was some value in what I did and I hung on to that as a way to make myself feel better about what my company was really pushing; more profits by whatever means necessary.  The profits were seen by only those who were high enough in the ivory towers and who did not have a direct connection to the people who were putting themselves at the mercy of the bank.

In 2008 I became pregnant with our first child.  Half way through my pregnancy is when my husband found out he would be laid off.  He worked at another bank for ten years.  A week after he got his notice, my bank announced 150 layoffs.  I dodged a bullet but I had close friends who didn’t.  as I continued to work I saw the banks policies turn a 180 degrees.  The policies had become so strict that it was extremely rare to even approve one loan a day.  I was now in a position where I was telling people no to their dreams.  The one thing that made me happy in my job was gone.

I had one loan application for a person who had lived in Louisiana and survived Hurricane Katrina.  He was once a successful owner of a seafood restaurant.  The hurricane had destroyed his restaurant and his home.  He had to rebuild from the ground up.  His application came to me three years after Katrina and he was still living in his FEMA trailer in the front of his house.  He wanted a loan so he could buy furnishings and appliances for his home.  All the insurance money was gone from having to rebuild his home and he just needed about twenty five thousand dollars to furnish his home so he could move in.  This man told me many stories about what he had to endure.  It made me so sad but I did everything I could to get the deal approved.  When it was, he was so thankful and he cried to me on the phone.  I thought I really did help make a difference.  I found out that later on down the process his application was declined.  He could not pass the income verification and no one was willing to make an exception for this man.  I was devastated.

I ended up going to the highest level of management at my location pleading this man’s case.  I was given answers that were very by the book.  I understood them but I just thought that maybe there was something more that could be done.  After my conversation with the manager he said to me that I was a good underwriter but that sometimes my compassion gets in the way of making good underwriting decisions.  I walked out of his office and immediately knew this was no longer the place for me and started to investigate new careers in which compassion was something that was not only respected but required.

When I came across the Community Leadership and Development degree at Alverno I truly felt I had found what I was looking for.  I made in inquiry that same day.  Within a few hours I heard back from an admission counselor.  I scheduled an appointment to meet with them in two days on a Saturday.  When I left, I went right home and requested my transcripts from my previous college, applied for Alverno and financial Aid. My husband still had not found a job and we had a nine month old daughter at home but I needed to make a change.

I didn’t truly understand how Alverno worked at first.  They did not have grades, there were these eight abilities and you had to do self-assessments.  All of this was very foreign to me but what was amazing was that I immediately felt like I fit in and I knew I was in the right place.  I found myself much happier at home and at work.  I now saw a light at the end of the tunnel for my current job situation.  What I never fully expected was how much more my life would actually change.

In my second year I had taken a class that had to do with Jim Crow and Black Lives.  I did not have to take this class as I had transfer credits to satisfy it but I really wanted to take it so I was able to apply the credit towards an elective.  I am so glad I did because this class changed my life.

Two of the eight abilities at Alverno are developing a global perspective and valuing.  This class expanded this area of my studies a great deal.  I realized that I was a bit naive when it came to the relationships between African Americans and Caucasian people.  Even though I knew things we not the best as far as African Americans being treated equally; I did think that things came far enough since the civil rights movement that things could only get better with each new generation.  This class made me realize that it simply does not work that way.

This class made me really take a look at myself and my values.  I found myself becoming more aware of my thoughts and I was made to analyze why I thought a certain way.  For example, I was on the city bus and it was crowded because the previous bus had broken down.  This route had double the amount of people on it then normal.  With each stop I was pushed further and further back.  I was all the way to the back of the bus when this young man got up and gave me his seat.  It was a gesture that took really stood out to me.  When I relayed this I made it a point to mention that he was a young black man.  Afterwards I found myself analyzing why I felt the need to mention this man’s race.  It was as if it’s a rarity for this to happen and everyone should be amazed that it did.

I realized that no matter how much I believe that society is less racist than it was prior to the civil rights movement the truth is that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  This class made me realize what white privilege is.  It made me aware of how often it happens and just how insulting it is to my African American counterparts.  I could see it being applied at my work and all around me and it made me upset.  I had a new perspective of how unfair our society can be too minorities.   This was made so prevalent to me when I was speaking to a friend who was black and the mother of three teenage boys.  She explained to me that every time they are out with their friends or if they are driving around she has to stress to them to be extremely careful when pulled over by police.  She is always telling them  that if they are confronted by police to keep their hands visible.  She explained the anxiety she feels when they are out because they are all at that age where things could go really south and she loses them either to gang violence, drugs, or racial profiling or they can come through it safe and sound.  I never will have this fear for my own kids.  I know I might tell them once but the truth is that is not something I would normally worry about like my friend does.  To me, this speaks volumes.

 

This class also made me very aware of the importance of words and even though they might appear harmless on the surface the reality is that they can be the tool that continues to spread prejudice.  Words like “wigger” and “ghetto” and “thug”  are meant to invoke the very stereotypes that make me find it important to mention a young man’s race when being a gentleman. It  is these deeper meanings to these types or words that many people do not realize or they choose not to acknowledge them.  It’s the wide acceptance of these words and how they are used all throughout society and by all ethnic groups that continue to out a strain on race relations and instead of finding words that we all have in common we use those that tend to put more distance between us all.

It was with this new perspective that I was gaining through this class that I was able to write a paper about the movie “Birth of a Nation” and really analyze how society still views race today.  With this new perspective I have been able to see when this happens and articulate it to others.  My hope is that I can pass that on to my daughter.  I firmly believe that in order to become a less racist society we all need to stand in our own truths and acknowledge that things like white privilege exist.  If we can do that, and make it a priority to point it out when it is happening I think everyone will be more comfortable and the relationships between all races can be better.  It was because of this class that my interest to get involved in civil rights has become a lifelong obsession and has helped dictate my career path.

I was in another class called Community Power and Change that Ii continued on my learning path about the social injustices that minorities faced.  The instructor had given a power point presentation about the incarceration statistics for African American males for drug offences compared to whites, Hispanics and other minorities and the data was frightening.  I remember seeing these statistics where there were about the same amount of blacks and whites admitting to using marijuana but the arrest rate of blacks was like four times as much as whites. These young men enter into plea bargains for whatever reason and it tarnishes their records.  It can disqualify them from financial aid to go or college or even a job.  To know that their white counter[arts are getting off scott free or law enforcement is turning a blind eye makes me furious.

I took this frustration and another ability I learned called Effective Citizenship and helped start a student organization called Project VIBE with two of my classmates and dear friends who were African American.  Vibe stands for Voting Informed Breeds Empowerment and our main goal is to help educate voters in Milwaukee and Waukesha county and engage citizens who are not normally involved in the democratic process.  The other goal of Project VIBE is help educate individuals on how to research candidates, who to contact when they have an issue or want to make their voice heard, and how to lookup voting records of elected officials.  The goal is to make individuals feel empowered and realize that their vote is their voice and just how important it is.

My degree in Community Leadership as really opened my eyes to how everything is intertwined with in the community.  Choices we make today can make a positive or negative impact not only in our immediate communities right now, but they can stretch far into other communities in the future.  Having people, groups and organizations who have a strong sense of how important community is helps keep our streets safe, our kids well educated, and our elderly well taken care of.  I have seen through the research I have done for papers I have written that without a strong sense of community people are vulnerable. When a community is vulnerable, business start to give up investing in the area, jobs are lost and good people start to move out.  Poverty starts to put its choke hold on the community.  Violence increases and the quality of the schools start to decrease.  The only way to truly overcome these crippling affects brings us right back to the community.  A strong community means people care not only for themselves but for their neighbors.  It is with this that we can continue to understand each other and our differences and celebrate them too.

 

Part 2: Navigating Insurance and Figuring How to Pay for Therapy

I was supposed to go to class after Ingrid had her assessment.  I was too overwhelmed to even think about sitting in a room with other woman and having to listen to an instructor teach.  Nothing against any of them but I was in this state of really wanting to be alone.  I was having a range of emotions flowing through me at the same time that it felt as if my own skin was crawling.

When I got home I just sat with Ingrid for a little bit.  I started at her wondering what her future would hold.  I knew that my job as a parent was to do everything; anything to give her the best opportunity in life.  I decided that for my own sanity I needed to just take a week off from the worrying and focus on my family and making sure we were all still doing what we normally do before I started to figure things out.

For that week I put the packet that I received from WEAP off to the side.  Instead, I made sure to play with Ingrid and have the two of us just experience each moment while we were in it together with no worries.  It was beautiful.  When Ingrid would get upset or do something unusual I would find myself thinking, “is this normal?  Is this what a typical two and a half year old does?  Or is this the Autism?”  I would find myself obsessing over things like this.  As if Ingrid knew, she would come up and give me a kiss or a huge hug or laugh one of her best belly laughs to snap me out of the obsession.  It felt good.  It felt right.  It felt normal.

After the week passed I decided to get working on all the paperwork and calling my insurance.  I filled everything out and returned it to its rightful office.  Next, I called my insurance company.   Made sure to call later in the day when there weren’t so many people in the office.  My immediate co-workers knew for the most part what I was going through but I was nervous that I would break down if I ran into some issues about getting my questions answered or being told news that I did not want to hear. 

I called the number on the back of the card.  I get the really annoying automated woman asking what I am calling about.  So I state my business.  This machine tells me they did not hear me so I state it again.  It goes through more questions with me and most of them I have to repeat my answers.  I am growing rather weary from this.  I finally get transferred to a live human.  I explain the reason for my call, I give them my insurance card ID number, verify both mine and my daughters date of birth and our home address.  I get told they can not help me and I get transferred to another department.

I speak to the next person.  I go through the whole thing again reason for call, my date of birth, Ingrid’s date of birth, mailing address, insurance ID number and wouldn’t you know it; I have to be transferred again.  I take a deep breath, say OK, no more questions and get transferred to another area.

Finally aftyer a few misnutes of being on hold I get my third person.  She is really sweet sounded.  I go through it all again; reason for call, date of births for Ingrid and I, our address and the insurance ID number.  The woman confirms I am in the right area.  I celebrate in my head this small victory.  I explain to her about my daughter being just diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the recommended therepy is Applied Behavioral Anylasis or ABA.  They look through my policy and state that my policy does not cover this. 

Luckily for me WEAP gave me a sheet of questions to ask.  So I start to go through them:

                Is my policy following the Wisconsin Autism mandate?

                Is in-home ABA therapy covered on my policy?

                Is this policy based in Wisconsin?

Is this a self funded policy or an administrative serviced only policy?

I am told that my policy is self funded there for they do not have to follow the Wisconsin Autism mandate and they are only required to cover what ever the federal guidelines are.  There for my policy does not cover the ABA therapy.  So I ask what they Do coverage.  I am told that they cover individual and group psychotherapy.  I explained that is of no use since my child is two and a half and non verbal.  Talk therapy is not really an option.  So I ask one last question:

Is the lack of coverage based on what my employer chooses to cover or what my insurance company offers?  I am told that the option to cover ABA therapy is left up to the employer.

Thanks for the information I say and I hang up.  I can feel the tears filling my eyes.  I wipe them away and take a deep breath.  I convince myself this woman has no clue what she is talking about and I will call back in a few days and speak to someone else.

I did this.  I got the same response. 

No my sadness was turning into anger and rage!

The Journey to the Diagnosis

I know no one ever thinks their child is anything less then perfect.  I have always felt that about my child Ingrid.  When she was born, with all that hair, and her soft skin, and feet that were the length of ski’s she was perfect. 

 As she got older, and the hair got longer, she was still perfect.  It took her a little longer to roll over and sit up but it didn’t matter.  She smiled and laughed, and cried and pooped and she was still perfect.

 She turned one and was still perfect.  She wasn’t walking yet and she just learned how to pull her self up but her chubby little legs, wobbling under her was still perfect too me. 

 Right around one and a half she really started to walk.  A late starter I suppose but she picked it up real quick.  She didn’t say anything but she remembered some signs her daddy and I would use on occasion.  We decided to use more signing with her.  She really picked that up.  She didn’t say “momma” but she said “dada” and “cat” really well.  I believe she might have been saying “puppy” too. 

 I started to notice how she would play with her hair pretties as I was brushing her hair.  She would take all the similar ones and line them up in a row.  I started to notice her doing this with some of her tows as well.  For me, it made perfect sense.  I was like that.  I have two colors of plates and when I put them away they MUST be alternate colors.  I have an obsession with odd number so in my art work or how I decorate my home things are in odd numbers.  I actually do not like symmetry but I like to find patterns and use that.  So my kid arranging things a certain way proves to me she is from my stock. 

 It was just before her second birthday that the word AUTISM was uttered.  My older sister said she had done some research and some of the behaviors that Ingrid does that I think are normal are signs of Autism.  I freaked out.  It was a month before her 2 year old check up but I called and got her in to see the doctor right away. 

The doctor didn’t think much of it but did state the delay in speaking was a concern so we were set up with speech therapy.  It was about six months later that our doctor called to have us come back in to discuss the speech therapy.  I thought things were going good.  However, the speech therapist had contacted our doctor to state that Ingrid showed moderate signs of Autism.  My heart broke.

 Next thing I knew we were setting up to have her assessed.  It would be 6 weeks before we could get her in.  I found myself analyzing everything she did.  I as researching everything I could.  Days I would think to myself that she was Autistic, other days I thought it was impossible.  I struggled with feeling inadequate as a parent.  How could I not see there was an issue sooner?  Through the school I attend I sought out help to get myself tested for learning disabilities.  I went through a month of tests and as I write this still await my results. 

 I started to think that my own mental health issues caused this in my beautiful child.  Is my child so much like me that she took on my mental health issues as well?

 The night before the assessment I just could not stop thinking about how I somehow made her predestined to this.  I sat in her room and rocked with her like I do every night but tonight I was crying.  I was crying because I did not know what to expect.  I feared not being able to give her the best therapy to give her the best chance of success in life.   

 Assessment day came and after tons of questions and hours of observations it was determined that my child was PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Delay Not Otherwise Specified).  It was explained that she had behaviors that are similar to classic autism and Aspergers but does not have enough behaviors to classify her as either one or the other.       

 I was relieved to know for sure and that there was therapy to help her.  When we left, I had a very calming, relaxed, positive outlook for her future and ours as a family.  We were given a packet of items and what our next steps were and even though the packet was overwhelming I still felt great about everything.

Failed Co-Sleeping

It seems that every time I turn on the news or go online to local news sites there is a story about the death of a baby contributed to co-sleeping.  The response for the past several years has been public service announcements and billboards trying to discourage the act all together.  Unfortunately it seems that these PSA’s are not rectifying the situation much.

Just a month or two ago Milwaukee unveiled their newest campaign against co-sleeping.  There are two different AD’s and each shows a baby sleeping with a large knife.  They are on fluffy blankets and surrounded by big fluffy pillows.  Across the top it reads, “Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous.”

At the end of 2009 there was another campaign that showed an adult bed.  There are some pillows and blankets on the bed and the head board resembles that of a tombstone.  In the tombstone it read, “For too many babies last year, this was their final resting place.” 

As I was doing some research for this post I came across another campaign that showed either a mattress or couch on the side of the road.  On it is an orange silhouette of a child.  Each one has its one separate statement.  One says, “It’s time to wake up to the dangers of sleeping with a baby here and babies who sleep here don’t always wake here.”

I understand that messages that the city wants to convey, however it appears that they are falling on deaf ears.  It seems like I am hearing more and more about the death of babies due to co-sleeping and the issue is not getting better but worse. 

I strongly feel that making co-sleeping the enemy alienates a lot of people from feeling comfortable about getting the facts on how to do so properly.  Many people from different cultures have co-slept and done so in a safe way.  When I was having issues with my daughter and getting very little sleep our family doctor stated that even thought she can not advocate for co-sleeping she said there are times when you just have to try everything that works for you.  She advised us of what not to do, (drinking, medication, etc) and took keep all pillows, fluffy blankets off the bed. 

My husband and I tried it and hated it.  We were too nervous to fall sleep.  We just dealt with things as best we could.  Co-sleeping did not work for us, but that does not mean its some horrible enemy that the city is making it out to be.

I think the better alternative, that might actually HELP save babies is that the city needs to offer literature and education on safe co-sleeping.  They can stress all they want that sleeping in a crib or bassinet is the safest place for a baby but if a person decides to co-sleep then here are the tools to do it in the safest way possible.

The city of Milwaukee needs to wake up and stop ignoring the other side of the story when it comes to co-sleeping.  They need to stop playing the fear game because this tactic has proven not to work.  Instead, the city should be teaming up with co-sleeping advocates to help come up with an alternative campaign that addresses that co-sleeping can be dangerous but can also be done safely and the best thing a person can do is educate themselves on which option is best for them and their baby.

My Thoughts on My Thoughts

I have this fear of being alone with my thoughts.  I can not seem to find a way to settle them all down and keep them quiet and in line.  It’s like my brain is a pin ball machine.  Each ball is a thought.  These thoughts are getting whipped around an obstacle course of emotions constantly hitting them at lighting speeds thus producing many complex emotions for each thought.  The problem is that I can not just play the one ball.  I can not let that one thought run is course.  Instead, the pinball game that is my brain is flooded with more and more balls.  They are constantly ricocheting off one another and the emotional obstacles.  I can not seem to make it stop.  There is no end to it.  There is no way to win.  No way to quiet all these thoughts and emotions.  No way to organize them and put them in their own spot and give each one the attention it is needed.    

Instead I fear where these thoughts and emotions in my head.  I fear where they will take me.  I try to find distractions so I do not need to focus on what is happening inside my head.  It works during the day.  At night it is a different story.  I do not sleep well.  As I lay in bed, praying for sleep, my mind drifts to the events happening in my head.  Everything is so random that I can not even express what I feel correctly.  I feel trapped.  I start to panic.  I put the TV on in hopes of distracting me and it works for a while.  I might sleep for an hour or two straight.  But it never fails, I drift into a dream or a thought and I startle myself awake.  I am scared to see where my brain will take me.  The times I have allowed myself to travel down the road I have had some unsettling dreams and thoughts.  I can not explain them away or expel them from my system.  I fear taking a sleeping aid because of what I might dream or think up.  I am afraid I might become addictive. 

My hope is writing these things down that it helps take the toxins of holding everything in out of me and make me better.  I hope that by sharing these things it might help someone else understand they are not alone.  It might help me feel like I am not alone.  It might help someone who has a loved one suffering from a mental illness understands what they are going through a little more.  I long for the thoughts in my head to flow smoothly in and out of my consciousness.  I long for the day that I understand them and confront them and no longer fear them.  I think my path to getting to that point is just opening myself up. 

Thanks for allowing me to do that!

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