Growing, Not Dying

Welcome to my insights, ponderings, and experiences. Hopefully they will enrich you in some small way, or at least make you laugh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Evaluating Racial Discriminations

Jim and I just watched "Crash." Normally we don't watch rated 'R' material. We choose to watch this time based on a recommendation and with the understanding the rating was for content addressing subject matter.

I actually don't think I had heard of "Crash" before today. It explores the topic of racial discrimination from many different angles and viewpoints by watching the lives of several differnt people in L.A. as they cross paths and touch each other. For many people it is profoundly powerful. It definately makes you stop and think...and examine yourself.

For me, it was eye opening and hurtful. I am a white female who grew up in a very white world. Race was never really addressed. I met and interacted with some people from other races, but it was never like, "This is Daniel, the black girl." In all honesty, it didn't occur to me she was black for several months. Judging someone by skin tone just never occurred to me. Now I am not so stupid or so high-and-mighty as to assume I didn't ever do it, just I was not consciously aware of it. I learned about prejudices in school, but didn't believe they still were alive today. I mean society has evolved past that, right? That's why we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, isn't it?

In recent years I have traveled out of my little world. I have met more people, most wonderful loving embracing people. I have also been introduced to those wounded and hurt from the hate and preconcieved notions of others. I learned that whites can be on the recieving end. But still, watching the movie, seeing it played out in people's hurt my heart. I ached for the world, for our country, and for the people who live these stories everyday. I felt anger that the world is this way, that it is so WRONG! Discrimination just shouldn't exist. It's not always hate. Often it is fear. What might they do to us? Hurt us? Cheat us? We just don't know. We fear the unknown.

Of course, then I must examine my own life, my own actions. What do I do to perpetuate the problem? What beliefs have I allowed to permiate me? It is not a fun place to go to. No matter how wonderful you think you are, you discover you have "stuff." For some reason I think the majority of hispanics are blue collar workers while most executives are white. I believe it is hard for a black woman to advance in a highly professional career. I feel asians have a harder time learning english than other immigrants. I have no idea if any of this is true, it is just some ideas I found in my head. I can't tell just by looking at someone what part of the world their heritage is and I don't want to learn because I fear that I may form judgements based on race. These are some of the things I found. Do they make me racist? I hope not. Until now, they simply made a part of me.

The power in seeing the truth is the ability to choose what you are going to do about it.

For me, I choose to continue on my path to learn to love.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Doing Something Right

As a parent you always wonder if you are doing a good job or if your kids are going to be in therapy complaining about you in 20 years. Well, I can't say for sure yet but last night gave me hope.

Every Friday night is Date Night in our house. The kids know it is the night Daddy and Mommy spend together. If we don't actually leave, the kids still know once bedtime comes they are to respect "our space" by staying in bed.

Last night my 5 yr old said out of he blue, "Mommy, do you remember what tonight is?" After thinking a bit I answered 'no' to which he reminded me it was Date Night. I smiled.

"Normally it is Date Night, you are right, but tonight Daddy is going to the basketball game to see Uncle Dan sing." ( My Marine brother-in-law got to sing the National Anthem before tip-off.)

At dinner my oldest, 7, informed me he had a suprise for me after dinner. As I was cleaning up the dishes he came out of his room dressed in tan slacks, blue shirt, silver tie and dress shoes. "Mom, may I please have a dance?" He had a Christmas concert playing on TV. We danced a couple songs. Then we watched a song. Then he was tired.

"Thank you, Son. That was a nice date. You were a wonderful little gentleman."

"Mom, can we not call it a date? It was just a dance-off, ok?"

Smiling, "Sure son."

Could any mother be more proud?

Monday, December 19, 2005

American view of Ireland - Part 2

One of the main objectives of our wanderings was to find "old impressive building," preferably falling apart, as Holly loves them. Our drive was littered with, "What's that?" "I don't know but it looks old and impressive. Let's stop!"

One snag we had with this plan was many of the old impressive buildings were still being used as churches and schools, thus not really open to tourists. On the up side, old stone buildings can be found in every city and town so there were plenty we could go in. Among these are lots of castles. We visited Kilkenny Castle first, which turned out to be quite fortunate. Kilkenny Castle is still being restored and updated, but quite a bit done. It is also a guided tour castle. It belonged to the Butler family who were quite politically tied for many centuries. Having no former knowledge of Irish history, this tour gave us a great foundation for the many stories and events we would learn about.

We then worked our way down to Waterford (the crystal really is amazing!), past Cork and on into the quaint town of Blarney. If you find yourself here, we highly reccommend the White House Bed and Breakfast. The room was the warmest we had. They even provided a hair dryer. The shower was well regulated for temperature, the food wonderful, and the couple who own it are extremely nice. It is also well accredited.

Blarney castle is not being restored. You wander the ruins on your own making your way up over 100 "dodgy stairs" to the famous "Blarney Stone" at the top. Here a nice, but non-dramatic man holds you whilst you lay on your back, tip upside down and kiss the aforementioned stone. Then you wander back down the castle. The grounds are quite beautiful and have a "magic" walking path laid out. There is also a large cave for exploring. Unfortunately we did ot know about this ahead of time so did not pack flashlights.

We also visted our first pub in Blarney. It was quite crowded. Everyone was talking and laughing. It was obvious most of the people at least recognized each other and flowed in and out of conversations easily. There were people of all ages as well. A sign declared children were welcome if they stayed seated with their parents. Smoking was not permitted indoors, however. One thing that struck Holly and I was the plaque on the wall commemorating the September 11th attack in the US. We were touched. Holly enjoyed a Guiness, which was drawn in the traditional 2 step process. We had hoped to catch some live music, but apparently came on the "off" night.

After Blarney we moved on to the north. We visited Dingle Peninsula, making a point to stop on Inch Beach. It was amazing. The tide was way out so we walked more than 100 yards out. You couldn't take a step without stepping on seashells. IT didn't smell like the beaches I had been to on the west coast of the US. There was still a pervassive fresh smell of the land. Sheep and catle grazed in feilds just above. It was amazing. The drive continuing around was beautiful. The updated wider roads were wel enjoyed. We were disappointed in Dingle to find the famous Murphy Brothers Ice Cream Shop closed. Still, I was able to get a wool sweater on clearance for me and a pair of wool gloves with sheep on them for Holly so it wasn't to bad. The Dingle Peninsula claims some of the oldest signs of Christianity on the island.

From here we went on towards Limmerick, stopping to spend the night in Adhere. This small town caters to tourists. Even going so far as to have thatched rook houses in town. (We did see a few thatched roof houses in the country, but only a few. Most all housing has undergone updating.) There were a few interesting sites, but the most memorable thing about this day for us was the weather. It poured, not just rained, poured. It soaked through my Land's End Squall coat. Holly became soaked to the skin literally. The heating being what it is there, our clothes didn't even completely dry sitting next to the radiator that night.

Always moving we also took in Castle Cahir, where Excalibur was filmed. This is a self-guided tour with signs in various rooms. It was pretty cool. We also went to Cashel Rock. Holly and I both were disappointed with Cashel. This is the place were St. Patrick converted the king. It is a pretty major historical site. It was abondoned a couple hundred years ago and fell into ruins. There are signs of some impressive stories here, but no guide to tell you of them and the building restoration is slow. Mostly is is a giant grave yard.

Let's see. I think that was everything in the south. We decided for Holly's sanity we would continue to avoid Dublin this trip so headed north around it to the Valley of the Boyne. This area is rich with history of the famous deciding moment in Ireland's past. However, of even greater interest to me was the far more ancient history. We went to visit Newgrange, a 5000 year old burial mound. You have to start in the visitor's center. From there you bus out to Newgrange. (Knowth was closed for the season.) The mound looks like a hill. In fact it is in a manner. The tomb is covered by 9 meters of rock and dirt with grass on top. The tomb was sealed up sometime around 4000 bc and became completely covered in time. It was rediscovered in the 1860s. It is impossible to fully describe in words how amazing this place is.

Our last night was spent in an actual hotel, only 6 weeks old! It was actually pretty warm. There was a phone in the room, which after spending a week looking for street public phones was amazing! It was a nice way to top off the week.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

American view of Ireland - Part 1

What a fun experience. My sister, Holly, and her husband planned a trip to Ireland. He ended up not being able to go so I got to fill in. :-) Due to timing I arrived in Ireland the day after Holly. She met me at the airport with all her bags. She was "done." Here's why: We flew into Dublin Airport (which is actually just north of the city.) Holly had rented a car the day before and gone into Dublin to "let a room" for the night. In Ireland you drive on the opposite side from the US. The roads are much narrower, being originally built for foot & horse traffic. Being used to their own roads, the natives drive faster than she was comfortable with. This opportunity also brought out a sense of claustriphobia in her. Add to this hitting 2 parked cars. All in all her 2 hours in Dublin were a nightmare. She was able to get out of the city and get a hotel near the airport for the night. Now she was feeling very beaten down. Obviously she needed some support.

So, I suggestted a new plan. Avoid Dublin for now. Drive around the outside of Dublin and go tour all the sites we wanted to see throughout the south of Ireland. That seemed safe enough and became our plan.

Before even leaving the airport, we got to begin to observe some of the traits of the Irish people. Holly left her purse sitting on the seat when we got up and walked away. Apparently 2 people tried to get her attention and tell her, but she didn't understand what they were talking about and choose to ignore them. We found out about 30 minutes later during a paniced search that the cleaning lady ended up taking it and giving it to the Airport Police. It took 2 people giving us directions to find the office. Both gentlemen were happy to help out. Neither made us feel bad about asking at all. When we wet into the Police Office there was a sign stating there was a 6 Euro charge for the return of lost items. Holly told the officer she had lost her purse. He responde, "Would that be this handbag here?" She was so relieved to get it back. The officer did not ask for id, verification, or the 6 euro, just sent her on her way. Leaving the airport, Holly had also lost her parking ticket. The attendant asked what time she had arrived, had her sign a paper and charged her according to her word. Very good people.

Our impression of the people in Ireland did nothing but improve throughout our trip. Overall, they come across as a rather reserved people, but very friendly when engaged in conversation. They are always happy to help out, give you information you might need and answer questions, even if you randomly stop them on the street!

The countryside was very beautiful. It really is very green, even in the middle of December. The soil is rich reds, blacks, and browns. There are rock walls everywhere with moss growing on them. There is rich vegitation everywhere and tons of sheep. Narrow country lanes connecting quaint towns, each with a pub advertising Guinness. In short, it looks just like the television shows and pictures show it.

One thing pictures can't show is just how cold it is. The wind bites and when it rained it soaked right through our coats, all the way to the skin. Thus all the sheep...for wool, it's stays warm even when it's wet. I'm from Idaho so I have experienced cold before, in fact it's 20 F at 1pm. But this was different. Even though it was 30-40 for lows-highs, you are always cold. There isn't the modern insulation and central heating we enjoy in U.S. so going indoors doesn't improve things much. Burying yourself in the warm duvet helps your body some, but leaves your nose feeling like ice as it pokes out. Showering may or may not help. Plumbing is still being brought up. Often the showers were either cold or hot, often switching back and forth during the same shower.

More to come later.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Back From the Dead?

Well, I am back from my trips. One week in Ireland followed by 4 days in L.A. It was all fantastic and left me with lots to share. However, it wasn't all fun and games. I missed my family. To me it seemed I was gone years. Then I thought of what it must have felt like to my daughters, 16 & 34 months. Poor sweet babies.

A well meaning therapist who sat next to me on the plane home felt compelled to tell me that the girls would be angry at me. Although it would have been fine if they were, so far they seem plenty happy enough....and very snuggly. :-) Yeah for me.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Modern Chivalry

We bought a new van. It has those cool power side doors with remote key fab. (Thank you whoever invented that!) So now Mem, our 2-yr old, tells her door "Open, please, door" and it opens. She smiles and giggles. She adores having her door open for her. After a few times she now responds, "Thank you door. You're the best." It is so cute.

The door got me thinking about my sons. When my oldest son was about 20 months old he pushed his Pappa out of a chair and tols his Nanna "you sit." To this day I have no idea where he got the idea that the lady should have the chair.

When he got to be about 4 he would hold doors open for ladies while staring straight at the ground. The ladies would say, "Thank you young man," and he would not acknowledge them, but was always so proud afterwards. It took 3 or 4 times before I figured out why he wouldn't look up. He wasn't allowed to speak to strangers.

What a quandry we put ourselves in today. We want to be polite, but also "safe" and politically correct so we have computers make those gestures of manners. Automatic doors, auto birthday cards, auto thank-yous. How sad when computers are the only acceptable way to continue what use to be considered basic manners. What next?