Thursday, February 22, 2018

Black Panther: A World Unrealized, But Always Imagined

*Spoiler Alert*

My first reaction to Black Panther: this is just okay. Now, that's out of the way. My family and I went to see Black Panther on Sunday. I didn't have the highest expectations. I'm not a Marvel movie fan. Thor Ragnorok is the only other film I've enjoyed. It showed me Thor and his hammer weren't as lame as I thought, and it moved pretty quickly. I don't usually have the patience to sit through movies. I've even been to known to nap through a few. Worse, I developed a headache during the movie.  I kept telling myself, I'm not jumping on the band wagon at the end of the day this is still marketing. I took it as popular culture deeming it okay to be who we are in a fictitious world. How often does mainstream media find value in telling our story, especially with the money to really back it? I was more than a little leery.

 I initially viewed the movie as an opportunity to be part of a movement, which is rare for me. My family and friends were going, and I didn't want to be left out of the conversation. I loved the scenery, artistry, and actors. It moved kind of slowly. It didn't spark my interest until Killmonger reached Wakanda. I wanted a DC script with Marvel action. I wanted to delve more into Killmonger's character. I wanted a resolution that didn't involve him dying. My sons assure me in the comic books Killmonger has been resurrected many times. I was disappointed that I left the movie caring less about T'Challa than expected. I can't really put into words how I left the movie feeling.

I left a beautiful dream for  a harsh reality. When I left that dream, a part of me was missing. It spoke to a piece of me that I don't always acknowledge. That's the hallmark of a film doing it's job. There is no respite from colonization. It's a constant battle to decolonize my mind. There is no Black Savior. How does Wakanda Forever change the here and now? It's the pain of this realization that kept me from fully enjoying this film. Former slaves and their descendents founded, established, and colonized Liberia. Abraham Lincoln suggested freeing all slaves and sending them to Liberia. Marcus Garvey advocated returning to Africa. To know a life that encompasses the educational, political, cultural, social, without colonizing influences is alien. It's hard to see even in a fictional way. Wakanda is a world unrealized, but always imagined. Emotionally, I couldn't handle that thought during the movie.

How much of this fervor will last until the next big movie? Wakanda gives us a vision of what may have been possible without colonization. Hopefully, it affects the world beyond the movies. Will it propel those artists, writers, comic book creators, who have already been representing into the mainstream? Will it help those entities without large budgets and a big name. Maybe, it'll spur others to learn more about African-American and African culture.  It solidified everything some of us have have been preaching and teaching all along. It spoke to a deep need for representation. It spoke to a need to look out into the world and know we matter. It encouraged community.

Many young people saw themselves in this movie. They felt represented. It's important to see ourselves in mainstream media. My hope is that people also see themselves in the real world. I always tell my children you don't need to wait until you're an adult to begin living. You're in the real world, begin to do real things. The power of the media to foster and change perceptions is an awesome responsibility. We shouldn't waste the opportunity to create something lasting, beautiful, and wonderful.

More than anything, I've enjoyed the discussions surrounding the movie. My 12 year old debated with a friend whether Killmonger was evil. My son said his methods may have been evil, but his hopes and goals were not. My daughter expressed the consequences of holding in your pain, and the pain of not only your people, but all people of the world. How does that manifest itself? This led to discussions of how Black people connect over a shared cultural identity even when we're strangers. The effects of colonization, as well as age and gender politics also came up. We discussed Dr. King and Malcolm X. This is what has changed my view of Black Panther.

We saw bits and pieces of African culture dispersed throughout the movie. This could also be seen as a hodge podge of cultures meeting in Wakanda. We actually tied Black Panther into the African Religious Studies class my children are taking with two other families. We asked them to analyze what they felt was accurate and inaccurate about the movie. One of the facilitators, who is from Liberia, encouraged us to remember Africa is not one people. It has been divided into 54 countries with different governments, some stable and some not so stable. This division and its consequences is a whole 'nother matter. This division has little to do with a shared heritage, and are still felt today.

I enjoyed Black Panther for the discomfort it has caused. I plan to see it again, hopefully without the headache. Wakanda Forever! If only in spirit.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Creating a Space for Acceptance for Ideas

As my children grow older, I realize the need for space for them to explore their ideas without fear of ridicule. When they were younger they thought as we thought. Now, they present these half-formed ideas and thoughts that leave us wondering how they ever could have come up with such a thought. This is exactly the sentiment we have to be careful about showing. Yes, we have told one of them they're just not making any sense. Usually, if we take the time to follow their thought processes we can find a connection.

So, I have a problem with my facial expressions. If my first thought is this is stupid, it shows up on my face. Are my children's thoughts really stupid? Am I being defensive?  Their thoughts may take a completely different path than mine. That doesn't make it wrong or stupid. It's easy to view their ideas as an insult to our ideas and values. We forget they're not only forming ideas, but testing them out. We are their lab rats. Without our acceptance, they're going to look outward for validation.

We've been having pretty in depth conversations about ideas mentioned in church. We really question some of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. One of my sons mentioned, he has tons of questions, but he doesn't ask because he knows his dad will disagree. We were both surprised, because he welcomes discussion. But, maybe something in his demeanor is not as open as he thinks. I am learning not to ask my children fifty-million questions about their ideas. Questions definitely need to be judiciously spaced to engage instead of causing a mental shut-down. They start to feel attacked.

We want to model and encourage respectful dialogue. Yeah, sometimes they call something we've heard ridiculous and stupid. But, we work to engage critical thinking. Why do you think the person made that comment? How factual is that statement? Are there details or information missing? Do you still think the comment show stupidity? How have your thoughts changed? Sometimes they're expressing themselves the only way they know how. Other times, they're going for shock value.

It's this shock value that has the potential to shut down communication. I think our children are testing the truthfulness of just how open we say we are. How do you respond when one child says, "So, God was a mass murderer in the Old Testament?" Do you get angry? Or do you simply say people over time have felt this way; let's explore this more. Therefore, you're leaving an open door for future discussions about the nature of God. It can be uncomfortable. It can involve a brutal analysis of our own closely held ideas. In reality, they're asking is our acceptance conditional?

How do you create a space for acceptance?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Creating Space

I don't find it enjoyable to get invited to five or six Christmas parties. While I appreciate the sentiment of being in demand, every invite comes with a request for a dish and a white elephant gift.  Honestly, I'm not pulling out my wallet, crockpot, or baking cookies for every party. Yep, I've become the mom who stops by the local pizza place for one or two $5 pizzas. Plus, the local grocery stores make some pretty good baked goods. I don't bake for people I don't feel close to. Baking and cooking is a sign of closeness that I simply can't create for acquaintances.

I'm seriously starting to hate potlucks. I bring a dish and limit my eating. It's more than being vegan. There's been this weird evolution of people refusing to use serving utensils at potlucks. I'm seeing too many children and adults putting their hands in bags of chips and sifting through the baked goodies to find the perfect match. Please stop breathing all over the cookies. Yes, I did see a string of hair hanging off a crockpot. Serving utensils are not suggestions. They're requirements. So, I look all weird because I'm eating a plate full of "I just opened this bag of chips, so I know your grubby hands haven't touched it." It's a great way to not gain weight during the holidays.

This has started an odd family ritual where I slide up to one of my children or husband and whisper, "You might not want to eat that." It's funny how we pick up each others idiosyncrasies. My son stepped out of the chip line because someone double dipped. He graciously allowed the person behind him to go instead. He didn't know how to warn the other person. My daughter chastised a friend for not wearing gloves when serving.  We do the whole please don't drink after your friends, mono is real thing. You touch it or drink it, it's yours. No animals in the kitchen while you're preparing food either.

This reminds me to be very careful of the ideas, fears, and anxieties I share with my children. They've taken each one of these food rules in. On a more serious level, I don't want my burdens to become their burdens. They observe so much of what I do and say. Many times, I'm unaware they've picked up some idea or concern about a certain situation or person. I am mindful of the impact of words. Am I creating unnecessary anxiety or fear? Am I causing them to doubt themselves? Am I creating an atmosphere of negativity? Yes, I've done all of the above. Now, I'm more aware of when this occurs. Often, I wonder how many of the habits they've picked up from me will require counseling in the future.  I want to create space for them to form their own ideas and thoughts. They need the freedom to wrestle with uncomfortable and new ideas. They need the space to disagree with me. This space is what I hope to discuss in future posts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Raising Human Beings

"Relationships survive on trust, and if that is broken at any point, it's pretty much the end of the relationship. Besides, inability to communicate leads to problems." Yurvay Singh, Indian athlete*
What does it mean to raise human beings? Ross W. Greene, Ph.D answers this questions in Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child. Are we interacting with our children on the basis of power or influence? Dr. Greene outlines a process to effectively problem solve with our children. Briefly, empathize, define adult concerns, and invite the child to problem solve.

Parents must look at their expectations and determine whether they are compatible or incompatible with our children's personalities, character, and abilities. We try to change behavior by exerting power, such as by taking away the Xbox or TV when chores or homework are undone. Instead do our expectations match our child's personality, temperament, and abilities? If not, incompatibilties arise. No one wants to fail. The biggest takeaway for me- operate from the premise that children prefer to do well. Compatibilty or incompatibilty occur as a result of the interaction between our children's characteristics, my characteristics, and the world's demands and expectations. He advises working on improving compatibilty not fixing our children. It's our job to look beyond behaviors and find the root causes of incompatibilities.

We can choose a collaborative partnership with our children. We are helpers. Helpers help. We don't make things worse. Also, we must not take things too personally when interacting with our children. Look beyond the sarcasm and attitude. We are helping our children figure out and accept who they are. We want their lives to align with this. Naturally, we want to influence them. Not influence in the way of attempting to control, but influence where our children want us to share our wisdom and opinions. When we have proper expectations we have influence. But, influence comes from having a relationship and positive communication. A big part of fostering this collaboration is observation. Just take a moment to sit back and observe your children. Really see who they are. Their likes and dislikes. Note the obstacles that cause them to stumble. Note the things that ignite the light in their eyes. Are our expectations based on the reality of who our children are? Our aim is to problem solve with our children.

 Does all of this sound a bit like unschooling or self-directed education? We are raising real human beings to live in the real world. I'm still a work in progress with this process. It's a new process for my children. I thought I was extending the invitation, but "our" solutions were not always realistic. Nor did I give my children time to problem solve. If it doesn't happen fast enough I jump in with my solution. The solution should be mutually agreed upon and realistic. I also have a tendency to try to address too many concerns.

* From

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Looking to the Horizon

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do accordingly (chapter 1, page 1)."
I finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston last weekend. Or rather rereading it. Nothing compares to reading this book as a 42 year old as opposed to a senior in high school. I remember enjoying it, but never getting past the class discussion aspect. Their Eyes Were Watching God speaks to the desire for freedom. It's about finding a place for yourself, loving yourself, and self-awareness. It offers a lens through which I can view our unschooling life. This is what I want for my children.
We've allowed ourselves to get sucked into that stereotypical middle class family mindset. We've gotten use to devoting ourselves to schedules of dance and sports. Our biggest issues seems to be keeping the grass cut and maintaining the house. We're focused on finding co-op classes and activities. In and of themselves, none of this is wrong. But, much of it hinders free exploration. In Their Eyes, Janie searches for her identity instead of the one imposed by society. It's easy to get caught up in keeping up with the homeschool joneses. Janie discovers the person she wants to be. I want to be in my children's lives what Janie's grandmother was unable to be for her. I want to offer my children a view of the horizon. The horizon represents the endless possibilities available in life. Nanny couldn't picture a life based on independence and freedom because of her previous status as a slave. This is the fallacy of the middle-class mentality. Thinking once we've gotten the degree, the six figure salary, the house, and 2.5 kids that we've arrived. This is not the myth I want to perpetuate.
While I'm stuck in my head, my husband asks, "What do you want to do?" Well, I want to travel. I want the children to see more than their little corner of the world. I want more natural experiences, more interactions with diverse people. Less perpetuating the status quo. I don't want my family to become a carbon copy of everyone else. I don't want to fill the days with co-ops and classes. I want them to have the opportunity to form their own ideas and opinions without memorizing the agenda of others. 
There is the necessity of meeting all of our needs. Right now, my oldest children are pretty tied to their sports/cheer and all the travel and practices that entails. They don't want to move outside their established zones. They want some organized classes. So, we'll work on incorporating it all. My husband's solution is simple. Leave earlier on sports travel days and take time to explore the areas where the team plays. Make use of those bye-weeks. I tend to be an all or nothing sort of gal.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Zombie Apocalypse, Little House on the Prairie, & Butter

Parent 1: If the writers of the Declaration of Independence were here they'd think we were.... idiots (another parent inserted the word idiot, I believe). We can't even churn butter.
Parent 2: Well, they wouldn't be able to drive my car.
Me: Or use my microwave.
Parent 1: But, they could learn to drive your car.
Me: I could learn to churn butter if needed to, but is that really a relevant skill.
Parent 2 (if he were with Alexander Hamilton): Do you know the second law of thermodynamics, no, neither do I, but I know Google.

The parents involved in this conversation were both public school and homeschool parents. We're so quick to believe the hype about technology being negative. Although, there is a segment of the homeschool population who only use books from the 18th and early 19th centuries. They prefer really old encyclopedias and dictionaries. They're all about cultivating 18th century farm skills. I'm not opposed to homesteading, gardening, building handcrafting or survival skills. It's great to build self-sufficiency and independence. On a deeper level, I believe people are yearning for a return to so-called simpler days that were not so great or simple for many people of color.

What I am opposed to is denigrating modern contributions to society because we choose to use our phones, tablets, and computers. I'm opposed to the premise of our being less intelligent because we can't churn butter. I do know how to correct this if I ever need to prepare for a zombie apocalypse I'd: read a book, watch a video, sign up for a back to basics class, subscribe to Mother Earth or Grit magazine,  ask my grandparents, or visit one of those colonial farms. I'm offended by the idea we're unable to learn a skill if and when it becomes necessary. Or even the idea I'd find churning butter a useful skill just out of the blue. Churning butter becomes a relevant skill when it meets a need. Maybe, I just finished reading Little House on the Prairie or my grandmother has shared stories of her childhood. I might want to save money (I'm not even sure it's cheaper), prefer the taste of homemade butter, or want to go off grid/homestead. Or I might think homemade butter is healthier. Whatever the reason, when the need arises, it's simple enough to learn.

We can't prepare for every eventuality, but we can prepare by learning how to find the information we need. Technology doesn't have to be seen as limiting. It's opened up an entire world that can coexist with churning butter.  Honestly, when I have gardening questions a quick search on the Burpee site gives me what I need. But so does volunteering at our local education farm or asking gardeners I know. It's a beautiful combination.

Links for churning butter:

Build Your Own Butter Church-Small Farmer's Journal,

How to Make Homemade Butter with Lehman's Dazey Butter churn

How to Churn Butter-

Pepper and Pine YouTube Channel Old Fashioned Butter: Homemade Butter

Kilner Butter Churn 34 fl. oz capacity-

Standing Stone Farms Butter Making Kit-

No butter churn necessary:

 to Make Homemade Butter with Lehman's Dazey Butter Churn

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Power of Choice

 "Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back 
In my husband's latest sermon, he discussed how following God is a choice. Using Deuteronomy 30:11-19, he asked the listeners to choose between blessings and cursings. For those unfamiliar with this passage, the Israelite leader, Moses, is asking the people to choose to make a commitment to God's commandments. This led me to Joshua 23 in which Joshua brings the people together asking them once again to choose right then and there who they're going to serve. I think this is wonderfully applicable to unschooling and parenting, especially for those of us who do more talking than walking. 

You know what I mean. You've read, listened, and watched every bit of material on unschooling and parenting, but you never quite get to the doing. It's time to choose to make the commitment to the life you and your family want. Just to clarify, I'm not in any way using these scripture to support unschooling or homeschooling. I'm just talking about how these scriptures spoke to me.

Don't keep going back and forth, make a choice. Trying sets us up for half-hearted attempts and failure. It makes us, and those around us, doubt the path we're following. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of wavering. I'm tired of sending mixed messages to my family. Are we going to keep trying to become more thoughtful? Or keep trying unschooling? Or will we choose thoughfulness and unschooling? We have the power and ability to choose. 

Are we going to choose life or death? Are we going to speak beneficial, encouraging words to those in our life?  Am I trying to foster an atmosphere of peace, curiosity, and joy? Or am I actively creating this atmosphere? My decisions, thoughts, and actions must line up with the things I say I want. Not trying, but doing. Yes, I get up each and every day consciously choosing to act on this knowledge. It's not a once and done type of deal. Live life, don't try to live life.

You have the power: choose.

*Any similarities between this post and my husband's sermon are intentional used with his express permission.